I am an avid telecommuter.
I’ve been working from home in some capacity since as early as 2010, when I began tutoring students online while also completing coursework for my masters degree in English. I had a feeling before I started it that I would love it because I enjoy autonomy and flexibility, and those benefits have only become more important to me and my husband as we’ve grown our family. Growing up as a latchkey kid means I often spent time at home alone, so I’m a natural home body as well.
Social distancing came easily for me at first. Initially, my main concerns were that I pull my daughter out of school before any cases were reported at schools within our district. I was concerned for my diabetic, asthmatic husband, as well as both of my parents who are older than age 60 due to the higher risk the virus poses to those who are immunocompromised and the elderly. I viewed the “shelter in place” order as a blessing, and we commemorated the start of it with pillow fort movie nights, teach-n-cook lessons at dinner time with the kids, lots of gardening in the yard as a family, and long walks through our rural town so that our daughter could learn to ride her bike.
A few weeks of this soon melted into pockets of monotony as the novelty of having everybody at home faded. Somewhere around Week 3 or 4, my daughter began asking when she could see her friends again, and responding with agitation when we’d explain that it simply wasn’t possible, yet. The responsibility placed on us as to oversee her schoolwork obliterated any of what we had going on. This meant the work piled up on my desk as we swam through take home packets and Google Classroom work assigned to our daughter. We had begun allowing our son to shadow some of his sister’s activities for even though he is not yet school age, he isn’t too young to learn. This led to countless loud, teary sibling clashes between the two of them. While their sibling bond is still a good one, spending so much time around each other has showed them both that each one has a quota with the other.
Our home is also much more “lived in” these days, resulting in almost a doubling of the housework. Floors get dirtier faster, there are more dishes in the kitchen sink, and when the kids go outside and play every day in the dirt, rocks, leaves, and grass, that leads to more baths and more bathtub rings. Don’t even get me started on laundry…
All of these things: the inability to do my own work, the abundance of school work for my daughter to complete, the fact that I play master domesticator more than I get to be the balanced working mom I once was, and the fact that I have no more of that precious autonomy I once did – leaves me frustratedly asking myself, “Who are these people, and why are they all in my house?”
Rationally, I know they’re my family whom I love and trust and wouldn’t want to hunker down without under any circumstance. I love the square that I am a part of. But I also love having silence with which to think. I love not having to be on stage all the time because my children spend every moment they are awake in my custody. I love routines, systems, and predictability…
I am now prompted to command my days with more authority. My husband and I have had to work hard at setting a schedule and sticking to it, as well as planning ahead for dinners so that we’re not all standing around hungry and clueless at 7pm in a town where all business shuts down at 9pm.
Also, sticking to a bedtime for the kids.
Also, not staying up all night long just because we think we can. That shaves too much time off the following day’s clock.
All of these are lessons we’ve had to learn together, and through it, I’ve become more grateful and mindful of all that I had and still have.
Another useful lesson I’ve gained from this time is that it’s better to make room for a little bit of everything each day, rather than to drill down in one area, leaving everything else on the back burner. It’s better to devote three hours to schoolwork, take an hour walk, spend two hours in the garden when we get home, have afternoon quiet/nap time where mommy can check her inbox and move the needle a bit on her own projects, and then come back together for dinner around the table in the evening than it is to try to work through six hours of schoolwork with a six year old who is accustomed to learning in a classroom, not in her dad’s office or at the kitchen table. It’s not good for her, it’s not good for us, and it’s not good for the relationship we have with each other as family members. Maybe some things won’t get done as quickly, but we prevent the burnout that can be inevitable under social distancing circumstances.
This time isn’t as much about keeping things as much like they were before as possible as it is finding what works for right now. And what works is whatever allows my family and I to be happy AND healthy along with productive.
Antoinette Chanel is an author and motivational speaker who hosts The Midday Reset Podcast, a show designed to help busy people take a break. She also hosts professional development workshops and provides one-on-one long-term goal coaching. Check out The Midday Reset Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or YouTube. You can also listen to episodes and read more blogs from Antoinette at middayreset.com.