School Social Working From Home
When the stay-at-home (work from home) order came down the pipeline on March 17th in Chicago, IL I truly wasn’t sure what to expect. I have always considered myself to be very intentional about keeping my work life and personal life separate. I learned a long time ago that if I wanted to be in this field for a significant amount of time it was imperative that those boundaries become firmly established. That being said, this had always been easier said than done, let alone under these developing circumstances.
As school social workers we have that proverbial ‘soft spot’ for our students and families, particularly those whom we become close to and build relationships with over the year(s). I had no idea how to navigate this new virtual endeavor, no one truly did, it had neither happened in our lifetime nor with this level of technological innovation and access. There were so many questions that I and other social workers had about the legality of providing services virtually. Note: One of the ways I got answers was the webinar series on the SSWN about how to provide school social work services virtually!
I continue to be so appreciative of the community of social workers that I am a part of on the SSWN, the Illinois Association of School Social Workers (IASSW), and my classmates in the Loyola University – Chicago SMHAPP program. Listening to the diverse ways they were getting work done and contacting/engaging their students provided me with ideas about what could work in my practice setting.
It was at this point, I began to devise a plan to create a schedule to meet with my students. There was only one problem. I have a one-year-old at home who, quite frankly, doesn’t (and can’t!) care about what I need to do or deadlines I need to meet. My daughter required my attention all the time, with the exception of nap time, however, by nap time I felt like I needed a nap too!
Now, I have a confession to make… the sheer guilt for not being, what I perceived to be the most productive school social worker ever, became overwhelming. My anxiety began to increase due to the sense of feeling overwhelmed in every area of my life. Week 5 arrived and I had officially hit my limit. I needed a break but more importantly, I needed to re-evaluate my work from home plan.
Time To Change The Game
I started by restructuring the days I wanted to maximize productivity and on those days my daughter went to my mother’s house. I ordered a second desk for our office so that I could feel like I was actually at work. I had been working from the dining room table, and doing so made everything seem so cluttered and it blurred the boundary of work and home. I had been holding out all that time, wanting to be ‘super mom’ and ‘super social worker’, but I had to make a change that was going to ensure balance and wellbeing.
As school social workers, we are great at encouraging our students to ask for help and to practice advocacy skills. Why then can it be so hard for us to do the same? With the school year quickly coming to a close I’ve come to accept that all things won’t get done or perhaps they won’t get done to my high standards and that has to simply be okay. This has been a uniquely challenging time for everyone and creating unrealistic expectations only puts undue stress and pressure on ourselves.
For now, I meditate every day, check-in with my therapist, and socialize with peers and friends. A key to life is balance and that is how I have attempted to navigate being a school social worker from home. How have you handled the new WFH culture? What strategies have you employed to successfully manage your workday? How have you been setting boundaries? Feel free to connect with me on the SSWN and share!