Ever since the agrarian era when women gave birth in the fields, then strapped the baby on their backs, women have been multi-tasking childcare and work. Corona virus won’t be the first time that parents – primarily women – will be called upon to work from home while watching the kids nor will it be the last.
Here was my set up circa June 1997. I owned my law firm and served as counsel for Scott Hempling, a national energy regulatory attorney. I had a part time nanny for my daughter Elana but otherwise she played with toys by my side while I worked out of our basement. When Mira was born, I perfected the one arm hold, one finger peck as I simultaneously nursed and worked. A few tips for getting it done:
1. Shift work – I did most of my work between 8/9 pm – 1/2 am and maybe another spurt at 5/7 am. During that time, my husband was on duty but if he was traveling, I still got it done. I knew that there wasn’t much I could do with my daughters around even if they were distracted so shift work let me get work done so I was less stressed. Plus my clients were pretty impressed to receive 2 am dispatches!
2. Dive In – If you’re not formally set up to telecommute or work from home, don’t sweat it. You don’t need anything fancy. Use common sense. Make calls from your cell phone. Use your work email and internet. Experiment with web platforms and file sharing or video and other products you haven’t used but don’t feel as if you have to set up a remote office overnight. If you’re looking for free communication and work tools, check out these free resources.
3. Let it go – Most of the tight-ass child rearing magazines that make you feel like a loser for lack of discipline will implore you to inflict schedules and rules and use the time to make your kids learn to code or speak a new language (even if they don’t want to – more power to those that do). I implore you to do the opposite and let it go. No rules, no schedules. Let your kids gorge on TV or play on the computer while you’re outside in the car or in the closet on a conference call (been there, done that – it works). Shove them out the door unsupervised and let them spray paint the grass or mix baking soda and vinegar or put mentos in coke bottles. Heck, I think my daughters even lit and burned a pack of matches. Covid-19 won’t last forever but your relationship with your kids should. Why make it more difficult with screaming fights and arguments over things that won’t get done anyway. Let. It. Go.
4. Be creative in finding quiet and help. As noted above, the car or a closet can give you private time for a call. Make liberal use of the mute button. Make use of virtual assistants or another attorney to handle a call for you if you know there will be noise in the background. Or schedule calls for after hours or weekends when your partner (if you have one) can serve as backup.
5. Don’t make your work your kids’ problem. Please don’t
force your kids to do the work that you can’t do. Don’t ask them to arrange
or make them vacuum because you don’t have time. They are kids and it’s not their problem. Plus let’s be honest – the work will never get done and you’ll wind up arguing with your kids even more. Someday, you want your to look back on this time as one where their parents got it done and they had fun. Not where you were at each others’ throats. They’ll be old and have to be responsible and miserable someday and they will. Why make them do it now?
6. Take some alone time and don’t feel guilty about it. Take walks or run around the neighborhood early in the morning alone – don’t drag the dog or your kids. And guess what – 3 or 4 year olds will be OK if they’re sleeping and you’re down the block for a few blocks without them.
7. You do you – Too too many articles telling you to make use of this downtime to Marie Kondo your house or cook and enjoy healthy family meals or do something productive. Again if that makes you feel better, do it (I personally like having downtime for side projects and intend to keep busy). But you don’t have to dive in right away or at all. And if wine and junk food relieve your stress, then indulge and don’t berate yourself afterwards. This is a battle so do whatever it takes to get through this.
8. Everything is going to work out fine – My sisters and I ran wild like a pack of wild dogs – summers in front of the TV until 3 in the afternoon, maybe time mucking around in the dirty creek behind our house or riding our bikes then dinner in front of more TV and a trip to the pool at night. No chores or responsibilities yet we are productive members of society.
My daughters and no chores or rules, and went unsupervised while I worked and they too are hard working and responsible 20 and 23 year old young ladies.
Please – realize that two months off the rigid schedule isn’t going to doom you or your kids to a lifetime of harm. Everything is going to be OK. Take it from someone who’s been there.
Read more articles and inspiration for parents who practice.