The Parent Gap

Much has been written about the gender equality gap and the gender pay gap and now another gap has become evident, what I’ve called ‘The Parent Gap’ – the gap emerging between those currently in lockdown home schooling children whilst concurrently working and those not.

It has been interesting watching this dynamic play out from both a personal perspective with my husband and I home schooling our 6 year old and also across our Tenfold community with many of our leaders going through this. It has in some cases created a new divide of capacity for those with children and those without which can equate to an unfair pressure on those without children yet who have other competing priorities including elderly parents and pets.

I’m sure when most parents had children we did not foresee a time when we would be home schooling whilst working (I have had to laugh at some of the memes circulating including this one!). However, it is here now in Sydney and beyond with currently over half of Australia in lockdown with many of our global friends having worn this path before us. We were humbled hearing one of US based Masterclass speakers recently share she has been home schooling for a year!

From my experience of home schooling I have found it a reality that your hours and attention are reduced. Trying to supervise a six year old write compound sentences, combine texts and conduct science experiments whilst trying to multitasks on calls is not a recipe to always end well! I had a food colouring explosion as a testament to this 😀

There have however been unexpected joys in the process including lots of extra hugs in the day, the Tenfold team getting to know my family better and little moments of accomplishments like when Ethan was the learner of the week.

I’ve noticed a recent trend of CEOs (particularly female) setting boundaries and not committing to anything new during this home-schooling period. Whilst currently home schooling Ethan with my husband Owain, I can certainly relate, it feels a necessary survival response to keep across business as usual as best we can. I do worry about the longer-term impacts on females in particular of not taking on extra stretch projects, pursuing study, keeping up their professional networks etc. With the recent day care restrictions announced in Victoria I think this will amplify further. It seems like it’s here to stay for a while yet this too shall pass.

Embracing positive psychology and trying to focus on how I can make the best of this time here are some thoughts I’ve tried or heard through our community that I thought may be of use to others.

  1. Bring in the kids – I heard a great example of integrating school kids into work activities in our NFP pod last week with a CEO sharing how they have added a daily fancy dress element to their team huddle that any children are welcome to participate in. The parents are then challenged to keep their item / elements on for the rest of their daily meetings which included the CEO wearing pig tails to a Board meeting 😊 Tenfold hosted an illusionist evening with Matt Hollywood with our community inviting partners, house mates, kids and pets and it proved to be one of the highlights of the program. “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.”
  2. Don’t be selfish – I was humbled whilst in conversation with one of our male multinational CEOs recently who is encouraging a 4 hour work day for his people who are home schooling. The message was not to be selfish and expect partners (if applicable) to carry all the load and for all their people to do their fair share. I thought this was a great example of bold and compassionate leadership.
  3. Gifting two hours a day to all – One multinational organisation in our community has given permission for all team members to take two hours off a day for home schooling or other activities. They wanted to make it fair for all people, with those not home schooling taking on all the extra work.
  4. Embracing ‘the weave’ and well-being Wednesday – One of our NFP leaders shared the notion of embracing ‘the weave’ of the day and flowing in and out of personal and professional tasks without feeling guilty and getting your work done in your own rhythm. I liked this analogy and it supports have we all have different energy peaks and troughs in the day and to let these flow! Another member discussed well-being Wednesday where every Wednesday you can prioritise your wellbeing and do whatever you need, I have heard a number of schools embracing this with Wednesday afternoon as free time.
  5. Dial up your superpowers – When having a session with my executive coach recently we were exploring my strengths and it dawned on me that this is the time to dial up my top strengths as they take less effort in a time poor environment. It was good to reflect on how I could dial up my connectedness, ability to maximise and activate to get my work done in a time effective manner. What are some of your superpower strengths that you could activate further?
  6. Protect some time for yourself – During this time of dual working and home schooling it can be easy to let self-care and any time for yourself go. I think it’s crucial to protect something for yourself so you can show up as best you can for those around you. For me this is my daily exercise schedule. As lockdown began I partnered with an inspiring triathlon coach to help keep me motivated and accountable. Having a schedule and structure for the sessions is a precious part of my day. I also think that taking the pressure off where you can helps a lot. For me this has involved buying more lunches and dinners from our local cafes and restaurants to save time cooking and supporting our local community at the same time.  
  7. Have a post code pal – I’m grateful that Tricky from the Tenfold team lives a couple of streets away from me and we can meet for a daily walk and takeaway coffee with his beautiful puppy Charlie. This half an hour provides a dopamine hit with lots of laughs and we often have some of our best ideas too. Especially when we change the coffee to a margarita at the end of the week!
  8. Keep perspective – It’s easy to get into a lull in the current environment yet when you step out and reflect on situations in the broader world like the current situation in Afghanistan it is a great reminder on our privilege here. I find by trying to help a cause larger than yourself like donating to a SmartAid mission in Afghanistan, raising awareness for homelessness through the Sudsy challenge or brain cancer taking part in the RCD Foundation’s virtual Connor’s run we can elevate ourselves for the greater good.
  9. How do you want to remember this time? This is one of my favourite all time questions paid forward to me by a friend who heard Sir Clive Woodward use in in the 2012 Olympics. I love it as time is fleeting, things don’t last forever and how do we want to remember each chapter. For example I could choose to remember lockdown and homeschooling as a time with added pressure, a test of patience and stress or as a time where I got to see Ethan’s learning growth, had extra hugs and special garden plays.
  10. Be grateful – I do believe through personal experience that one of the keys to keeping in a state of ‘whelm’ versus ‘overwhelm’ is having a daily gratitude practice and reminding ourselves of what we have versus what we don’t. It’s been inspiring to see movements like the ‘Thank you project’ led by a amazing family in our local community, a kindness project for Aussie kids helping embed this from a young age. One campaign they led was writing thank you cards to our returning Olympians who would be in quarantine after their Olympic highs.

I would love to hear any of your tips for managing yourselves and families through this time.

As my sister reminded me (who is a school teacher in the UK) we will go down in the history books for living through this pandemic. I hope we’re remembered for the right reasons and how we pulled together and emerge as a more compassionate and humane society.

Finishing with some wise words my dad reminded me of as we went into an extended lockdown.

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