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Jess McNamara

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Ask the Advocate: COVID-19 & Parenting

If you’re like me, and many of our La Trobe Uni students, you are now studying or working from home (or trying to), and still trying to manage your household and caring responsibilities.

You may be older, younger, or inbetween. You may have one child, five, or none. You may have a child with a disability, have a disability or mental health challenges yourself, or a parent with dementia. Maybe you are single. Maybe partnered. Whoever you are and whatever is happening in your life, I’m guess that you are wondering “can I do this?” and “how do I do this?”

The best advice I have ever been given, ever, is that good enough is enough. Think about that. Good enough means that enough is done to get by. It isn’t your best. It isn’t the best. It isn’t perfect. It isn’t aiming to be perfect. It is doing enough.

Today I managed to have my laptop turned on and be ready to sit down by 9am. Hooray for me! It then launched into an update that went for 45 minutes. WTF?! was my initial reaction. And then I looked over my planner for the day, chatted to a colleague, checked my work emails on my phone, made a coffee, cleared up some toys so I didn’t have to hurt my feet walking to my desk – and when the update was finished, I was relaxed and ready to concentrate.
The reality is that life as we know it right now is not what it was. How we work or study now is not the way we worked or studied pre-COVID-19. What we can do is all that we can do. And it needs only be good enough.
Yolande Stengers says in this article on ABC’s news page.

While keeping routines, working as normal or setting up a designated workstation and end time may be desired and recommended, these approaches will not be possible for everyone.

For those who find themselves in unpredictable and non-routine situations, radical flexibility is required. Replicating a 9-5 working environment or expectation at home is unlikely to be possible for many. People may need to work whenever they have the opportunity, at odd times, in between other responsibilities, with regular disruptions and distractions, while being sensitive to various moods and stresses.

Expectations of productivity or work output will also need to be adjusted, as may working hours and other "normal" parameters.
‘Radical flexibility’ is framing your thinking and behaviours so that you are able to do what you can do when and how it works. As a parent of multiple children with very different needs, I have radical flexibility down pat. But I still question “have I got this?” because THIS is so new and different.

So I looked for answers (i.e. Googled). I found this, because while my youngest is still attending childcare, his time there doesn’t always coincide with my work hours, and I felt guilty about dividing my attention between work and him:
And this, because soon we may have to add to our juggle with the supervision of home schooling: which have pretty much covered all bases for me. Basically, if I’m keeping my kids alive, fed and healthy, I’m awesome 😊

My colleagues shared their tips, too. For example, making a traffic light to hold up when they are working: red light for wait! I’m busy right now! (all those Zoom meetings!), yellow light for nearly!, and green light for I’m all yours. The simpler the better.
I’ve also started following The Child Mind Institute, Playgroup Victoria, and others on social media, to collect cheap, easy activity ideas and strategies. Follow a group that matches with your values and needs and don’t hesitate leaving the group if it isn’t right for you.

If you’re worrying about how your caring responsibilities are impacting your ability to study, please reach out to your student advocate (that’s me!), University counsellor or to an Equity & Diversity advisor (see the Uni’s student wellbeing page). If you need an extension, email your lecturer or tutor and ask for one. There’s a lot of understanding out there right now – we are all in this together. Your lecturer will understand. And we can help you make sense of this. We are up to date with which community services are still open, extra help for NDIS participants, and the new COVID-19 bursaries from the University. If there’s something you need, we can help you.

The second best advice I’ve ever had was to find something fun in every day. Look at the world through your children’s eyes. For them, the world is an amazing place and you’re the best human on the planet. Enjoy that!

Here for you,

My go-to parenting resources:!/home