When I’m spinning out about something, invariably work-related, my wife has a favourite zen-like phrase: 'It is what it is,' she tells me. It’s hard to argue with, and more useful than it often sounds in the moment. The situation is what it is, and it isn’t what it isn’t. Resisting or resenting it won’t help. Accepting, even appreciating it, just might.
For example, working from home – well, my mother-in-law’s house – with two kids downstairs and three adults alternating childcare with their actual jobs isn’t optimal productivity-wise. It isn’t the co-working space at which I normally hot-desk. Having worked from home at various points in five years as a freelance writer, I prefer to separate professional and domestic if possible, and not be surrounded by dirty dishes and clean laundry.
However, it is an opportunity to spend even more time with my kids than I did before. I used to walk five minutes from our flat to my co-working space, drop our three-year-old off at her nursery en route and pop home at lunch to hang out with our one-year-old for an hour. Now, I can make them breakfast, hang out, join them for PE with Joe Wicks and still be online by 9.30am – if I’m not on childcare duty.
Having my kids around isn’t exactly conducive to work, but it is to taking breaks: five minutes of horseplay while the kettle boils and the tea brews instead of compulsively checking my emails on my phone or scrolling social media, which isn’t really taking a break at all. We have lunch together every day as a family, which we never did before – not even at weekends. Most days, work permitting, I down tools at 5pm to make the kids’ dinner, slotting back into home life in the time it takes me to walk downstairs.