Change Is Constant. How You Navigate It Matters.
Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Over the summer, everyone in the Provonchee household was looking forward to our 8 and 9 year olds heading back into the school building for in-person schooling. As the summer moved into August, it became clear that this school year would not live up to our "it will all go back to some sort of normal" hopeful expectations.
For myself, many of my friends, and several clients, this article in The Cut summarized what so many working parents are feeling as they wrestle with another year of uncertainty and anxiety around work, school and Covid. As the author states: "Winter is coming and despite the lack of headlines about it, the clusterf**k of pandemic parenting hasn’t changed for most of us. We’re still here, we’re still screaming, but is anyone listening?"
While screaming can be therapeutic, transitioning into this new, new, new, new normal will require working parents to once again balance all their many roles while waiting for an update about school or work quarantines. And that just sounds exhausting... (because it is!)
So what is a working parent to do?
Start Here: Change Will Continue Happen. To Get Through It, Focus on Healthier "Transitions."
According to the Center for Creative Leadership, "Change is defined as the situations and occurrences that impact organizations and individuals. ... Transition is the internal psychological process of adapting to a new situation."
Said more simply, change happens to you and transition is the process you must go through to accept the change and move forward. Without a transition, you are stuck. And, the only way through being stuck is ... well, through.
As we face yet another year of uncertainty with work, school and all things Covid, how you navigate your transition is paramount.
Step 1 - Start with the end in mind.
According to change management expert William Bridges, your transition starts with a focus on Endings, the phase where you accept that the change is happening and think about what it means for the old way to end. Basically, you try to get a grip and accept that the change is happening.
He more eloquently suggests individuals "determine what is over and being left behind, and what they will keep." This may include people/relationships, places, processes or things.
In the case of working parents, this may mean letting go of the hopes you had for a smoother and easier 2021-2022 school year. Especially for families with unvaccinated children under the age of 12, this year may be filled with concerns about on-again/off-again mask requirements, unexpected closures or quarantine notices and Covid scares - far from what you may have wanted and envisioned.
Step 2 - Move into the Neutral Zone.
Next, Bridges recommends you spend time in the Neutral Zone. This is the time between the old and the new, before the change is fully adopted or in place. This is the messy place between the "before" and the "after." This is where you think about your new role in this changed scenario, the role of others, the new processes you need in place to succeed, etc.
Again for working parents, this may mean thinking about how you can advocate for grace at work around changing school schedules, making sure you have enough masks for the school year, or determining how you want to support your children through another "different" year. Setting short-term goals is key at this stage. You are not clear about what the final change will look and feel like, but you have accepted that it is happening and you need to think of new ways to navigate.
At the Provonchee house, this small pivot looked like creating a "checklist" for the mornings and afternoons so that our kids learned to be more independent and remembered all the new things like putting on a mask, making sure they have extra masks, and filling up a water bottles (this list also allowed us to get a break from nagging them about every step).
Step 3 - Move into your New Beginning
Bridge's last phase is New Beginnings. As Bridges states, "Well-managed transitions allow people to establish new roles with an understanding of their purpose, the part they play, and how to contribute and participate most effectively." That sounds lovely!
For working parents, this is where we hope to land - in a place where we have an acceptance of our new role in the new, new, new, new normal. This may mean having yet another recalibration talk with your boss, partner, and children about what you can truly accomplish and where you need their support and assistance. For example, for many of my clients with young children, this required revisiting who had the flexibility to cover childcare requirements in anticipation of quarantines or illnesses. What may have worked in 2020 may not hold true for 2021.
The key takeaway - change is and will continue to happen. Knowing and being intentional around the stages of transition will help you navigate the next change more successfully.
Nicole Provonchee is an executive coach and strategist that works with women leaders and teams across the nation.
After 20 years climbing the corporate ladder, she started Bright Blue Consulting, where she can combine her skills as a coach with her practical experiences as a leader and executive.
Nicole is a sought-after speaker and can bring her "get out of your own way", self-advocacy, negotiation skills workshops to your organization or company.