Last week, I shared some Key Steps that working parents can take to stay sane. It really hasn’t been an easy time with both working moms and dads taking significant strain during the pandemic. We can do with all the help we can get so here’s some more practical Key Steps to keep us sane and help us to ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’

  1. Embrace the change and take regular breaks to see your child(ren). If you have young children (under the age of three), they might be clingy at first but they will adjust. I know because I’ve recently been through this with Mila. I was so tempted to stay away when I took a break to avoid her tears. But that wasn’t a real solution and I wanted Covid to have a positive spin-off for her in that she does get to see me more often than she would if I was facilitating or coaching at a client. Through persistence, we’ve made it work and get 60 to 90 extra minutes together each day. There is a little habit that I have learnt to incorporate, it is simple yet very effective. I hope it assists you too…
  2. Count down the minutes until you have to go back to work. I was initially a bit sceptical about this but it was suggested by a trusted psychologist who has lots of experience working with children so I gave it a try. When I come out for a break, or first thing in the morning before I go into a session, I let Mila know how many minutes until I need to go into the office and then I count them down. For example, I’ll say, “Mommy has got five minutes left to play with you and then I need to go to work.” Then it becomes four, three and so on. It means she is prepared for my departure and often, when we get to three or two minutes, she says, “Goodbye mommy, go now (as she’s gotten older it’s often now followed by…), enjoy workies, I miss you.” This practice gives her a sense of control as she is then the one telling me to go and I am not the one leaving her. And even if she is not the one telling me to go, she is still prepared for it.
  3. Have boundaries and maintain them. I’ve mentioned this before as it is key when working from home, even if you don’t have children. Set healthy boundaries. Have periods of protected time for you and your family and then time when you are fully dedicated to work. If you can go to a friend or family member to work for a few hours each day, this could help you focus and be more productive. It is about finding ways to prevent the blurring of lines between work and home. With the work I do, I cannot step out to see Mila if I hear her crying. Thankfully, while I am delivering a keynote, class or coaching session, I know that she is in the hands of amazing caregivers. Because this is a “hard stop,” i.e. a firm and non-negotiable boundary, everyone (including Mila) respects it.If I were not in a session, it would be more tempting to allow the interruption. Resist the urge and be fully present to whatever role you are fulfilling. When in work mode, work. When in family mode, be fully present with your family. Another example of how I do this is, when I finish work, before I leave the office space I am in, I take a few minutes to decompress and close-up my day and get things lined up for the morning or my evening work session. This is an example of how I… 
  4. Practise time and energy management. This could be a series of articles on its own, but I’ll give you some quick tips. Time is a non-renewable, limited resource. You need to treat it as such. When you really see each minute of your life as the precious commodity that it is, you won’t waste it. You will plan and organise your energy around your goals. You will be decisive and stop procrastinating. You will take steps to overcome perfectionism (one of the biggest time and energy thieves). You won’t forget things because it will be important enough for you to find ways to remember them. You will plug your energy drains (like using point 3 above) and find ways to recharge. You will take your life in your hands and make every minute count. The only way to reach your ultimate potential is to schedule your priorities and not just prioritise what is on the schedule! It’s your choice.I eat well, drink lots of water and exercise regularly (this often means that Mila gets iPad time while I run). I have also learnt to give myself regular vitamin B injections at home (and I was a total needle phobe 15 years ago), I take a host of other supplements, and I watch my thinking like a hawk! Interrupting, deleting, reframing and journaling have become essentials in my sanity toolkit. I’ve also learnt to push back (respectfully) and say “no” or “yes, if…” when needed. It took me well into my 30s to really act on the knowledge that I cannot be everything to everyone and time is in limited supply, so I make choices and take time seriously.
  5. Interrupt the guilt and praise yourself. Unless you really have been neglecting your child (then the guilt might need to be listened to and action taken to manage your time and reduce your working hours) interrupt feelings of guilt. Remind yourself of all the Key Steps you are taking to care for your child(ren) mentally, physically and emotionally. By pursuing your own career and dreams, you give them a powerful role model and permission to do the same. It is also very normal to feel tired, frustrated, confused and so on. I’d be surprised if you are a parent who hasn’t felt these feelings. Just keep an eye so that these feelings don’t become all-consuming and, if you are feeling guilty because you can see that your child is really struggling (and/or you are), then…
  6. Get professional help if needed. There are many incredible health care workers who can support your child(ren) and you during this challenging and complex time. It is wise, not weak, to ask for help. Hope Studio is just one example of a practice that is doing incredible work helping families. Know that there is hope and you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out so that you can get on the road with someone beside you and take Key Steps to…
‘be the difference that makes the difference?’

Stay safe. Stay sane!


NOTE: The information in my blog may be freely shared and re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line: This was written by Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, and originally appeared in her free weekly  ‘Key Steps Food for Thought Blog’ available on the Key Steps website.

Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

About Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 25 years’ experience in leadership development and organisational transformation. Her PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that was published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of numerous business schools and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. In 2020, Sharon was inducted into the Educators Hall of Fame, which is a lifetime achievement award, recognising excellence and her contribution to the field.

Sharon is one of only three women in South Africa to have achieved the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – the Oscar of the speaking industry. She is also a COMENSA Master Practitioner (CMP), a qualified Modern Classroom Certified Trainer (MCCT™) and an accredited Global Virtual Speaker. Sharon is also a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner.

Most important to Sharon is that she has become known for her genuinely caring manner, practical and transformational approach, and for providing valuable tools and that allow people to take Key Steps to really… ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’