So I wrote this about being in “isolation” and now we’re “coming out of isolation” so it’s changed again. But it’s all relevant. The terms need (re) negotiating. Stop settling for how it is, or has been, and use this time (whether you got a break or some space or not) to create something new and better.
If you want to make this whole ‘coming out of isolation’ thing work, you’ll need to renegotiate the terms. Of everything. And if you’re a person who didn’t even discuss the terms previously, you’ll really need to do this. If you have no terms of operation, you’ll have to create some. With the people you’re in life with. Who for me and many I know is your immediate family. And to be honest, some of these things should probably have been negotiated before and should continue long after the pandemic lets us out of this live history class.
For me, and many of my friends, family, clients and people in my (privileged) local world we have children, and husbands and jobs or businesses. At least one, if not both, people in our households are essential workers or have business that service essential work and/or have ways of continuing in a modified form. At least one (if not both, but definitely one) of those people was the primary carer and (momentarily in WA) supervised school at home (I’m loathe to call it home-school because it’s was not that, it was lessons provided by our educators for our children to do from home, but I am not nor will I ever be a home schooler). In our case, that person was me. My business (as a coach who already runs online programs and can do Zoom coaching and training easily) could continue to run, and I had scheduled calls and clients on most week days. My husband, once he got out of his 14 days of self-isolation from interstate travel, was able to return to work as he works in agriculture. For many weeks I had four children at home with me, 2 in high school (at 2 different schools and 1 also at TAFE as well as school) and 2 in primary school (a fourth learning delivery platform for me to get my head around).
I’m grateful for so many things (Australia, the beautiful Autumn weather, our big house, my husband’s work, the fact that financially we will be OK and have safe shelter and food and ongoing work) but I was drowning in the reality of life at home as a (not) home-schooling housewife of 4 kids who were all going through their process about what this means to them, and I was wavering between embracing the time and space and home, floundering in boredom and being overwhelmed if I had more than 2 hours of work per day and wondering long-term if don’t invest in my business RIGHT NOW what will happen to it and me. I’m in coaching groups and have incredible friends and wise mentors (who mostly do not have children or young children at home, and some of whom are also not in a relationship) who can see this incredible opportunity to do business and support people and grab all the massive bargains in the coaching world and learn new things and get their business cranking and I was flailing in this space of HOW THE F*@K DO I CHOOSE?
The truth? What I always chose was my business. What I always chose was my work. When I got stressed or broke or bored, I worked more, I learnt more, I found things to invest in that would help me grow and I went with it. And I cannot change what has been and I always believe everything is perfect as it is, even if it’s hard to see until later. But right now, it feels like I must choose the things that mean the most. Right now, the people who I want to serve in work are all the people I am already working with or who have worked with me before. Supporting them feels like a priority. Some (many) of them, like me, were flailing. I spent my coaching years telling people to set up support systems that included EVERYONE from OUTSIDE YOUR HOME, and services like home delivered groceries which was not really available for a while. I told them that your team shouldn’t be just you and your husband, because no one person can just meet all those needs and yes, you should get on the same team and then get as much support as you can – school, day-care, au pairs, cleaners, housekeepers, afterschool activities, grandparents and Aunties, play-dates, sports – so you can stay sane and graciously juggle all the balls. And grace still plays a huge part in it, but all the terms need to be renegotiated because for many of us, our husbands became the only other possible support person. And it was hard not to notice the discrepancies in time, availability and effort when one person leaves the house all day and the other people did not leave at all. For weeks.
So, in that time, and even right now as we adjust back to school and the easing of restrictions, what felt most important is to choose my family. My children and their extremely demanding needs and exhausting relentlessness. I needed to bring my energy in and get creative about how we all stay home and stay sane and get done what we need to, and then get by with the rest. What felt important is to cook nutritious meals and make my husband’s lunch and get up at 6am to exercise and vacuum up the cat hair and the crumbs in the TV lounge so we can all watch “Nailed It” together on a weeknight after dinner. What felt important was checking in with my friends and family and making sure they’re OK or to find out if I can drop something off from the shop or something we have at home that they need. I didn’t know how or when this would end, but my usual survival mode mechanisms were not going to cut it, even though I knew could give them a good crack. I needed to be super present and make sure the kids were eating and drinking water whilst on their devices for more time than usual, and know what they need to get done and have time to chill and get outside (even just for 5 minutes) and bathe regularly and have time with their friends but also lots of time without a device in their face. If I pretended I could do all this and work 6 hours a day in my coaching business then I was going to go insane. And although I did not want to let go of what it was, until I do it can not become the very thing it’s meant to be. And I didn’t even know what that was meant to look like, but it was not like business as usual.
So all those terms you need to (re)negotiate – like household chores, children’s activities, availability for schooling supervision (or drop off and pick up), sourcing food, cooking food, the garden, the pets, date night, time alone, family time, the way the house and rooms are used, times for workouts, how you can get time alone, how you manage going out (or not), what the family values are, how to work as a team, what ‘outside support’ looks like, and who to use – are things that you could have talked about before. And maybe didn’t because it was too hard, or you thought it was your role or you figured you were too capable, or you’ve been trying to prove your worthiness. You can not bring those things here. You will not be sane. You will be the #superangrycrazylady and no one likes being around her. Which is effective to a point, however because you have to stay home/do life every day with these people for an indefinite amount of time I don’t highly recommend this strategy.
And if you want to renegotiate as well, you’ll need to dip into that resource that in stress and trauma (this was a traumatic experience for some) is not your go-to. You’ll have to do the opposite of what you’ve been doing. You’ll have to drop into your feminine and acknowledge how you feel (overwhelmed, angry, scared, panicked, confused, sad, anything is OK) and be OK with not coping (this is normal, and all the things going on in the world is not normal and your response to that is perfectly OK, even if it’s not what everyone else around you is going through). And from your feminine, within your body, you cannot say the wrong thing. You just say what you need (and even what you want) and acknowledge that things have to change. Everything else has changed, so doing the same stuff at home you always did is not going to work. You’ll first have to acknowledge what’s not working for you (it’s not working for you if you feel angry, resentful, exhausted, overwhelmed, obligated, guilty or despondent). Some things you may have needed to do more of (cooking, sourcing food, cleaning up after food, exercise, time in the garden, family games) and some things were irrelevant (library bags, new sneakers for netball, bed time (lol, only kidding), sleepovers) and some things may have become essential that didn’t feel essential before (time alone at home, all the blow up toys in the pool) and there needs to be so much more talking about all the things.
Don’t let this time/any time take you out. If you are exhausted, rest. If you are sad, cry. If you’re loving some things, do them more. If you don’t know what to do next, pause. If you want to create something amazing and have time and space, go for it. If you can’t, find a notebook of dreams and start taking notes. Your time is coming. I promise.
I spoke to my kinesiologist about my frustration as life started to shift back to ‘normal’ and I said, “it just has to mean something”. And she said, “Does it really?” and in that moment I stopped trying to make it all mean something and just got present with what it is. And even with the kids in our house being back at school, the thing I focussed on the most is my energy and how to keep it like that woman who had to stay home. She was so much less stressed, and way more committed to the things that kept her sane and whole. And no matter what happens next, it is possible to maintain this. At first it takes more effort, more awareness, more sitting with the discomfort of not doing the usual thing – using stress as a motivator and compromising self-care for getting shit done – and then it just becomes. I think when I always chose my work above everything, I thought I was choosing me. But if I truly chose me, I would have had the energy to choose my family next. I just didn’t know how. And a pandemic happened, and the thing I had to learn was to bring my energy home. And that was everything.
Big loves xx
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