Working from home is an adjustment all on its own, but add three kids doing distance learning from home and I am still figuring out how to deal! In hindsight, it’s amazing how much I took for granted when sending the kids to school as I headed to work. It made our day-to-day tasks so much simpler. They could focus on their schoolwork with the help and expertise of their teachers, and I could go to my office and focus on my client accounts, daily outreach and prospecting efforts. Uninterrupted.
Now that my family is at home all day every day, everything has been flipped on its head. I won’t lie; in a lot of ways it’s been a real struggle, especially those first few weeks. Not only do I have to keep myself motivated and driven in my job, but now I’m a teacher to a 5-year-old who can’t sit still, a 13-year-old with dyslexia, and a 14-year-old studying the Constitution. On top of that, I’m dealing with an onslaught of school-related tech issues. So now I’m not just their mom, but their teacher’s assistant and IT support too!
But as the weeks (and now months) have gone on, things have gotten a bit easier with a little help from my friends. It’s still difficult, but I am managing (and in some ways, even thriving) under these circumstances. Between my daily work tasks, and everything to do with my kids’ schooling, I’ve found a few moments to jot down my experience of getting used to this new normal.
A Balancing Act
Working through this stay-at-home order with my kids has been an ongoing process of trial and error. At first, we were all spread throughout the house; my 13-year-old set up in his room, my 14-year-old on the couch and the 5-year-old was… well, he was all over the place. I quickly realized that with everyone in their own separate zone, it would be nearly impossible for me to keep them on-task while also getting my work done, which was even more demanding than usual.
So I dismantled the individual work stations (metaphorically) and got everyone situated around the kitchen table. The kitchen is where everybody gathers, after all. With everyone in the same room, it was much easier for me to answer their questions and troubleshoot their problems. This setup also gave me the ability to step into the other room for a bit of quiet when I had a work-related call, or just needed a quick moment away from the contained chaos.
While this made some things easier, I still faced difficulty with my 5-year-old. While it’s incredible what the teachers have been able to do for his class in a difficult remote setting, he’s still a 5-year-old kid. Getting him to sit still for hours on end and focus on a computer screen was an enormous challenge. I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do this all on my own.
Calling in Reinforcements
One of my close friends worked at a daycare but is currently out of work and agreed to help out. Honestly, I wish I had reached out for help sooner! This situation has definitely reaffirmed the importance of turning to others for support and not being afraid to admit we can’t do everything on our own.
Establishing a Routine
Months ago, I wrote about productivity and the value of set schedules when working from home. Back then it never occurred to me that remote work could be considered a family activity. Nevertheless, this is our normal. So with the help of my friend, we set up a system that works for all of us. Sticking to a routine has been crucial to keeping all of us on task. I really can’t emphasize that enough. Here’s what a typical day looks like for us:
I check my emails in the morning, make breakfast, and wake up the kids so they can eat. Once my friend arrives to help the kids get started with school, I check my LinkedIn inbox and start tackling other work tasks. When lunchtime rolls around, I prepare food and we all enjoy lunch together as I check in to see where everyone is with their school day. Post-lunch, we all get back to work and, once school is over, I’m able to continue tackling work tasks as my friend entertains the kids through the end of the workday.
Getting Through Together
While her assistance has been an incredible help, I won’t pretend it’s fixed everything. Some days are still crazy, while others are a breeze. Then there are those days I just want to run away to a far-off place for a little bit of peace and quiet! It’s in those moments I remind myself that it’s okay to be frustrated and a whole lot of people across the entire world are in a similar situation. Despite the challenge of working from home with kids, I know how very fortunate I am to work remotely, and to have a fabulous friend that has stepped in to help lighten the load. And I come back to the one thought that puts all things in perspective, every frustration, every late night, every technology fail: we are safe, and we are healthy.
For all of you parents out there (and non-parents too!) doing your best with what you have but feeling you’ve come up short, hang in there. We all have bad days and that’s okay. All we can do is go with the flow, give ourselves a break, remember that we are not alone, and accept the fact that it’s okay to be not okay sometimes.
We’ll get through this together day by day.