The Teflon Parent – Who Wins the Title of Least Interrupted?
I think there’s a silent revolution going on out there. Or maybe it’s just a quiet protest. Whatever you’d like to call it, I’m getting the impression that in the wake of children being mostly pleasantly, but distractingly underfoot thanks to lockdown measures, there’s a stand-off going on to see which parent earns the right to be the Least Interrupted!
It’s a coveted title. Especially by those who have small children. Does the higher salary earner trump the lesser wage earner? Should the one with the greater workload be shielded from the relentless queries? Or does it depend on the kind of work you do? Even if (or perhaps especially if), your work is not the paid kind - the type that involves looking after kids and running a household – you are still entitled to some respite from being on call 24/7.
The circuit breaker was sudden enough that many of you probably didn’t get a chance to get to Spotlight and stock up on craft supplies before lockdown began, let alone have the time to discuss how roles and responsibilities might be apportioned at home when it comes to managing your offspring while working. So, it could be the case that you walked smack bang into a wall when this all started and have been too busy walking around holding a bruised head while you direct household traffic to even have the time to sit down with your partner and talk through how to scale the wall in question (or walk around it).
But it’s time to talk now. Children will start to go back to school soon and some adults may venture back into a workplace, but the holidays are just around the corner. Who is responsible for keeping the small people occupied for weeks on end while navigating social distancing?
The criteria for figuring out how each parent can secure enough uninterrupted time to get done what they need to do needs to be negotiated by both parties. The parent who is traditionally least at home can probably get away with ducking their head indefinitely and not being called on, putting additional pressure on the parent who normally has the role of being the more available parent. It also places the burden on the more present parent to be the one to speak up and ask for the balance to be redressed when they feel their frustration is about to boil over into anger. However, they might be so tired and bogged time that they skip a step and go straight to the anger part.
So, before it comes to this, before it becomes a contest of Teflon strength as to who can better deflect intrusions and who can withstand constant interruptions, reach out to your partner and have a chat. Maybe you divvy up based on the chunks of time you need to complete a task with no interruption. Maybe you split responsibilities based on the household task that needs to be performed. Maybe you both agree to be available at any given time and work out who will resolve the child’s query as and when they arise. Maybe you divide the day and each look after your children at different times and work again once they’re in bed. Maybe you both quit your jobs and start a family band. Whatever the answer is, you will feel more in control of the situation and be in a better position to adjust it if you start with an agreed plan. And a non-negotiable happy hour!