Parenting under COVID-19

Vick Bain, former CEO of BASCA (now The Ivors Academy), and Director of the non-profit organisation Parents and Carers in Performing Arts (PiPA), offers advice to parents who now find themselves working from home with their children also at home.

Working from home with your children

This could be the first time that you are working from home, while your children are also at home and, depending on their age, being asked to study from home. In addition to this, if you are also a single parent you may not have any other form of support; for many years I was a single parent with no family within 100 miles of my home. As such, how do you manage to keep working while also looking after your children?

  • Make sure your children keep to a strict routine and go to sleep at a regular hour in the evening; when my children were young I was able to study for an MBA via remote learning, most of which was conducted when they were asleep at night.
  • A routine helps create structure for your day and allows them (and you) to plan your day, then utilise those evening hours for your professional work.
  • Ensure that you and your children have your respective spaces. They require space to study, while you need space to practice your instrument or work. Create this division of space where you can, whether it is in the same room or in separate areas of your house.
  • If you are in a couple, take turns at childcare allowing you to have a set number of hours in which to focus on your work: be in a room on your own, keep up your musical practice and, if you are able to, use technology to teach or stream performances. There are many websites that can assist with this, such as Twitch, a platform for streaming games and music. I am attending my PhD workshops online now through Zoom, which is working well. The ISM has created advice pages to help you get started with remote working.
  • We are also allowed to take one form of outside exercise per day. Ask your partner to take the children to the park or for a walk while you take calls or teach online.
  • If you are a single parent, remember within the limits of the lockdown you are still allowed to take your children to their other parent, as these are deemed essential trips. So, if you have shared custody, when the children are out of the house, you could use this opportunity to focus on your work. You may also wish to consider adapting your shared custody agreement so that it benefits both of your abilities to manage your respective workloads, as you could both be working from home.
  • In addition to your children’s online schooling, use online resources to help keep them occupied, carrying out the necessary safeguarding checks first and keep your parental controls on. There are other websites that offer exercise classes aimed at children – by making use of these you can get your children to burn off excess energy, if you haven’t got a garden for them to play in. And National Theatre Scotland is launching a digital programme called Play Dates.
  • Remember there are other arts related online resources for you to enjoy too which are moving or have moved online for example, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sheffield Theatre, Donmar Warehouse and Northern Ballet have free online screenings planned of their productions via Marquee tv; Nottingham Playhouse have started Social Dis-Dancing classes online for the over 55s; and Tamara Rojo of English National Ballet has started live-streaming ballet classes.
  • Make use of this time in isolation to catch up on tasks: rearrange events you had booked in to later this year; manage your accounts; and upgrade your website and social media presence so you can build digital incomes. If you are a female musician, let me know as I am updating the F-List which I launched last month in order to help promote female musicians and obtain bookings at events and festivals. I am now looking at preparing for 2021.
  • Also use this time to apply for funds that are available to you; for example those set up by Help Musicians, PRS for Music and PPL and others signposted on the ISM website; Arts Council England has now created a £20 million fund for the freelancers it currently supports; there is also an app released by my colleague, Remi Harris , with approximately 30 organisations and funds available for freelancers in the creative industries; and also look at the numerous smaller funds being set up by generous people on platforms such as GoFundMe.

Assistance from charitable organisations

If you need advice for coping as a single parent, charities such as Gingerbread and SingleParents are there to help. Gingerbread also provides a free advice line. Another website, Wellness for the Single Parent, offers mental health guidance.

Other charities such family lives and the working parent offer assistance to all parents. Family lives also provide a helpline.

There is also the ISM’s 24-hour personal support and advice helpline, which is available for all ISM members.

Parenting, particularly during COVID-19, may prove challenging, but it is possible to parent and keep your work going, even in these strained times. Remember, this will not last forever and just think about how pleased the children will be to get back to school again when it is all over!