How to Make #WFH Actually Work with Two Working Parents and Kids
Working from Home with kids is a joke, right? It’s nearly impossible when both parents are working and there are tiny humans who need and/or want your time and attention. COVID-19 has given #WFH a serious glow-up, but for working parents, we’ve had to find the possibility in the nearly impossible.
In my house, we have two very separate law firms operating, one blog, and distance learning for your Pre-K student. We are thankful our son can somewhat entertain himself, but a sibling would be a welcomed blessing right now!
Court is technically closed, but our criminal law practices are very much operational as the courts have no choice but to keep criminal court moving along with lots of technology. School is in session and I am the teacher, but like the judges that we practice before, our teachers have really embraced technology and have made it easier on us every day.
Somewhere in between all of this, I get to run my firm and do things for my work. It’s not my usual grind, but I am getting things done and most importantly, I feel good about how we are managing our work during this time.
Here is how we did it…
A Good Schedule that Works for US.
When I got engaged, someone told me “take as much time for your wedding and honeymoon as you can. Your boss will never be more generous.” Something about this time reminds me of that. We are all going through this. Weekends don’t really exist anymore. Just figure out what works for you and tell everyone, “this is when I am available.” If you’re only about to take calls 3-6 on Tuesday, OK!
I cannot stress enough the benefit of noise-canceling headphones right now. I can totally take a call with Paw Patrol playing in the background. Screaming kids? No problem, I can talk louder. I have found that most of the people I speak to are similarly situated and they just want to get to the point and get through the call rather than pushing it off. I LOVE the efficiency.
Here is my schedule:
8 am – Breakfast and getting ready. We get our of our jammies and get dressed every day. We leave the house for about 30 minutes to grab to-go coffee then we go back to the house for “school.” My husband goes into his office in Downtown Jacksonville, which is totally isolated and where he has no contact with anyone.
9 am – My son and I “go to work,” which is an office space in our house. We put out thinking caps on. I check the distance learning curriculum for the day (they have a morning meeting now) and he sits there for a few minutes watching while I gather his school supplies. I have everything in one container in my office for easy access.
I may have court during this time, so I step away to handle that with headphones on.
9:10 am – 11:30 am: We do all of his work and activities. We have snack at some point during this time.
I will sit on a call or Zoom conference during this time with headphones on if needed. If my time and attention is really needed, I schedule times for calls when my husband and I have agreed that I will only work.
11:30 am – 1 pm: Break for lunch. I have never made so many lunches at home. This is the time to rest and recharge for my afternoon of hitting my to-do list hard.
This is also a great time to throw in some physical activity. We just learned about Cosmic Kid Yoga Stories. Mommy and Henry benefited GREATLY from this!
1 pm – Dad takes over and I am in my office space working exclusively. Dad somehow manages to get our son to sleep, so he gets even more time to work or do things around the house.
4:30 pm – Check-in. Dinner plans? Who needs some more time working? I may go back and work until 6pm, or my husband may need a few hours.
6:30pm Dinner and family time. My husband usually cooks, but I break at 6 to help. We sit down as a family and watch the nightly news.
8:30 pm – Bedtime as usual. My husband and I normally take time right after our son goes to bed to just sit for a minute.
9 pm – Clean up the house, shower, check my to-do list for the next day, maybe go do more work until bedtime or just relax. I tend to order groceries at this time too.
The AM/PM model works for us. It may not work for you. Another option is one person works some days and not others. For example, one could work Monday-Wednesday, and one could work Thursday-Saturdays.
And don’t get tied to it. It’s better to be consistent, but if your spouse or child-care has to switch things around one day here and there, just go with it.
My office has a blend of single 20-somethings with minimal home obligations to 30-somethings with a lot of home obligations. Some of us have immune-compromised family and we truly cannot leave. Some have kids. Some need more mental breaks than others from the loneliness that comes from working alone and isolated.
We already knew what had to be done, but we looked at what each of us could do during this time. We then divvied up the work early, made a communication plan and stayed in touch.
And I am clear about when I can be available and focused and when I cannot. So when my staff is communicating with clients or opposing counsel, they are cognizant of this and working to set things are the appropriate times so that I don’t have to cancel on people or make a lot of changes.
We prioritized the things that make money and the duty to the client. Our work is task-based so we have been honest about what we can and cannot do during this time due to closures. We are holding ourselves and each other accountable with check-ins and trying our best to get things completed. Without saying it, we all understand things that longer than usual or they just cannot be completed and that’s ok.
Work in 25-Minute Blocks
I have been working with an amazing business coach for a few months, and she taught me a trick to get through your to-do list.
First, stream alpha wave binaural beats through those noise-canceling headphones.
Rather than numbering your to-do list, make a column of blocks. Each block represents 25 minutes. Make your list accounting for the time it takes for each time.
For example, writing five thank you notes takes about 25 minutes and would be one block, but writing a motion takes me an hour and would be four blocks.
Between each 25-minute block, take a one-minute break. Between every four blocks, take 5 minutes.
So, if you have three hours to work, what can you accomplish in approximately 12 blocks?
I personally “brain dumped” my entire to-do list, everything that I can think of and put it into a time-blocked to-do list. I mean everything. I have something like 68 hours of work. So over the course of the next few weeks, I can visually match the time that I have to do the work with the projects that I have to do.
Lots of Communication
You’ve got to check-in and make sure things are working for you and the people around you. Talk. Be willing to make changes where things are not going well or add elements to your day when needed.
Taking a moment away from your work, yes. But take space away from your family or whoever you’re quarantining with. Just go to the window or walk outside, and take a deep breath. There is no shame in being “over” the monotony of what we are all experiencing.
It took about a week for me to realize that I would not be working 40+ hours a week. I’ve shared before that I truly believe you can get everything you need to get done between the hours of 9 and 5. I am going to amend that statement now and say that I truly believe you can find a way to do your work, educate your kids, connect with your family and have time for yourself…but it requires first, an open mind and second a lot of grace for yourself. We are all figuring this shit out. Give yourself some time to make it work and don’t judge yourself if it’s just not possible.