When The Current suggested a column about the new perma-work-from-home-with-kids-life, the request came at a particularly sensitive moment. I was working at night from my car in the driveway, with the heat on. My alternative — the shed — was not an option because it has no heat.
As a seasoned work-from-home person, I have many tricks. But this frozen, socially-distanced life has upended everything.
Here is my initial response to the request for a work-from-home column:
I am the queen of working from home. I’ve lived it for 15 years! Working from home with kids? Nine years! Working from home with kids during a pandemic?
Is that enough? Do you need it shorter to make room for ads?
*Editor’s note: Not that funny.
In all seriousness, all of my working-from-home advice is still applicable in a pandemic, but with the grand community experiment of distance learning, the triggers to feel Parental Guilt because you are not spending time with your children because you are working go through the roof. Not to mention the amount of distractions. And it’s not just distractions from the dishes, but the distractions of life and death, of money and no money.
Should I apply for mortgage relief, or learn what an Economic Impact Payment is? As a small-business owner, am I eligible for unemployment even if I still have some income but lost clients?
Drats, I need to finish the proposal for that big database build-out for the potential medical-device client. And oh, here is that Zoom invite from a mom friend for a group playdate call for my daughter and, oh yeah, here is the Zoom birthday song invite for my niece. And I haven’t even downloaded Zoom.
For homework for an article, I need to call the state and Dutchess County coronavirus hotlines to get a checklist to post on A Little Beacon Blog of what to do if you suddenly start feeling sick or shortness of breath. Whom do I call first? Which hotline? Or is it my doctor? Or the urgent care? I’m sure I’ll get to the hospital somehow, if I need to. I’ll call the state’s emotional support hotline start there. (It was a pleasant call, actually.)
All of these thoughts are typical of a single day, but on that particular day I couldn’t handle it. It sent me straight to the shed for an evening work session. I needed some space to find some calm and focus with no one around so that I could think.
There is so much going on at the same time. There’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefing, which I listen to religiously, followed by the White House briefing. In between those, I get texts from my mom in Ohio as she listens to their governor, Mike DeWine, followed by the mayor of Beacon’s end-of-day robocall, sometimes. And the Beacon school district’s robocall about distance learning advancements, or news about the amazing grab-n-go meal program with a delivery option. And there is Chris Cuomo’s show on CNN that I must watch now that he is suffering from COVID-19.
My devices are never charged all the way. Everything is either at 9 percent or 27 percent, unless it’s a good morning when I have all the cords coordinated, and I reach 100 percent for a good slide into the Gov. Cuomo call. Prior to that, no matter what, I have jogged outside, lately in the rain, and hopefully had time to eat breakfast and get dressed before the briefing.
Locations I worked in to complete this column were:
- The car in my driveway.
- The car at the train station to be near the water while my toddler napped.
- The car on Main Street in Cold Spring, where I drove to get my toddler to sleep in the back seat until I could park in a safe place without any people around. Hi, Cold Spring!
Anyway, my advice for working from home is below. It is simple but important:
Get Dressed: Do this before everyone wakes up. If you have little ones, they can make this impossible otherwise.
Eat Breakfast: You must have a good brain.
Wear Shoes: At the end of your workday, you take your shoes off and put slippers on. This mentally helps you transition from Work to Home.
Dishwasher Ready: Load dishes all day so you have a clean sink at all times. This will help avoid domestic distraction.
Forgive Yourself: Every day will be different. Remember the tiny goals that you did accomplish.