The COVID-19 crisis has blurred the lines between work and family for many people as we are all at home with our children, all the time. As we close out week seven of working from home, it’s starting to feel, if not easy, slightly less chaotic and more manageable. From speaking with colleagues with children of different ages, it sounds like it’s a very different experience depending on the age of the kids; mine are 5 and 2, so there isn’t any school work that they need to do, which is a positive in that we don’t need to wade through hours of daily digital schooling with them, but also means that there can be very little structure to their weekdays.
A few of the things I’ve learned from being with my kids 24/7 while also working full-time:
- Scheduling is critical. We review our schedule for the day first thing in the morning and figure out when we need time without kids for critical calls so that we can trade “on duty” status.
- Always remember to hit “mute” before stopping to yell at your kids for spreading mascara on their eyebrows and forehead / bringing a giant stuffed giraffe to join your conference call / rubbing a gingerbread scented air freshener into their hair (all things that have happened in my house in the last two weeks).
- Everyone gets along better when they are well fed. Fights and tantrums always seem to pop up when we’ve gone too long between meals. Sometimes in the office I might get too busy with work to have lunch, but I’m making sure to set aside time for everyone to eat together now. Similarly, background music also does amazing things for setting a more peaceful atmosphere. Classical music or songs from their favorite movies calm our kids (we’re listening to the Frozen soundtrack at least once every day).
- If we give them more responsibility, they will (mostly) rise to the occasion. When I ask my 5-year-old to look after her 2-year-old brother for a short time while I’m on a call, she instantly starts acting with greater maturity and takes that responsibility very seriously. When I ask them both to not interrupt for a little while, and tell them that we’ll have a snack when I’m done, they usually comply.
- Keeping everything in perspective. While this time has been challenging for everyone, we recognize that we are extremely fortunate to be together and healthy and able to work from home. Our kids remind us of this constantly with their enjoyment of little things like more time with their family, spring flowers blooming, and fancy dinners cooked at home. They remind us that we’ll get through this together.
We’ll see what the next few weeks bring, but in the meantime, I am grateful to my colleagues for their patience with the background noise on calls, and grateful to my family for bringing out the best in a difficult experience.
Kate Soto is a partner with Mirus Capital Advisors. She works with owners of middle market businesses and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.