March 2020: States across the country ordered “shelter in place” mandates due to the ever-spreading coronavirus pandemic. Resulting in furloughs and layoffs for some organizations, other companies were lucky enough to allow their employees to work from home. While a blessing with regards to ensuring the safety and health of employees remained a top priority, working from home does not come without its challenges, especially when shirt tugging and the pitter patter (pitter patter? more like the stomping of giants…) of little feet are rampant due to child care and school closures.
April 2020: Less than 2 weeks into working from home with no child care, my 3-year-old daughter proceeds to dump half a cup of coffee ON MY WORK COMPUTER! Instant fear washes over me as I frantically power my device off, turn it upside down, and pray to the IT gods that my computer is saved, alleviating a dreaded call to my boss explaining that I’m the worst employee ever. (Pro tip: If you work from home with kids, invest in a keyboard protector, it saved my ***).
Mid-April 2020: At last. Some semblance of a routine in which I am ALMOST logging my standard hours per week. Clients are being taken care of, and as the first few weeks of chaos following the launch of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) have come to a close, things are finally falling into place and I think I can make this work for the foreseeable future.
Working from home with kids is HARD. I am fortunate enough to work from home on a part time basis; however, when our child care facility was no longer permitting children of “non-essential” workers and we had to keep our children home to comply with social distancing mandates, I quickly realized how much I relied on those child-free days. Though we followed a very loose routine prior to sheltering in place, I knew that in order for my husband and I to work, for my daughter to get some preschool education in, and for all of us to maintain our sanity, I had to quickly develop and implement a schedule and stick to it.
Every family dynamic is different, but routine is critical when you work with kids underfoot. Our ideal schedule involves my working while my infant son sleeps (that is a non-negotiable), during which time I get my daughter set up with some craft or educational activity. Before and after those 2 longer chunks out of the day I have carved for work, I make sure to keep tabs on emails and calls, but I have to get my kids outside at some point; otherwise they get stir crazy and the house is DESTROYED. Taking a break to run them (yes, like dogs) is necessary in ensuring I get work done. Otherwise, I’m left entertaining a very bored threenager and fussy crawler.
Oftentimes, I’m working on the floor with my daughter coloring next to me and my son playing with some toys on the other side. On days when my son is teething and super cranky, I’ll work standing at our kitchen counter with him in a wrap. When I’m desperate, my daughter will watch a video so I can make a call (caving to extra screen time during this phase does NOT make you a bad parent!!). More often than not, I’ll get an extra hour or so of work in after the kids are down for the night to flex and make up hours.
*Honest disclaimer: As I’m writing this, I’m telling my daughter that I will give her an ice cream cone after lunch if she lets me finish this project…
Sometimes, you have to resort to extreme measures and there are days when your routine will be broken. That is okay! The biggest takeaway I’ve learned in the past few weeks is to give myself grace. (Case in point, my house in that photo is a disaster; but, there is a smile on my daughter’s face = win). Set a routine that works for you and your family. Try your best to stick to it. Communicate where you are at with your supervisor and colleagues. However, if a project has to get pushed to the next day, or if you just can’t dedicate the time one afternoon to take a call or work on a last-minute request, don’t beat yourself up. Burnout is far more unproductive and lasts way longer than having to take the afternoon to recharge and focus on your family.
In times like these, it is all about balance. Find that balance, establish that routine, and simply do your best. We are all in survival mode right now. So long as at the end of the day the job gets done, we don’t pull our hair out, and we support and encourage one another when we are having a rough day, we will all get through this.