There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, of course. Every family is different, and every one of us is shaped by our own families of origin and life trajectories, as well as the varying degrees of security and support we each have in our current situations. But it’s possible to make sound choices now — especially in light of all that’s different — if you dig in, and, with compassion and no small measure of courage, identify what matters.
Here we provide some concrete steps you can take, based on our decades of research and practice helping people create lives that align with their values, in the context of the pandemic. We recognize there are significant constraints on our lives over which we have no control. (For instance, you may not have a choice about whether your children are in remote school or not.) Nonetheless, there are opportunities to create greater harmony between your emergent values and what you devote your attention to every day.
Identify your values.
You may have a sense that you’ve changed since the pandemic began, but it’s hard to act intelligently on the basis of an abstract feeling. So, take some time to clarify what you care about now. We find writing these ideas is a powerful catalyst for constructive movement. Start by jotting down notes about the changes you’ve experienced. Take a break, and then revisit these notes. Aim to come up with a list of around five core values.
We’ve asked hundreds of working parents what values they want to embody now, in this pivotal and consequential moment. Many of their values are the same as those we’ve been hearing for years, but a few seem to have jumped to the top of the list.
Presence: During the pandemic, there’s no clear delineation between the different roles that we play. For many of us, work is no longer physically and chronologically separate from home and parenting. We jump from parenting to work and back within a moment — we’re working from home and living at work. It’s no surprise that it’s difficult to feel truly present and engaged in any one role when others are competing for our attention. This has highlighted, for many working parents, the importance (and difficulty) of being present in our personal relationships and in our work.