'Why parenting in a pandemic doesn't mean you have to become Mary Poppins overnight'

Anna Williamson admits juggling working from home and parenting has been a struggle

Anna Williamson is a life coach, counsellor, author and TV and radio broadcaster known for presenting E4’s Celebs Go Dating.

It takes a global pandemic to really appreciate how easy we’ve previously had it with childcare options. 

I’d like to personally give the most enormous virtual high five to every single full-time parent out there.

They are now all probably spluttering into their coffees in disbelief at how darn hard the rest of us are finding being cooped up with our offspring 24/7 for the foreseeable future.

Like many parents I’m a working one and, I’ll be honest, I love it. I have such a varied job - as an author, TV and radio presenter, life coach - and it’s one I have worked extremely hard to carve out for myself for 20 years now. 

My work is important for my mental health and wellbeing as it gives me purpose, control and motivation.

I also love being a mum. It hasn’t been plain sailing for me by any stretch due to a rather rubbish bout of peri-natal anxiety and then birth trauma after my firstborn, but after some help I got better.

I’ve since totally embraced motherhood and both of my gorgeous children.  

Read more: Dad discovers genius hack to keep his sons entertained during lockdown

However, I unashamedly rely heavily on my support system - my ‘network’ of parents, nursery and a nanny - to ensure that I can work and support my family financially.

So, like many parents over the past couple of weeks, the prospect of life changing so dramatically has been a lot to get my head around.

With work being shifted to ‘working from home’ where possible, and with schools, nurseries and childcare providers unable to facilitate the majority of childcare needs until COVID-19 is under control, we’re also in this for the long haul.

I don’t mind confessing that my initial reaction to juggling work with parenting my children single-handedly terrified me.

Does that make me a bad mum? No, not at all.

Does that make me human? Yes, absolutely.

Not because I don’t like my children - quite the opposite, they are my world - but because I’m not used to being ‘mummy’ all day every day.

Anna has been documenting her self-isolation parenting journey on Instagram @annawilliamsonofficial

Read more: A hug from a parent is the best way to reassure children, new study reveals

I have a routine with my family which involves a juggling act each day, but I know where everybody is and what the ‘plan’ is at all times. When that routine gets interrupted, it can be scary and overwhelming.

We have become so used to choice and flexibility, and that’s not a bad thing, but it’s a reality for many of us that for the first time in our lives we are having to play by a new set of rules. 

We, quite rightly, have to stay at home. That means we have to parent our kids 24/7. 

The generation that went before us have been having a little chuckle to themselves, I know. Comments such as, “Oh, so now you’re having to do what we all had to do when we brought you up” are coming thick and fast.

That doesn’t mean we have to find it easy, or indeed that we suddenly have to become Mary Poppins overnight.

What I do know is that your children will, on the whole, embrace this ‘extended Easter holiday’. In times such as these, it’s often helpful to look and action what we can do, not what we can’t.  

Read more: Teachers’ best advice for parents home schooling during coronavirus pandemic

Park swings, slides, soft play and days out might be off limits for now, but in all my years of being a children’s counsellor, no child has ever told me they’d prefer these activities in place of spending quality time with their parent(s). 

In fact, when kids are quizzed on what they want and value most, it is usually ‘spending more time with mum/dad.’

So, let’s look at what we can do during this time with our kids. We can spend more time cuddling, talking, listening, laughing, making, creating, playing, learning.

In years to come you will look back on this time - this short pause in the world’s hamster wheel - and you’ll no doubt be grateful that you got to experience so much more time with your children.

Time is the one thing we do have right now, so amongst juggling the work calls, the emails, and virtual queuing for loo roll, I will certainly be taking a dose of my own advice and enjoying my children as much as I can. 

After all, they do grow up so fast.

Read more from Anna: Four tips to help reduce anxiety in these uncertain times

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Breaking Mad by Anna Williamson | £7.37 from Amazon 

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