Working Remotely With Kids And Husband – I have worked remotely with my children and husband home for 20 days, eight pounds, 24 stories and a lot of long walks. I was a guest on an NPR show from inside my bathroom with two locked doors between myself and one family member, who, it turns out, has a very loud phone voice.
I’ve given up on my Zoom poker face and regularly drag the unlucky passerby in to say hello to the strangers on the screen. And my aim, when throwing soft objects from my office into the loft where my 12-year-old is noisily gaming while I’m on a call, has much improved.
A little over a month ago, I wrote a story about how to work from home with kids and spoke with the moms and dads of every age group. After working remotely for 12 years, often with a sick kid around here and there, I felt prepared to work from home with kids in virtual school in the middle of a global pandemic.
“I was born for this,” is a thing I actually told my sister.
I was not born for this. None of us were.
“Oh God … I was so optimistic,” said Bethany Erickson, deputy editor of People Newspapers in Dallas, when I emailed for an update.
Amy Elliott Bragg, special projects editor at Crain’s Detroit Business, also emailed some updates.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about this and wishing I could go back in time and talk to the me of two weeks ago (a much younger, wider-eyed, more relaxed me!) about how this was all going to play out,” she said.
Several of the parents in that first story got back to me with some updates. Like the first story, this piece is organized by age group and includes tips. Unlike the first story, the age groups are now a bit mashed together because that’s how we live now.
Here’s the advice that they all have in common: Give yourself a break right now. We’re all doing the best we can.
Babies and toddlers
- Stock up on snacks
- Work in shifts, if possible
- Reset your expectations
- Trim down that to-do list
- Communicate with your work team often
- Go easy on yourself and anyone else who’s around
- Screen time as necessary
- Sunlight and fresh air as necessary
- Cute kids make Zooms more bearable
- Accept that this is really hard and you’re not a failure
- Be kind to each other
“We’re doing all the things I expected we would be: Screen time is basically unlimited (so are snacks! SO MANY SNACKS) and my spouse and I are tag-teaming/working in shifts,” Bragg said. “It’s also pretty much impossible to work at the same level either of us do when we have childcare.”
Here’s some mid-pandemic advice for those of you with arguably the toughest job right now:
Reset your workday expectations
Eight to 10 hours for uninterrupted work isn’t reasonable with little people around who count on you for their very survival.
“Be ruthless with your to-do list,” Bragg said. “Make sure you are communicating often with your team and your boss about your priorities, your capacity and your availability.”
Be kind and don’t take it personally
“There is a difference between working from home because you want to and planned to and working from home because a global pandemic has made going to the office unsafe,” said Dawn Araujo-Hawkins, news editor for The Christian Century in Kansas City, who works from home with a 3-year-old and 6-month-old.
“Both are hard. but there is an inherent level of stress in the latter that should not be taken for granted. Give yourself lots of grace. Sometimes you will feel like you are failing at parenthood. Sometimes you will feel like you are failing at your job. On really bad days, you will feel like you are failing at both. But we are all doing the best we can right now.”
And make adjustments as you go
“A really helpful tip I heard was something like ‘don’t make the process personal.’ That first week working with all three of us home was beyond difficult as we all adjusted to our new normal, and my feelings were hurt every time my spouse ran 10 minutes late on a call.
If you and your partner are splitting childcare and work it’s so important to communicate frequently about what’s working and what’s not — with an eye toward tweaks and improvements and avoiding blame or assuming bad intentions. We’re all in an impossible spot. Be kind to each other and try to make tomorrow a little better.”
Relax your normal limits
It’s true. Screen time won.
“Screen time as much as you need it but it does help us all be a little less crabby at the end of the day if we take a break from screen time every hour or so and: Go outside, climb up and down the stairs, roll cars down the hallway, do some dancing, whatever,” Bragg said.
Make time for yourself.
Getting up before the kids do, even if you can’t leave, can be a balm.
“A 20-minute walk alone in the morning helps,” Bragg said. “Twenty minutes of reading a book before bed (or just … not looking at the news on your phone …) also helps. It’s easy to feel like you absolutely cannot spare a moment for yourself in all of this madness but this could go on for months. Put a little back in the tank for yourself every day, if you can.”
Just go with it.
Little ones can’t stay quiet for your umpteenth video meeting. So bring them along.
“Everyone is delighted to see your kid on Zoom,” Bragg said. “Sometimes your kid is even delighted to be on Zoom. Not usually! But sometimes.”
Melissa Davlin, the host of the public affairs program Idaho Reports, was just coming off of maternity leave when we spoke last month.
“I’ve mastered the art of subtly nursing off-camera while in endless Zoom meetings,” she said.