Bramley residents Phil and Faye Gathercole are working from home whilst looking after their two-year-old daughter Grace. In our fourth ‘Day in the life’ feature with community reporter Jo Fiddes, they talk about how they have addressed the challenges presented by juggling parenting with home-working.
The day begins…
At around 6am each morning, Grace wakes up, usually with a shout of “Mummy, daddy, Mr Sunshine’s up!”
From then on the day revolves around servicing Grace’s needs – alongside trying to get as much work done as possible. Dividing the childcare between them helps, but two year olds sometimes want mummy when daddy on shift… and vice versa. With this in mind, Phil and Faye have tried to be as flexible as possible while maintaining a routine.
Phil, 38, works in IT, and is used to working from home – though usually he is the only person in the house so can go about his tasks uninterrupted.
Since lockdown, he has been joined full time at home by wife Faye, 34, and daughter Grace, who is no longer able to go to nursery. As a result, the family have had to develop new ways of working whilst trying to ensure Grace is still happy and settled – and still learning.
After breakfast, Phil and Faye try and provide learning in a fun context – reading, number games and nursery rhymes are all daily activities. Faye says:
“Whilst we try not to over-rely on the computer, there have been some fabulous learning resources online and that has really helped. One of our favourites is Shake, Rattle and Boogie.
“We used to go to the Kings Arms in Horsforth to take part in the class but the teacher has put it all online so now we do that every day, sometimes more than once.”
Faye works in HR – rolling out home working across her company has been challenging, and initially saw an increase in her workload.
This has settled down a little now that systems have been established, although there is still a significant amount to get through on a daily basis as the expectations and guidelines around safe working continue to evolve.
The day unfolds…
The family make a point of eating together, however busy they are with “work” things. Zoom calls to family and friends are a highlight of the afternoons. This has become the “new normal” for Grace, but the grown up family members are finding the separation hard.
A big plus is the fact they have a nice garden. “The lovely weather means we have taken full advantage of the outdoors – Grace has a sandpit her grandad made her, and we’ve also invested in a large paddling pool. Days when the weather is sunny are always much easier,” says Phil.
The day ends…
As part of their routine, Grace has a bath, a book and bedtime at 6pm. In pre-lockdown days, the evening would have been spent unwinding, watching TV with a glass of wine, perhaps.
Nowadays it represents an opportunity to catch up on any work that hasn’t been done during the day.
Things may well soon get a little bit easier – although both Phil and Faye will remain working from home at the moment, Grace is set to return to Nursery on 1 June 1.
“We thought long and hard about whether we should send her back but she really enjoyed going to Nursery before coronavirus happened. She’s an only child and the opportunity to mix with other children has been really good for her socially.
“It has helped that Nursery have been really honest about what provision will look like and steps they will take to keep her safe.”
When reflecting on this experience, Phil and Faye say:
“Like everyone we have had our good days and our bad days, but thankfully our experience has been mostly positive.
“We recognise how fortunate we are – we can share the childcare whilst still trying to get our work done, and we have a nice house and an outdoor space.
“The enforced lockdown has also been an opportunity to crack Grace’s potty training – which has been a bonus! Juggling it all can still be quite stressful, and the enforced separation from our family is especially hard.
“It must be incredibly difficult for single parents who have to work from home, or for people who live in high rises and don’t have an outside space. The lockdown has allowed us to count our blessings even more than usual!”