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Family life in self-isolation
We’re living in crazy times right now: State-recommended self-isolation, home office and daily new reports of COVID-19 diseases. Corona virus is and remains the central topic in these days. A good 2 weeks ago, on 09.03.2020, we received the news that school operations in all Swiss cantons will be suspended. The care of our daughter by the childminder was no longer guaranteed, as her family also had high-risk patients. Relaxation was inevitably provided by the fact that we as employees were able to do our work from our home office.
Für die meisten Familien mit betreuungspflichtigen Personen, im speziellen Kindern, bedeutete dies eine sofortige Neu-Organisation der bisher gewohnten Strukturen und Tagesabläufe.
My wife and I were even better off than most of them – we both work in IT and are very good at reducing contact with our fellow human beings. In contrast to the people who are employed in the healthcare sector or in trade.
Nevertheless, there were (and still are) many challenges that are beginning to normalize after two weeks now.
- Expectations of their own work
If we are used to a certain weekly workload, to meeting defined goals, or to traveling the usual distance to work alone, such a drastic change of routines is no easy task. Despite the measures taken by employers to enable families to care for their children, the reduced workload (and the sometimes impossible tasks) fills us with shame, self-doubt and frustration. We want to be good at what we are and what we do. We compare ourselves to singles or unattached people who seem to have it much easier in this situation. All this is self-destructive and not necessary. Most employers tolerate and support families especially in these difficult times. Most work colleagues are in the same situation and can bring understanding. Do what you can. Talk to your superiors and inform your clients with whom you are in contact. We are all in the same boat and the best way is honest and clear communication. You will see that your own expectations are massively higher than those others have of you.
- Care of the child at home
Our daughter is 5 years old. It is difficult for her to keep herself busy for several hours. She needs close contact and regular feedback from the work she is doing. It is not possible to take care of the grandparents or the childminder, as we do not want to unnecessarily endanger risk groups. My wife and I have therefore organised ourselves so that our daughter is looked after either by me or my wife. My wife works in the first shift from 06:00 to approx. 09:00 o’clock and after that I can go about my work. In the late afternoon I take over the care again and my wife works until the evening. Regarding the physical workload, our daughter is a real bundle of energy, we want to challenge and encourage you mentally, at least to some extent. Small calculation examples, a body parts book of animals, e.g. a butterfly, which is first completely painted and then the individual body parts, are a good activity program. Long walks help against the tantrum at home. Why not take time for playing with your child again? Just imagine: Adults are insecure and afraid of the virus. How might a child feel in this situation? It is completely dependent on its parents. Stay calm (I should be more often) and help your child to take away the fear. Try new daily routines, new routines and enjoy the time with the family. Everything is allowed when it is right for everyone. Often my wife and I have overlapping appointments – why not let the child paint in your office or just let him or her be 5 straight and watch TV or play tablet.
- Home office
Two weeks at home can be frustrating and challenging. We humans are social beings and when we are not in society, we have to find ways to keep the ceiling at home from falling on our heads. We must take care of our health and not work too much. Even though this is often difficult for us. Introduce regular team meetings via Skype or other communication programs. A daily virtual coffee in the afternoon can also be useful. Turn on the video camera when you’re sharing so you can see each other. I find it fascinating that we only need a notebook and internet access to get our work done. If you furnish your place “office”-like, then the separation between work and family will be easier. Introduce rules: When the office door is closed, no one is allowed in. But you should also go out more often. Jumping on the trampoline for 5 minutes and doing something in the garden with your daughter will help you to avoid closing yourself off completely.
- Think of it as an opportunity
We are currently experiencing history and will be part of that history. We often talk about how nice it would be to work less and do more with the family. Currently we have this opportunity. You must do your part to make your family feel safe and secure. Certainly there is a strong temptation to use work as an excuse to follow old habits. Resist it! We enjoy the time together – it is often exhausting and everyone reaches their limits. But what could be better than when the whole family is at home. We don’t have to worry about our partner, whether she or he arrived safely at the office by car. We burden the environment less because we use the car less. We care and worry more about our family, friends and fellow human beings again. This is an opportunity. Offer your help, organise yourself in the community and do community shopping. Be considerate of each other and try to help where you can.
These are strange times and we do not know at the moment how long the self-isolation will last or if the measures will be intensified. We can do no more than to continue to wait and remain calm.
But the most you can do is to help your child by taking plenty of time to play. This takes away the fear and I wish the same for our daughter.
We wish you good health and a wonderful family time.