Managing it all. Or not.

January 10, 2021 By

As 2021 kicked off with the realisation that we were heading for another round of school closures, I kept seeing how women – clients, friends, connections, on social media and on WhatsApp groups – were stepping up, bracing themselves, and trying to figure out how on earth they were going to do it all – yet again.

It was pretty impressive, actually. Women hardly skipping a beat as they mentally readjust, clear schedules, and hammer out the details of what the next few weeks are going to look like. What’s the best time of day for home schooling? How do I split one laptop between everybody? How will I keep everyone fed, happy and active? When will I do my own work? How much screentime can I get away with? Will someone please tell me what to do for the dinners?

Keeping all the balls in the air, all the plates spinning.

Women are resourceful and resilient. But we know better than to think that all this doesn’t come at a cost. And that cost is so often our own wellbeing, our own mental – and physical – space, our own productivity and sometimes even professional ambition. And we need to do something about it.

It goes without saying that there are structural issues here that need addressing. The burden of domestic, emotional and unpaid labour is not a problem for the individual to solve. Neither is the incompatibility, during a pandemic clearly, but in general also, of living up to old-school organisational expectations while also running a family and a household.

But we do also need to take responsibilities for challenging some of these assumptions at an individual level. Because if we can’t to some extent control what we do, and take on, in our own homes and lives, then what can we control, really?

So this is why I keep telling my clients to challenge. Challenge whether you really have to do all the things. Challenge whether you really have to become a teacher overnight. Challenge whether those meals really have to all be homecooked right now. Challenge whether you cannot have an open conversation within your organisation about what you need from them to get through this. Challenge your own assumptions about who you are meant to be, what you are meant to achieve. And then make an informed and mindful decision about what you want to do.

Because if we keep just accepting things the way they are, they will never change.

Full disclosure: This blog post was completed several hours after I had planned to post it, because I got involved in organising science experiments at the kitchen table. And then I had to cook the dinner. And that was OK, today. Tomorrow I might prioritise differently.