As we find ourselves in these very different times, it is causing many families with working parents to try and juggle conflicting areas of their family homes. I’ve been a litigation and dispute resolution lawyer for over 10 years and have been involved in some complex cases during this time. Little did I know that the case of Lawyer v Homeschooling 2020 would be my toughest challenge yet.
Working as a Lawyer while homeschooling my two girls aged 9 and 6 has often mirrored the two parties in a litigation case; with both sides being resolute in their positions and no one really winning.
My experience has however taught me that we should avoid reaching the point where no one has succeeded and, as a result, all were dissatisfied.
After 5 weeks in isolation and no school to attend for 3 weeks, I had to reassess how we are going to make this work for the foreseeable future. I found myself calling upon well-established dispute resolution principles for inspiration.
Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. Me continuing to operate in a way that doesn’t work for my children is just as bad as the children not behaving or complying with my requests. If we do not address difficulties, this means that worthwhile ideas may not be shared, nor feelings expressed. As a result, nothing is resolved.
Is a competition really going to lead to the best outcome?
In most litigation cases, each party has tunnel vision on the situation affecting them and are often blind to the other party’s position. Both sides can only see what is important to them – for me it is getting my work done and for the children it is being constantly entertained. The two parties need to work together as much as possible rather than compete for their own interests. We agreed that having a rota – with me working for an hour and in exchange for an hour of my sole attention – would work best.
Effective communication is key. If both parties can take a breath and listen to what the other party is saying they may be able to agree that finding a solution is better than continuing the conflict. As a result, a quicker (and cheaper!) resolution can be met and the court process being avoided altogether. For us, the dinner table is our mediation platform. We talk and share our thoughts and feelings. It is a safe space to determine how to do things better if need be.
Compromise and collaborate
This first thing we did was set out what was important for each side and decide how we were going to achieve these results. Both sides had to give a little and realise that ‘100% all-the-time’ was unrealistic and not going to be achieved. Of course, there are parental obligations that are non-negotiable and like any parent I won’t negotiate with my children on issues such as their safety and welfare. However, if they feel that I have been distracted then I shouldn’t disregard this. I may need to juggle my calendar to bake a cake with them. However, in exchange for this promise, they could agree to quietly colour. Alternatively, we could collaborate and I could allocate them a task such as sorting my stationery or making decorations for my desk. The answer is compromise.
Stay healthy and happy everyone – times are tough but we will get through.