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Juggling work and family during lockdown

- Wits University

Three staff members from the Faculty of Science share their experiences of lockdown.

Natanya Alexander, Hlokwa Madithapa and Dr Tammy Reynard

Natanya Alexander, Senior Administrator and Secretary to Head of Department in the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies (GAES)

What do you enjoy about your role at the school?

I truly enjoy working with the students, encouraging them in their studies. I believe students find a safe haven in my office, where we can chat, catch up personally and I assist and guide them with whatever they need. We have an awesome team in GAES, all working towards the same goal. 

What are you currently working on?

Both my husband and I are working from home. The bulk of my work during this period involves attending online meetings, recording minutes and circulating vital information among staff and students. Timely and accurate information is even more important now. Being accessible and of help to students is important to me as they try to adjust. I must say that most of our students are very millennial and therefore grasped online learning with very little hassle.  

Despite all the fear and anxiety of lockdown, I cherish the chance to connect more with family. My husband and I have been married for 21 years and we have four kids with the youngest being 11-years old. We keep them busy with chores, games, educational programmes and online schooling. Planning days in advance helps to keep up with everything. On weekends, we try to vary our activities to stave off boredom.

Hlokwa Madithapa, Financial Administrator, GAES

What is your role in the School?

I oversee the financial and procurement activities of the School. I ensure that we comply with the University’s policies and procedures in a manner that keeps our school functioning efficiently and within our financial limits.

What is your key focus during this period?

My key responsibilities during lockdown are to deal with procurement-related matters, processing claims, GAES asset management, and encouraging financial prudence. I do my best to always have a productive day. Every morning, I make a To Do list and resist the temptation to jump on social media.

I’m also a father of two kids. My son is 2 years and 8 months, and my daughter is 8 months old. Staying productive during working hours is not easy, because my kids see this as an opportunity to play. The irony is that when I am not on my laptop or on my phone, my son tells me “You’re not working enough”. I sometimes work after midnight, when they are sleeping. Somehow, since I started working from home, my communication skills have improved significantly as I am constantly talking to my colleagues and clients over digital communication. Furthermore, I am now consider myself a tech wizard now skilled enough to fix other tech issues on my own. 

Dr Tammy Reynard, Curator at Origins Centre

How has your job changed since the lockdown?

My job has changed so much since lockdown. A large portion of my job involves interacting with people directly, working with exhibitors, school kids, and hands-on teaching. At first, I welcomed the break from face-to-face interactions but began to miss this after a few weeks. At the same time, the lockdown has offered me an opportunity to catch up on other aspects of my job that I struggled to find time to do.

How is the Origins Centre connecting with people during this time?

I have been focusing on the social media content and growing our online community and presence. For example, I have moved some of the activities that we usually offer on the premises onto social platforms. We are also working on new platforms to get the museum and our offerings online, such as Google Arts & Culture and webinars, and moving our shop online. We’ve had to work with partners, some international, to reschedule some exhibitions for 2021/2.  With that said, our team is planning an exciting exhibition upgrade and I have been working on the content and displays for that. The construction will hopefully start as soon as lockdown restrictions allow.

 Are you managing family and work?

I have two young kids that also need attention amidst all of this. I have had to deal with a lot of guilt – guilt that I’m not doing enough with my kids and guilt that I’m not getting enough work done every day. I have definitely improved my multi-tasking skills and get good quantities of work done in short intense spells, in between interruptions from my kids, and I’ve had to work in the evenings. My morale has been boosted by the publication of a piece that I wrote last year in the Oxford Research Encyclopaedia in Anthropology. During this period, I have also managed to finish and submit a chapter I had been writing. This morale boost has given me more enthusiasm to continue to work hard despite the challenges.

Final comments?

Taking a step back from the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life and stress has shown me how much I really do love my job and love coming to work every day. I miss my colleagues and the beautiful museum space, and I worry about t the implications of prolonged physical distancing for museums. I have appreciated the time with my family and being able to immerse my kids in my work too, and show them how awesome Africa and the African archaeological past is. I have also enjoyed being in pyjamas all day!