Parenting and working from home

As part of Architects Benevolent Society's (ABS) #MyThirdLockdown campaign, Oli Henshall MCIAT discusses his experiences of being a parent and working from home during lockdown.

I became a parent for the first time in December 2019 and little did I know what that little boy would be living through in the months to follow.

As COVID started to take its hold on the world, and life began to alter, I quickly realised it was me, the wife, the dog and a baby in a 3 bedroom semi-detached house...all the time.

I need to stress very early here that I am eternally grateful and blessed to have a lovely little healthy baby boy, but my god this year has been tough.

Being new parents is a very tricky and tough journey. When you are still learning the ropes, it's great to have the help of family and friends. I am not talking about the luxury of a free babysitter while you swan off for a steak dinner; I am talking about someone to watch them while you take a shower, or have a 20 minute power nap to catch up after a sleepless night. This simply was not possible us, as the blur of rules, bubbles and social distancing cranked up.

At the same time as this, my workload just seemed to bubble away into something that resembled a hot mess. Again, I am not going to grumble, this pandemic has seen many talented and dedicated people made redundant, and I am very lucky that our practice weathered the initial storm and came out very strongly.

During this 'peak' in work, I have been working from home, with my year anniversary of staring at my spare room wall very quickly approaching. I have found it very tough to snap out of work mode, straight into 'dad' mode, in the time it takes me to walk down the stairs. I used to like the commute to a point, as it was half an hour to myself to sort out my head, listen to Johnny Vaughn on Radio X and get into the mind-set of family time. I am also finding it hard to juggle the work/life balance, as I can almost feel my PC dragging me upstairs when I'm trying to relax in the evenings. Somehow I'm so much more time doing work, but don't feel that I am making a dent, which talking to other consultants, is a feeling shared by many. I now work weekends, and most evenings, through necessity to keep on top of the hundreds of emails that flow in every day.

I am a very determined and stubborn person, and get annoyed with myself when I feel I am not performing to the best of my ability. A few weeks back I could feel the stress starting to build in my shoulders, and sleepless nights starting to creep in. It's at this point that I had a word with myself. No job is worth putting your head and body through the ring for months on end for. It's time to let a few things slide, and time to enjoy the family.

I know there are people out there in a similar situation to me, and I just want to say to you, bloody well done. You have kept up a level of work through the most unprecedented event ever to grace the earth. Give yourself a break, it's impossible to hit perfection at the best of times, let alone when you spend your life on Zoom.

You are not alone. Talk to your friends, colleagues and most importantly family. We're in this together, and I promise, we are nearly out of the woods.

This blog post first appeared on absnet.org.uk 

To share your experiences with ABS, please tag them on Twitter or Instagram and use the #MyThirdLockdown hashtag. Or you can email them. 
Get more on the campaign here.

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COVID-19 Architects Benevolent Society