Jaslyn Ng’s ISOscape project explores the impact of the current pandemic on individuals, families and greater communities. Here she considers how the everyday parenting juggle, with all its demands and responsibilities, has prepared her for life in lockdown.

Years ago I came across this article from Parlour, The ‘half life’ of women architects, by Justine Clark and Gill Matthewson. They collected comprehensive data about men and women in architecture and the comparison results were shocking. At that time, I was at a fork in my career. I had just had my third child and returned to work in a casual teaching role at Deakin University.

The comparison graph illustrated by Justine Clark and Gill Matthewson shocked me. Both men and women architects started at equal employment status; however, women architects encountered a sharp drop in their early 30s. Men only suffered a gradual drop towards the end of their careers in their 60s.

I found myself in the same position as many of the women architects when they just started their families. In order to not sacrifice the precious time with my children and family, I sought jobs that would fit my circumstances.

There was a lot of great advice shared by the women and men who were in a similar situation to me. We juggled between work and parenthood, made thoughtful, conscious choices and sacrifices in our careers, which wasn’t easy.

None of us were prepared when the COVID-19 lockdown was enforced. We were given immediate notice to work from home and forced to adapt to this new way of working almost instantly.

To my surprise, I did not find it difficult to adjust to this crazy arrangement because of my motherhood experience. I was able to work from home, juggle my children and do house chores concurrently with my partner. I also found that women who had similar arrangements like me were able to adapt faster than others. Some of them were already working from home before the lockdown.

Long and inflexible hours used to be a huge obstacle for parents. In the future post-COVID-19 world, the new flexible working arrangements would likely stay on. This ‘new normal’ will lead to great opportunities for women and men who need flexible hours due to the care arrangement for their children.

*ISOscape (short for isolation-scape) is the ever-changing new way of living, where social distancing is a necessity between individuals as a result of the current global pandemic of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The ISOscape project was created and curated by Jaslyn Ng, an architecture educator and experienced senior architect based in Melbourne, Australia. This project aims to address and respond to the impact of the current pandemic to individuals, families and greater communities. It is a series of open discussions created to challenge the ever-changing isolation requirements.