Motivation has been a big topic of discussion lately. It seems to be something many of us are struggling with. I don’t just mean the motivation to ‘get things done’. If you’re a working parent right now (or really anyone) there’s no shortage of things to get done. And many of the items on our to-do lists aren’t optional – kids have to be fed, entertained, and put to bed. We’re not struggling with checking things off a list, but rather with a larger sense of accomplishment. I’m not sure that motivation is the right word for it. It’s a sense that we’re scrambling to get the day to day ‘musts’ done with little energy, time, or patience for anything else, be that work related or not.
It’s especially hard to carve out time for bigger work projects. Some of that has to do with hours in the day, and some of it, I think, has to do with finding meaning in our work in a world turned upside down.
We recently asked Kunik members how many hours everyone is working on their jobs each day. The comments were fascinating, and the clear takeaway is that you cannot just pick-up a job, plunk it down in a home office, and expect the same outcome. For some, there is a strong sense of duty and responsibility to employers, and a corresponding feeling of guilt when output is not where it once was. For others, there is very real frustration with the lack of adjusted expectations, goals/priorities, and general understanding of the realities working parents are currently facing. As several members said, even with the same hours dedicated to work, their output is down. There’s no one cause for that, it’s a combination of factors. We’re exhausted, we’re trying to work before kids are awake and after they go to sleep (not the most productive times) and our time is always being interrupted – not to mention the low grade, constant feelings of stress, anxiety and uncertainty we are all experiencing. Top that off with the fact that the entire world is in a crisis and many people are feeling an urgent need to help those most impacted, bringing into question the meaning of their own work. When taken together, it’s a minor miracle we’re getting anything done.
I’m in the same boat; I’m working all the time, but even so, my output is lower. It seems like lists are getting longer and my energy and motivation to tackle even simple things are waning. Case in point, I’ve been sitting on an uncomfortable chair since this started and finally bought an office chair. It arrived a week ago. Everyday I think about assembling it, everyday my husband says he will. The box now has a stack of mail, a package of Yogi baby snacks and a dog leash on top of it. So what can we do to try and find that missing mojo?
One thing is clear, what parents don’t want is overly optimistic motivation. As one member said “Little reminders of schedule tweaks aren’t providing relief for me. My 6 year old broke down with frustration around me always working (thankfully I am able to). I am too tired to sit down and read more suggestions to create a new normal.” Another commented “I am tired of hearing how happy everyone is to have more time with their kids. Sure, that can be nice. It’s also really nice to get a break. We don’t have one, and it’s killing me.” We know parents are struggling and that the advice out there isn’t always helping. What we want is a break. And that’s one thing we’re not getting.
I agree with both comments – I haven’t clicked a “How to make working from home really work!” article in weeks, and I definitely don’t think you have to love every second of being home with your kids. My son is starting to stay awake longer between naps and god knows I wish that weren’t happening! What is working for me is a lot of raw honesty, open sharing, and when possible, laughter. A few days ago I was on a facetime call when my son went headfirst onto a hard floor. There was a lot of blood (why do mouths always bleed so much?) and even more screaming (I know, fear the silent cry, not the loud one!). When he happily accepted a frozen yogurt stick we knew he was OK. Side note on that, I thought it would help ice the cut, but melting yogurt mixed with blood is both disgusting and messy. Live and learn. Once things had settled down I called that same friend back so he could see the swelling, it was a doozy. I then called several other friends, who, being the type of friends they are, did not shame me for not paying close enough attention but shared their own #coronavirusfails. That’s what we need right now. Less advice, more ‘I’m on the same level’ support.
Truthfully, I don’t know how we’re going to regain the motivation we all had before this. I don’t mean that in a pessimistic or negative way, but this is an entirely unusual, unprecedented situation and to expect the exact same of ourselves is only setting us up for disappointment. I’ve also noticed that my biggest spurts of motivation tend to come either after I’ve talked to a friend or family member, or after something particularly exciting or great has happened with work. I don’t think either of those is unusual, but I do think we’re having fewer of those moments and interactions thanks to the distance from coworkers, longer days, and added stress. Per the above, I’m not going to give advice on how to accept a ‘new normal’, adapt to the situation, or regain motivation. Instead, I’ll just suggest you share one of your epic fails with a friend, you both could use it.