Linda's blog: Are you ok?
My name’s Linda and I feel really anxious. This is a new experience for me and I find it hard to admit. It's also hard to admit that until recently I'd never really understood what people meant when they talked about suffering from crippling anxiety.
During lockdown I have felt everything from a quiet nagging worry that bubbles to the surface from time to time to moments of full-blown panic. In those periods, overwhelmed by how much there is to do and unable to prioritise competing interests, I've felt paralysed, unable to do anything at all.
I would normally class myself as a calm and logical person. I’m a thinker, a planner and it’s natural for me to stick to a schedule. The current situation has effectively thrown my usual coping mechanisms out of the window and I have not adapted well. At work I’m in full crisis management mode, constantly faced with new issues and insufficient time to consider them in the usual way. On top of that, I've had to create cost savings and after spending hours agonising about which options would best serve the business, the decision was taken away from me and alternative solutions were imposed on me to implement.
The fact I do not believe these are the right changes made the subsequent difficult conversations even tougher. I've worked hard to develop a strong team and I know we risk losing them, if not now, then when the market picks up. The personal impact of the changes on each individual weighs heavily on my conscience. At the same time, I'm very aware my own role lies in the balance as my boss considers the savings he could achieve by removing my salary from the payroll.
On top of these work pressures there's the pressure at home. For me that's not home schooling as such. I am lucky and grateful it's not a critical year for either child and we quickly realised the only way for us to survive the weekdays as a family was to essentially leave the 8-year-old to get on with it herself. Fortunately, she is reasonably self-motivated and increasingly computer literate. WhatsApp messages from competitive parents have been muted.
It’s a different story when it comes to the 4-year-old. I feel guilty and confused about how to look after her on top of the paid job. They are two full time jobs after all. Whilst my husband (also trying to work full time) and I are here all the time, we have far too few opportunities to be truly present. The guilt of particular situations bears down on me. Like the time I couldn't help the older child log on to her zoom lesson because my boss was on the phone telling me about pay cuts and the time I couldn't fulfil a promise to play catch after lunch because the CEO called me. Worst of all was the shame I felt as I watched the younger child's face fall when I shushed her because I was mid-flow on a critical financing call and seeing her curl up in a ball on the sofa, bored and ignored. I worry that these sad moments will form the girls’ memories of lockdown and not the hours of role play, garden games, craft activities, family meals and virtual storytelling and quizzes arranged by the grandparents.
I am very grateful that I do not have to do this alone and I applaud all the single parents who do. My heart goes out to them. I know I am very lucky that my husband is fully supportive and we can compare diaries each evening and discuss how to get through the next day. And yet, despite this knowledge; mindfulness; daily (almost) exercise; and a gratitude diary, these things are not enough to keep the anxiety at bay. I feel like I'm precariously balanced on a house of cards and could fall at any moment.
I realised my armour had weakened when, after a particularly grueling work call, a colleague asked if I was ok. The question shocked me. At first I was annoyed with myself for letting my positive facade slip and then I felt angry because no one at work had asked before. On reflection I was not actually surprised no one had asked. I work in a male dominated industry with male colleagues who are either older with adult children or non-working wives; or are younger with no dependents. No one can possibly know what I am going through because they're not experiencing it and I haven't been brave enough to share it. And that's the problem isn't it, because for someone to feel they can be open and honest and speak up during difficult times, they need to feel comfortable this will be well received and they will be supported. This is an environment that has to be carefully nurtured over time. An environment I realise only now (when I need it) that does not exist for me within my business.
With that in mind, when a friend got in touch to say hi, I was unusually open about the challenges I'm facing and was buoyed up thanks to her encouragement. I remain daunted by the uncertainty about when school will re-open for Year 3 and the prospect, at some point, of having to return to the office by public transport, but at least our nursery may re-open next month. I am hopeful that this and other developments will offer some relief and before too long the peaks and troughs of my roller coaster anxiety will even out.
Linda is a lawyer who has two children aged 4 and 7. She and her husband work full time and juggle the school run and everything else between them.
Category: A Citymother's Diary