Being a single mum and managing a team during COVID-19

Working from home with small children featuredWhen we say being a working mum is hard; a COVID-19 mum is the next level. When we were told that we needed to stay at home and “by the way the childcare is cancelled’, it felt like a wonderful opportunity to connect with my son.

I went back to work at six months after he was born, which was a necessity, and I have always felt guilty and that I missed out. So, for me, this was a brilliant opportunity to spend time with my son.

It’s the first time in four years I’ve got to spend time with him, just the two of us. I’m fortunate enough to be in the Cotswolds. I’m far more fortunate than most. The only difference is, this isn’t a holiday.

Day 30 and reality is setting in. I’m part of a team that run over 50 clinics in the UK, almost all of which have had to suspend operations, we are very quickly trying to move our business from traditional face-to-face to remote services. My team look after 3,000 customers, all of which manage their own teams and all of them are looking for support.

Every single morning, I feel guilty, I wake up and I have 50 emails, there are things that I haven’t attended to. People need my attention, there are decisions to be made. My team need direction and clients need support. But my son needed a wee in the night, lost a teddy, was scared of the dark. Whatever it was, he has crawled into bed in the night, he wants my time, my full attention and frankly he deserves it.

I look at everyone else and they seem so in control. My son is intelligent, gorgeous, challenging but most of all he needs attention. So, the thought of doing this for another few weeks with no support is terrifying. His father and I are not together, his father is a key worker, so our son is currently my sole responsibility and he misses his dad terribly.

I am constantly seeing mums winning at this, they are on Instagram, their kids are dressed, their teeth are brushed, and everyone is doing Joe Wicks. I am trying so hard, every day I start again with the objective of setting a routine, to give him dedicated attention, not to spend four hours watching Paw Patrol. Every day I fail.

Despite that, there are moments of beauty, the start of the day is slower, we have time to ‘huggle’ in bed, he loves to chat to tell me stories. I love it too. We have found animals, he now knows the names for plants, we walk on the common, we have saved worms and snails, there was a dead shrew that we inspected. These things we have learnt together.

This experience has given me a totally new perspective on parenting; I respect stay at home care givers more than anyone else in the world. Children need company, they need friends. As much as one shouldn’t reward bad behaviour, it is impossible not to when you have 15 people on a conference call and a terrorist child causing havoc. Give them cake, you must give them the cake, you have 10 mins of silence to gain.

Women need to be more honest, being a mother is wonderful, terrifying, exhausting and enlightening but never (ever) perfect. We can’t sweat the small stuff, we must be kind to ourselves, children will remember this time with fondness. ‘Remember when Mummy/Daddy was at home for three weeks and we lived off cake and beans. Children are resilient and compassionate; we must treat ourselves with the same respect. So, to all the COVID-19 mums/dads out there you are amazing, it doesn’t have to be perfect, this is enough.

About the author

Alaana LinneyAlaana Linney has over 13 years’ commercial and operational experience, working for some of the UK’s largest healthcare providers.

As Commercial Director, Alaana is responsible for leading the development of Bupa’s Health Services business which provides health assessments, occupational health and specialist mental health services to both individual and corporate customers.  She also leads the development of Bupa’s UK wellbeing proposition and is personally involved in advising a number of large multinationals on their wellbeing strategy.

Prior to Bupa, Alaana was Director of Business Development at Nuffield Health, and before that, at BMI Healthcare, where she set-up their international division. Alaana is a well-respected and regular speaker on workplace wellbeing, with a focus on how health plays a critical role in supporting the diversity agenda; as well as using data to drive intervention, reducing health risk and delivering impactful results.

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