I’ve been working from home since March 16, 2020 when my children’s school closed. I am not alone – with the COVID-19 pandemic and safer at home orders, many employees across the country have been working from home. While restrictions may be easing, without schools reopening, many parents are balancing their roles as teachers, parents, and employees.
In non-pandemic times, I enjoy occasionally working from home. A quiet house all to myself! I’m super productive without daily office interruptions. And when I take out the commute from my daily routine, I could get a full day of work done plus a load of laundry, prepping dinner, and walking the dog by the time I would normally get home. So this transition to working at home full time should have been easy, right? Far from it.
I am working from home with my husband (also an attorney) and our two children – a preschooler (age 3) and a kindergartner (almost 6). In addition to our attorney work, we need to supervise, engage, and educate our kids all day, which includes what feels like constant meals and snacks. We also try to keep to some resemblance of order in our house which now constantly has dishes to wash and cleaning to be done. This is not how working from home used to be. But two months in, I’ve come up with some pointers to succeed at litigation and homeschooling.
Before I go any further, I am incredibly grateful to be safe at home with my family. I am thankful to all our essential workers, first responders, and medical professionals working tirelessly to keep us safe. I am grateful that my children’s school provides engaging distance learning– including several different Zoom classes a day and assignments, and that we have the resources at home to use this technology.
While there has been no shortage of articles with work from home tips, I haven’t found them particularly helpful. For example, tackling the hardest task in the morning is difficult with hectic mornings. I also find making a routine work schedule challenging since I have to balance my children’s school schedules and my husband’s work schedule. My kids are young, so we can’t leave them on Zoom unattended, and we need to work with our kindergartner on his assignments. And even when I am working, they know I’m home, so it’s hard not be interrupted, whether for a potty emergency or snack request.
Since it will likely be a long time since schools re-open and there are many parents of young children working from home, I wanted to share some strategies that are helping me navigate this new reality:
- Trade Off Work and Childcare. When my husband and I are both trying to focus on work at the same time, it often backfires. If you are fortunate to have a partner or another adult at home, trade off on childcare/schooling responsibilities. That way everyone has some alone time to focus on their work and the kids are engaged.
- Carve out work and family time. I try to carve out time to focus fully on my kids, and also carve out time for work. For example, one day I set up the easel and had a messy painting project with my 3 year old while my son had his kindergarten meeting. My 3 year old was so happy to have one-on-one time with me and it put us both in a good mood for the rest of the day.
- Don’t stress the mess. I get a little stressed when everything is messy. But with two adults, two little kids, and a dog home all day, it gets quite messy. We are encouraging everyone to do their share, but with all our responsibilities these days, if you are stressing about a messy home, probably best to focus on the more important things.
- Make time for yourself. You should do this even when it seems impossible because it feels like even though you are home all the time, you have no time. I was not a runner, but I started running – not only does the exercise feel good, but I enjoy having time to myself and getting out of the house. Maybe it’s a walk, yoga, reading, or making sourdough bread.
- Know there are good days and bad days. Yesterday was challenging and my son was upset because our rug was a different color than this classroom rug and it broke my heart. Today, we happily got through all their assignments and made cookies too!
- Adjust Expectations. Unless you have superpowers, at least for a while you probably won’t get through what used to be your normal amount of work each day, get through all the homeschooling lessons, bake bread, clean the house, workout, and never let your children watch T.V. Instead, reset your daily expectations to a more doable amount.
- Most important, try to stay positive and find the silver lining. This is a really scary and stressful time for everyone. It’s hard for grownups and children. When I get stressed and worried about trying to get all my work done while being there for my children and all the scary things happening in the world, it’s overwhelming. But then I remember they miss school and their friends, and I don’t want to pass my anxiety to them. Years from now, I don’t want them to remember the quarantine as miserable and stressful. Instead, I hope our family can look back on it and remember that even though we missed school and friends and worried about the world, we valued our extra family quality time. Be grateful for the silver linings. For me, it’s the more relaxed weekend pace – not rushing from soccer to birthday parties – and more involvement in my children’s lessons.
Using these strategies, my working from home has become more effective, and homeschooling tends to go smoother. Although the courts are closed to the public, litigations are still active and many deadlines remain in place. Right before the stay at home orders were issued, I received a new lawsuit, and since the orders went into effect, two more. With litigation flowing, I rely on these strategies to manage working from home, parenting, and homeschooling. Now off to Zoom P.E. class with my kids!