Episode 29 is an honest, ‘real time’ interview between a husband and wife, as they unpacked the relational dynamics at play as parents who work from home during this crisis.

Theran and Debbie explored common feelings and expectations, looking at how stress points are amplified during Covid-19. Themes such as resentment, frustration and guilt, parenting, homeschooling and balancing it all came under the spotlight, whilst the gutsy couple maintained perspective by keeping in mind: your reality is your reality; you can’t compare stories

Join our conversations around reintegrating post lockdown.



Theran Knighton-Fitt: candles, light candles

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Aint no-one got time for candles,

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Let me tell you what we’re doing. Okay, so

Everybody has been affected differently by this lockdown by Coronavirus. We say it every time we do an episode we chat about how everybody is in this differently. No doubt, many of you who have been following the series and maybe catching the replays are in a similar situation to us. We have kids. We are trying to work from home. Lockdown’s now been lifted, of course, but that hasn’t necessarily changed very much for us. I’m not I haven’t gone back to work, yet. Kids are only going back to school in 2024. We don’t have official dates yet, but it’s crazy, so, yeah, everyday I do this webinar series, these different episodes, and we chat about different things and different ways to cope. But it’s hard, it’s hard. And we’ve found it hard as well as a family.

So we’re going to do two episodes on trying to unpack some of the relational dynamics and implications of the season for people who are in our kind of situation. But even if you’re not, even if it’s just colleagues or friends of yours, who are trying to homeschool their children, and trying to work in this, you know, husband and wife, whatever trying to work in the same place. I think it’s really important to try and understand what it is that families are going through at this time, so we’re going to share a little bit, and relationally, what people may be going through. As I say, either you’re in this kind of situation yourself and maybe you’ll resonate, or else you have colleagues, and it’s vitally important that you understand what some of your colleagues are going through.

So okay, Debbie, grab your tea, grab your tea. There is my wife by the way, as you no doubt have guessed, and we’ve been married, 13 years, roughly, give or take. And yeah, we’ve been essentially stuck in the same house together for the last, six weeks. And it’s been hard. It’s been hard for Debbie. Beginning of this entire series, we talked about how the divorce rates have gone up in China after their lockdown. So Debbie, first question:

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Do I want to divorce you?

I’ve been thinking about what life would look like without you. At times it makes me happy, at it makes me sad.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Okay, but seriously, seriously.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: I am being serious.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: What has been super hard for you in this time.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Um, I was saying this to a group of girls earlier that I chat with almost daily. I think what’s really hard about this season is that – I’m going to use the word moms. But I’m not always referring to moms and I’m talking about the one who’s hands on with kids, or um, majority-parenting in the moment. That particular person, who I’m going to refer to as moms, I think during the season, we all imagined life to slow down and to calm because we can’t go places, we can’t hop in the car and do things. We can’t respond to things spontaneously. So everything would slow down and we would feel a little bit of relief.

And I think if anything, the season has just amplified all expectations of primary caregivers in the home to a point that the other parenting party, or partner ,or whatever, can’t actually understand and I’ve said to you before, I know you can see what’s going on around here. But I don’t actually think you understand the weight of what is required to keep a household meeting. We’ve had an exceptional circumstance because you’ve been working more than you – longer hours than you’ve ever worked – with a cranked up intensity at home. And, and I think that’s one thing, but when that particular person’s needs and, and priorities drop to the bottom of the pile, it’s even harder. So not only are you trying to keep on top of everything for everyone else to say, but you’re not actually meeting your own needs, in my mind. No you aren’t meeting my needs, well, you’re certainly not meeting all of my needs, but but we become the most insignificant and the most cared for, because we’re just trying to keep our heads above water. In our space.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Uncared for.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Well, kids can’t care for us. We are just constantly giving and giving and giving and giving. Yeah, what did I say? The most uncared for.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: What? So what kind of things have you been feeling?

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Resentment, frustration, guilt, impatience. A need to leave this house…um

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Is that why you go running?

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: No, I actually do. And I think that’s a big part of it. I think you know, my, a lot of, I need to run, we need to manage emotions differently and part of processing, and just physically running things out, is how I process and how I manage things. I haven’t been able to do that and I cannot run up and down in front of our house. It’ll do my head in. Um. I think the expectation that people put on us unknowingly, as well as the expectation we put on ourselves. Probably also, unrealistically and unknowingly, is too much. It’s why you have people in your organization wanting to cut down their work hours. It’s why people are having complete wobbles, like I had a complete wobble, yesterday and was in tears. And I spoke to someone who has the exact same thing today, because actually it’s too much for, for a lot of people to handle. And it’s not carried evenly for the most part, between two parents. It certainly is not carried evenly in our house. You said, so I’m being honest, so I’m being honest.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: I’m trying

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: But but it’s that, you can try, but it’s the things that you have no idea are being dealt with that are being dealt with all the time.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: For the record: I’m officially taken over my eldest son’s piano lesson.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: That was my wobble yesterday. I had a total wobble, yesterday and Theran generously said, and it’s been the first thing you’ve actually taken on in six weeks.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: It’s not entirely true.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt; I’ve got this, you don’t have to think about this.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: How do you think that this season has impacted our relationship?

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: I. I mean, for most of it, we’ve just both been head-down and keep doing what you’re doing. You just, like it’s been like you keep your head down and keep working. I’ll keep my head down and I’ll, I’ll just try and not drown. Because I know that you need to do what you need to do. But it doesn’t make what I’m doing any easier. It just means I’ve got more to carry on my own. Not because you’re an unloving husband or a like a distant husband, or father, at all. It’s just because primarily, I look after kids, they come to me for stuff. It’s my work that’s going to be interrupted. It’s my conversation is going to be interrupted, it’s my thought that’s going to be interrupted, it’s my email, that’s gonna be interrupted, it’s not gonna be yours. So the pressure of, of just me carrying the little things that – often you wouldn’t tell you because you’re not here, you’re at the office working – and I do work from home, so naturally I am with the kids more and they will come to me for more things. But it’s the it’s I think it’s just that the lack of respect. – I often say to the kids just respect that I have things to do. Just – and I know that their children – but it’s as if everything else comes first and I have to squeeze in my responsibilities and my priorities around everyone else. And that’s really hard in a season when you can’t run, you can’t remove yourself in situation. I can’t just say, T, I’m out, I’m going to go back to the girlfriends because I need a break. And you have to manage it I’m here, I’m available, I’m constantly available. And it’s very hard. You hate being interrupted. I hate being a interrupted too. But I know, from when you were studying, you hated being interrupted, as do most people. We both work in that office. And they come to me every time

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Do you notice, though, when they come through the door?

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Yes,

Theran Knighton-Fitt: I rip off my headphones. And I push my chair back and say – come to me, come to me, mommy’s working… do you see that I’m trying?

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: I do. But I also see that you’re very zoned in and I obviously, I often see you say I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I found that I think we’re

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Because I’m about to go live and it…

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Totally I’m not saying that you’re being an arrogant idiot by not attending to them, but your stuff takes priority. So I can’t either, but I still do. I’m still going to chat with them when I’m on a work Zoom call, or when I’m still being interrupted when I’m trying to do a gym lesson in the morning, because mom’s always available. But dad isn’t And it’s very hard to not feel resentful. It’s not. I’m not resentful of you, Theran. I’m resentful of this person who gets to catch a break. And I said to you before,

Theran Knighton-Fitt: But I don’t get to catch a break.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Well, you get to catch a break from this. So, I think one of the problems that we that we often talk about is how you get to focus on one thing and I’m not saying it’s one thing at work, you’ve got numerous things to focus on, but you focus on work. I focus on what’s for dinner, what child needs what – and we’ve got three kids with three different personalities – schoolwork, you haven’t downloaded one document or printed one document – my own work, my own mental health.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Home School is what’s gonna break this world. And i’m not even doing it.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: If you’ve got a mom who also has to work and also has other deliverables, I have other deliverables. I’m feeling the pressure nowadays in this time to continue earning my income. But I have to do that around educating my three children.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Tell me about the work, the work that you work half day remotely. Yeah. Context Debbie works for a company in a different city. So she works remote. She works remotely all the time. Usually while the kids are at school. Do that’s been the challenge.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: I mean, it’s challenging when they I challenging on a day to day basis because it’s…

Theran Knighton-Fitt: What has been the impact for you with your work relationships, your work dynamic, your work load, specifically, sort of professional side of this whole thing.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Um, what I found interesting was that on Friday morning, when I managed to go for a run, I came back and I was so motivated and endorphin rushed to dive in and get tons done. I think it’s very hard to be motivated when you’re anticipating the next need, when you’re never left alone, when you always the one that’s interrupted. There’s a very funny meme that’s like parents working from home and it’s like eight minutes 8.43 to 9.02 work and 9.07 to… It’s not even if, if I knew someone was gonna interrupt me in an hour’s time, I could get an hour’s work done, but I’m not. I’m constantly on call. So, in terms of work, the pressure is on to get it done. And to be good at it because I don’t want to lose my job. But I’m, I’m not online, the hours I used to be, I’m squeezing in work at any given opportunity to look efficient, as well as be efficient. To the point where at one time, and probably now safely about two

Theran Knighton-Fitt: You can also call daddy

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Did you hear that?

Theran Knighton-Fitt: But neither of us can come right now.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: At one point, and it’s probably realistically about two days a week, now I get up at four in the morning and I work from four until I do my workout at eight, because it’s the only time no one needs me.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: There you go. My daughter just called me I’m just gonna quickly go and…

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: By the time the day is done I’m absolutely exhausted. And I’m not thinking straight, and I can’t do the work I need to do. It’s like asking a ceramic artist to create artwork with three kids running around them. Like you just, you need a flow, and I’m not getting a flow, because I can’t so I have to, that was the only option was for me to get up at four in the morning and do work by myself.

I can’t keep running at that pace.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Sometimes I – I don’t want to in any way undermine anything you’re saying – but sometimes I feel like you don’t see that I’m also not sleeping or I’m, like operating on three hours of sleep a night…

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: I definitely do…

Theran Knighton-Fitt: And three hours. The next one

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: I totally see that. And I’ve said to you many times, I get that you need to do it. I really do understand why. But I think – you say you’re working so hard, which you are; like it in no way am I denying that?

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Good.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Well, obviously, I’ve said this before…

Theran Knighton-Fitt: It’s not how it’s coming out to the audience.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: I absolutely can recognize and acknowledge how hard you’re working and I know why. And for the sake of our family and for business, I totally get it. If you were, if you were lazing around here, I’d be more irritated. But there is a difference between, like the thought of locking in and doing 12 hours of work, hopping out for lunch, hopping out for a coffee, hopping out to say, to help the kids brush their teeth and, which you’re really good at, and going back into work. There’s almost like a bliss that. I feel when I think about what that must be like, and I think that’s very real for most moms. This idea of being able to focus on something. I don’t know if you’ve seen in our study, which used to be my study, then it became our study and now primarily, it’s

Theran Knighton-Fitt: My studio…

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Theran’s studio. So that was a hard thing to do was to be asked to leave when he needed to do certain recordings. Um, there is a one of those little light boxes that says focus. And I wrote that I put those letters in there at the beginning of the year because I need to focus. And that is the last thing I’ve been able to do in the season. I cannot focus and that’s why I resent you because you can. And I don’t resent you Theran, I just resent what you’re able to do because, moms, I love my children. I love being the one, sometimes, to explain how to read the hands on a clock and watch them do amazing story sounds and get the answers right. I love being able to do that. So there’s this awkward holding emotions where it comes to gratitude that we have this warm, safe, cozy, happy home that we get to quarantine in. And then this resentment and this frustration that there’s so much pressure on us to do so much, that we feel like we’re not coping. And we feel like we’re not doing enough. That’s, that’s the thing. You know, it’s

Theran Knighton-Fitt: What is, I’d love to not right now, but I’d love to come with some, what I’m experiencing around that. But what is two things that you think would be very helpful? So it’s the same question but to different people? What would be very helpful for your colleagues or your bosses to understand. What would be helpful for them to know because we have bosses that are watching this webinar?

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Yeah. Okay.I think

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Let me say your employers.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Okay. I think my employers being a family. I think they totally get it. I think often the the conflict is between husband and wife, because you think you’re working really hard. And I think I’m working really hard,

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Um, I do think so…

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: No but from your perspective, you can’t push harder, in your situation. From my perspective, I’m doing 17 things at once. I don’t think it’s, I think bosses do understand – female bosses more than male – like I have to say, being a mom is different to being a dad. Or whoever is caring for the children hands on. I think bosses do get it if I if I think about my bosses, and I think Zooming with them today. It’s full on. They’re both in the thick of it too. Like, I think they get it. I think what happens is, the resentment comes here in a in a, in a parent to parent when you’re at maximum capacity, I’m at maximum capacity but I’m feeling more, maybe because I’m female and um, there are more emotions surfacing. And I need to I’m not, I’m just withdrawing. I’m just I’m just head down. You need to get this done, actually, just. -and maybe that’s just me – but just keep your distance. Don’t need anything from me because I’m already trying to please. Too many people in this house. So,I don’t, so if I think about my bosses, I think they get it. Okay.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Second group, what? What do you think people with? What would you like to say to people who don’t have children? But, do you have colleagues who have children? Again, maybe everything you’re saying is what you’d like to say. But, but…

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Yeah, I think it’s the same I think, I think Your reality is your reality. So, for my friends who don’t have kids, this lockdown might be intense with their partners, it might be intense because they are used to being really spontaneous, or they’re bound to not be going to as many restaurants. It’s the same as having one kid and finding it hard and having four kids and finding it hard. I think your reality is your reality. So for certain. And for someone who is by themselves in this quarantine that’s really hard too, so I don’t think you can compare a mom trying to homeschool three kids and someone who’s. I don’t know. I mean, they are different levels, but there is each person’s own individual experience. So I think, I don’t know. I mean, I think I would say the same thing. I think people who are watching families try and homeschool and see the reality of when life may or may not become normal ish again. That’s

Theran Knighton-Fitt: And particularly young kids. Young kids are the hardest kids. That’s the furthest awaydates day. That they’re going back to school.


Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Yeah, but maybe not. I think the young kids are very hard and they’re very needy and they can’t feed them and all that stuff. But I think in terms of school workload, I’m glad I don’t have a grade seven who’s doing projects and assignments and recording mondelings. And that’s, I’m really grateful that I’m not there. I’m a lot happier just colouring in and sending a photo back to school.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: I don’t think we’re gonna get divorced after this, if you’re concerned.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: No, no, no, no, no, don’t be concerned. We’re good at…

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Can I change tack a little here?

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Yeah.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: I’d love to share some of my, what I’ve been experiencing. I have never in my life worked this hard and slept this little,

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Even when you were studying?

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Even when I was studying. I mean, that was full on for three years. But this has been full-on. You know, when we, when we started locked down, everyone was saying Oh, gonna have so much time on your hands. They’re obviously not, they weren’t thinking about people trying to, you know, make sure their business stays relevant, and people who are trying to do awesome things like webinars and. I know some people have had, and perhaps our viewers have had more time than you expected. The things that have been taken out of our schedule, like driving, kids to school and back, or seeing friends on the weekend. Those things; so little has been taken out compared to what has been put in…

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Yes.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: From from my experience. So I’m, I’m working so – cuss word – hard. And I do not feel the luxury of being able to focus for 12 hours. I know it may feel like look like a luxury but it doesn’t feel like one. It feels like I have 27 hours worth of stuff I need to get done in my day, so push it out as much as I can; take a break for the kids, eat supper and then dive back in. So I do not in any way feel comfort in that.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: But you do feel comfort by the fact that everything else is been taken care of. And I think that’s what dads often forget is that the rest is being managed.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Yeah, the thing is, so that I take comfort in there so much as I’m a little bit unaware of that, which has been part of your complaints to me? Yeah, the reason that I’m unaware of it is because I’m just like swimming against the current. So, I get that, that mothers in particular, don’t have the luxury to do that. So I get that, that I’m not as involved. And ironically, I’ve even said in some previous episodes, I’m, less involved. Now I’m less present, now that I’m working from home. I’m more absent now, in this season, than I am normally. Normally I have a really good work life balance.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: And it’s been hard because the kids have picked up on that. And we’ve seen that.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Well, that’s actually where I want to segue into. The impact that we are seeing in our children – a couple of questions came up from some viewers saying we’d love to look at the the impact. Now obviously, this isn’t we’re not doing this as child psychologists or as developmental psychologists, it may be a case study, but it’s opinion so take this from where it comes, but, but let’s chat about the impact that we’ve felt as a family. I mean, one of the very clear things is that when there’s tension with us, you know, you, it’s everyone agrees when there’s tension between the parents, it’s not good for the kids. So, that’s definitely been some of the dynamic that we we’re

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: We’re just not on the same page. And not because, not because. Because of the situation we find ourselves in, not because I’ve got an issue with your loud chewing, or you’ve an issue with me leaving the milk out, because we’ve just both; the intensity has been cranked up. So we’re not as jovial. We’re not as; we don’t have the time to laugh about something or share a joke or, you know, have a braai, which is…

Theran Knighton-Fitt: So, let’s chat quickly about the impact on the kids, and then I’d love to end on a positive note because I have no idea how long we’ve been chatting. This may need to be edited down, we’ll see…

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Probably too long; you can edit all of my angry bits out. All my rants.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Passive aggressive.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: What I’ve noticed with the kids is even though I feel like my patience levels are way higher than what they usually are on any given day. And I can get very firm quickly with them. I feel a lot more in tune with them because I’m with them all the time. So in some ways I feel closer to them. Which again is ironic, because I don’t think I’ve been the best mom at all during the season. And I think moms are really hard and we are hard on ourselves. But during the season when you’re trying to just do 1000 things, you don’t have the patience, like you usually do, even if you’re gritting your teeth. So, interestingly, I feel closer to all of them. And I sort of get their grooves and their mannerisms and their voices and all that kind of stuff quicker. I have, it’s been a season of high intensity and more impatience.

But what I what I have noticed, and I know that what we have noticed, is how they are a lot more; they’re a lot closer to me, or they want to me a lot more than you, which, you are a very hands on dad, and you engage very well with them. And I know that that’s been quite hard for you to see that they’re actually not all that interested in you because you’re here, but you’re not here. They talk about you working all the time. They talk about you missing dinner, or, it’s almost not a big deal to wait for you for dinner because you’re working. And they can sort of see what you’re working, so that’s also tricky. And that’s been hard. So, even though you’ve been putting up the tent. Theran’s been putting up a tent every weekend to sleep with the kids in the tent. And putting in this effort, which I’ve been amazed by because it’s not easy to put up a tent. It’s just not breaking through the – thanks this is cool. But when they want someone they want mom. In situations where usually it would be, either you or me, no big deal, like roll one. So that’s, I’ve noticed that, but but it’s just because I’m here, which is hard and awesome.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Okay, so let’s end on a positive note. Yeah, what you already started speaking about some of the blessings, or the benefits of it. What do you think we’re doing well as a family, what advice can we offer?

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Um, I think um, I’m trying to say yes to more stuff. Like, can we move the big mattress into the lounge? So we can jump on it? Yes.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Give me an hour’s peace. Yes. Let’s do that.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: It’s more because I just, we all just have to extend a little bit of grace. And I think this is this is not military camp, here. I’m trying to get some, make your bed brush your teeth…

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Imagine how much more would get done if it was military camp; we should try that for a week or two.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: So the positive is, um, we understand each other. I understand that you need to work crazy hours. And in turn you do try and help wherever you can. Which is not nearly as much as what I need right now. But I do understand why. So I think we have a general understanding of just, this is what this is. Let’s put our heads down. It’s not going to be our favorite season. And we’re not going to be the happiest we’ve ever been. But let’s just put our heads down and keep moving. I think if I wasn’t working, it would be different. I could be like, I get it. I’ll do kids, you do this. But I think there’s just, I think, for moms who carry a lot usually, working, kids and and and, to take this season,

Theran Knighton-Fitt: There’s no margin normally. so, now we’re writing on the table.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Exactly. And if you’re thinking about things like homeschooling? It’s important. Like this stuff’s important, and you feel it, if you didn’t do that worksheet still, I’m like, we haven’t typed up that thing up for the space project. Like I’m thinking about the stuff going to bed at night. It’s not like, Oh, we didn’t do that. It’s okay. I think, someone like me, I want to do it all, I want to do probably I want to make sure that the kids aren’t going to go back to school and have to catch up. I have high expectations of myself in in this too, which is sometimes not helpful either. So I think understanding each other, I think we’re doing good, we doing all of that.

Something else I think we’re doing well at, and I have been working on the weekends a bit. So preclude that, that’s a caveat. But macro routine, weekly structure. I think we’re doing really well. Yeah, we have a pizza night every Friday. I think we’ve had sleeping in the tents on the weekends. We’ve had movie nights, we’ve maintained our Saturday morning pancake. Yeah. Put the music on.

In fact, I think we’ve been better at that. Now than we’ve been in a long time. Pizza and movies on a Friday has been, more consistent now than it’s ever been because we’re not seeing anyone on a Friday.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Anyway, I think we’ve gone on way too long. Would you like one more piece of fudge? Okay, so this was a tea and fudge with Deb’s and T

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: Tea party party with fudge.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: You may be going through this by yourself at home, you may be in some chaotic environment like we are. Maybe you’re thriving. And this doesn’t apply at all.

Yeah, you may be loving the season.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: I wish I was loving the season. I think that’s what I’m grieving.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: I’m trying to do my sign-off here.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: I know, but I’m just adding that. I wanted this season to be different. That’s another thing. I wanted this to be different. I wanted this to be a time where we were unified as a family. And I think it’s not. Oh, it hasn’t been.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: You may be going through this.

I’ll see you in the next episode.

Debbie Knighton-Fitt: At least we can laugh.

Watch our other webinars around reintegrating post lockdown.

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