The struggle of juggling homework and homeschool
In the UK's third lockdown, accountants with children are being pushed into juggling the world of teaching on top of the usual January commitments.
The UK’s third national came as an unsurprising blow to the start of the new year. If you’re an accountant who’s lucky enough to be a parent, this January will likely have been even more of a challenge than usual.
Although we’ve all had more than enough practice by now, nothing could ever prepare us for the Groundhog Day reality of Lockdown 3; the novelty of working in your pyjamas has long since worn off, and the winter weight isn’t looking likely to shift from the comfort of our homes anytime soon.
For families across the country, this lockdown ensured that the joys of homeschooling would bless their kitchen tables once more; practising accountants have been forced to tackle this regime on top of their already hectic January schedules, deadlines, and office commitments.
“I’m not sure honestly where I can get time to spin so many plates,” said AccountingWEB member imbs on juggling work and childcare responsibilities. “Ultimately my mental health is going to suffer terribly. I feel inadequate in every respect - to kids, to household, to clients, to kids’ education.”
The ability to accommodate a healthy working environment is enough of a challenge with purely office concerns, let alone the almighty task of cramming a school’s worth of equipment into a quarantined household.
This is especially hard for those families who don’t have access to proper internet devices or a reliable broadband connection: “Some of the kids at school seem to be working on mum's phone. Ouch,” said member ireallyshouldknowthisbut.
GCSE students and under will be studying across 13 or so subjects, meaning parents have been forced to become teachers of all trades: “They don't seem to realise that parents have to work too and have no experience of teaching,” rocket_queen told AWEB.
The homeschooling agenda has also taken its toll on the accessibility of office spaces: “the number working in the office is getting too much,” member kevinringer told AWEB. “The increase is partly because parents of younger children can't WFH and also teach their children so they're coming to the office weekends/evenings after they've done their teaching for the day, all coupled with January pressures.”
The pressure on accountants juggling family commitments on top of the January mayhem is at an all-time high; many in the profession struggling to keep up with the treadmill of government guidelines: “Every announcement made by Rishi has put me weeks back with no hope of fully catching up,” kimblemimble told AWEB.
For those bean-counting parents drowning in deadlines and daycare, the question of whether those in the accounting profession qualify for key worker status has been met with some debate.
“Critical worker status encompasses much more than NHS and social care,” argued AWEB member jcace. “Payrolls still need to be processed. Tax returns for individuals and companies will still need to be submitted. Yes, much of this can be done at home, but there will be a proportion, possibly a significant proportion that can't.”
Whilst payroll workers have been recognised as key workers throughout the pandemic, other areas of the profession have been left struggling with homeschooling responsibilities.
AWEB member lesley.barnes’ accountant son was met with dismissal when enquiring with his child’s school about the issue: “He asked about key worker status but was told the school was full with higher priority key workers.”
Managing mental health
Especially for those accountants with younger children, there is barely enough time in the day to sleep: “I start work at 8pm when my children are in bed and finish at 3am,” said one AWEB member. “I nod off at 4am and I am up at 7am with my children to start a day of homeschooling and everything else.”
Nisha Patel, chartered accountant at Brooks & Co, has tackled three lockdowns with two children under the age of 11; the first was almost a “novelty”, a welcome chance to spend time as a family, but the current lockdown measures are proving more challenging.
“This lockdown feels so much harder,” Patel told AWEB. “There’s a lot of talk about mental health in kids too which is another thing to worry about. In the first lockdown, they just wanted to FaceTime their friends nearly all the time. This time they don’t seem that interested.”
The negative impact on children’s mental wellbeing has been driven by so many factors as a result of lockdown – the social isolation, the breakdown of proper routine, the lack of support from regular teachers, the disruption to their exam curriculum, all of which have the potential to have a further impact on their futures and careers.
The heavy usage of social media is also only set to rise, which has been shown to have an unhealthy impact on children’s mental health.
“If we’re at home all the time it’s creating this massive chaotic mess,” said Zoe Whitman, accountant at Hughes, Isaac & Co, in an AccountingWEB Live Webinar about homeschooling. “I [can’t] fit things in at home - my husband’s working full time too.”
“They need you all the time,” she said of her young children. “They just need the snacks!”
How has your practice fared in the fate of family homeschooling? Feel free to let us know in the comments, or share your stories on our Any Answers page.
For an insight into the world of homeschooling as a practising accountant, take a look at Samantha Mitcham’s ‘Reality of homeschooling whilst home is also the workplace’.