As we start to enter the ‘new normal’ I thought I’d take some time to reflect on how I’ve changed during the past 15 months or so of the pandemic and if my relationship with myself has been affected during this time.
I started writing this and surprised myself with just how much has changed and how much I have learnt on the way. Some of the comparisons are quite stark!
Pre-lockdown me was, and still is now, the full-time as the CEO for TLC: Talk, Listen, Change. However before lockdown, this involved working two or three evenings a week from home to keep on top of everything, but my weekends were kept clear of work unless absolutely necessary.
Fast forward to lockdown and as we all know, a lot began to change. For me in work this meant beginning each work day at 6am (or earlier!) and often working late into the evenings so I could balance homeschooling during the day. Unfortunately, there was no split between the working week and weekends, all started to blend into one.
In the 'new normal', I still wake up and start work for 6am to get time in before my children wake up and I help them get ready and do the school run. I can begin my work again at around 8.30 and work through the full work day, apart from 3 days a week when I finish at 3.30pm to pick my girls up from school. I'm back to working one or two nights a week to keep on top of everything, but... my weekends are back to being free of work.
Alongside this, as the world has 'opened up' again, I've taken on additional responsibilities a Non-Executive Director for MSV Housing which includes Chairing their Customer and Communities Committee and I volunteer as a Trustee for Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse.
What's my takeaway?
I’ve learnt that working flexibly enables me to get both my role done as I need to and balance that with the way I want to parent being more available for my children. I’ve been reminded about the importance of having a break each weekend to recharge my batteries.
I’ve been reminded that I need new experiences and new things to learn to stay fresh and be at my best. The change to how I worked during the pandemic meant I lost a little bit of my spark. Starting two new Board roles has helped me re-discover this and pushed me out of my comfort zone.
Time and Travel
Before March 2020, I travelled a lot for work. I had regular meetings in London and travelled every day across Greater Manchester. Every day involved a commute either by car, or walking and the tram.
As we all know, this changed, quickly.
Suddenly, all my meetings took place remotely and there was no commute... unless walking up and down the stairs counts?!
Since August, I've had a more blended approach to work in this way. Most of my meetings still take place remotely, but with 1-2-1 catch ups being more walk and talks, either over the phone or in person. I've even started having some meetings over lunch or a drink again and I'm mainly based at home, but have started to head into the office on some days.
What's my takeaway?
I feel that large scale virtual meetings are great. They allow you to attend more than you normally would and being able to slot into a full diary and not lose time travelling.
Walking and talking is fantastic as a way to get away from a screen, encourage use of the outdoors and as a way to build relationships in a different environment. Difficult conversations are easier to have when walking side by side too. Meetings in cafes are great to reintroduce the social aspect of work again.
I have realised how much time I spent travelling, either in my car or walking to the tram.
At first I missed my commute as this was my thinking time for the day ahead and my decompression time once I’d left work. I felt a bit adrift without it for a while but now this has been replaced by a number of daily walks which gives me the same benefits but without the sense of lost time. My decompression normally involves talking through my day in a blow by blow account to my husband as we race towards an ever increasing step target. He doesn’t have to say much but listening and being there is enough.
I’ve not yet re-found my groove with social media though. I was most active on twitter when travelling on public transport, either to and from work or to different meetings. I’ve not yet found where social media best fits into my every day. I miss this a bit to be honest.
Before lockdown, I was juggling work and being a mother to two primary-school aged children who had packed extra-curricular diaries including; dancing, Brownies, multi-sports and Junior Bible Study.
In lockdown, all these activities were of course off the calendar and now in the 'new normal' dancing has returned and horse-riding has been added to the agenda!
What's my takeaway?
You can read more about my experience homeschooling my girls and what this taught me but overall, I learnt that my children were too busy. In the desire to make sure they had all the opportunities possible and got to engage in everything they wanted, I realised that they were doing far too much, leaving not enough time to just be at home, play and rest.
My eldest had always wanted to go horse-riding and I realised that I had sub-consciously steered her away from this, thinking it was too complicated to fit into the schedule, too expensive and not something I understood or knew much about. I also learnt that I had encouraged both my children to choose the same activities, so it was easier to manage.
Now, post-lockdown, their activities calendar is looking more manageable for them (and me!) as they've both been asked to prioritise things that are important to them, and we've dedicated the time to that.
These comparisons relate much more to the professional elements of who I am but I also applied the same methodology to my social life too! I was amazed by how the way I spent my social and holiday time had also changed, at some times so dramatically.
The main thing that has remained constant though is how much I value the relationships with those around me, my husband, my children, my family, my friends, my church, my colleagues and my Board.
Old normal Michelle, lockdown Michelle and new normal Michelle all think that relationships are the key to it all.