How to juggle home schooling while working as an EA

By Louise Stevenson, Operations Manager & EA to CEO, Criton

Juggling balls, spinning plates; whatever you want to call it, parents are no strangers to multi-tasking.

The last 12 months however have felt like slightly more than your average parental balancing act (like fire juggling, whilst being pelted with tomatoes, on a unicycle, with your eyes shut, and also someone is asking for a snack) and we’ve had to adapt to situations that would have made our 2019 selves’ shudder.

Last year was hard, there’s no denying it; however, the pandemic has also taught many of us important life lessons. For me, 2021 is following suit and literally dishing out new lessons, from an iPad, 5 days a week.

My daughter only started school in August last year and so I spent ‘Lockdown #1’ feeling smug and relieved that I had managed to bypass home-schooling. Don’t get me wrong it was still tough; finding peace and quiet to get some work done was near impossible and I could just feel my work clothes looking at me sadly while I hunted for my daily ‘leggings and a smartish-top’ combo.

But this pandemic likes to mix things up just as we are getting to grips with our new way of life; so here I am arguing with a smaller version of myself because I keep saying ‘n’ and ‘m’ wrong according to phonetics, with one eye on schoolwork and one eye on my inbox.

Home-schooling (quite rightly) gets a lot of bashing however in its defence, I have found it brings a sense of structure and routine, it differentiates weekdays from weekends and gives my daughter a reason to get dressed, turn off other people playing with toys on YouTube and engage in something she finds challenging and rewarding.

But the reality of balancing work and school is hard, really hard. A couple of weeks in and I’m not entirely sure where I am meant to find the time to recreate a full day’s lesson plan, do my own work and manage a boisterous 2-year-old whose hobbies come under the category ‘life-endangering’.

And of course, it’s not just hard for us, our little people have had a lot thrown at them in their young lives and are missing friends, family, and the security of their normal routine. They need emotional support as well as practical. Half of our work time was lost the other day when my daughter had a meltdown, cue the mum guilt as I tried to calm her down whilst clock-watching because said meltdown had not been scheduled and was putting us way behind.

My family are still in the rusty stage of creating a new routine that works for us, and I find this is always the hardest part of any change; when you have no clue what you are doing, it’s so easy to feel out of control, out of your depth. But those times are part of the journey, it’s important to remind ourselves that no one pops up in life knowing everything and having all the answers.

So what lessons am I learning from our lessons? Flexibility is the key here – I’m a big fan of a plan and I think everyone will benefit from a sense of structure, but we need to be prepared to veer off it now and again. We also need to let go of what we think it needs to look like, it’s not always going to be perfect and on-time (which really goes against the grain as a PA!).

We won’t get round to every school task and we will need to push back at work. Keep communication open with colleagues and bosses, they can be a great help if they understand the situation. Setting priorities each day for ourselves and our children will help to keep everyone on track and will give a sense of accomplishment, and then anything else we manage to do is an added bonus. Most of all we need to be kind to ourselves, we are doing a great job and this isn’t forever.

Covid-19 has thrown a curveball to literally the entire planet, but I take comfort in the fact that parents worldwide are collectively cursing under their breaths, there’s a nice solidarity about it. So if you are having a bad day, just remember even J-Lo is out there somewhere completely losing it because she can’t find the link to the online learning platform.

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