delegate

For those of Us Who Already Worked From Home….

As a full time voice over actor, I’ve been working for home for years. I loved being in my booth in total quiet with my dog, now dogs. Before Covid-19, I had the entire house to myself the majority of the day as both my husband and my twins commute for work and for school. Now, they are all home. The quiet his gone and there is pacing, lots of zoom sessions, conferences calls, endless meals and snacks, and even though we are a family of four humans and two dogs, it feels like what was once a delightful, calm haven is now as chaotic as a New York City train station in rush hour.

The crazy thing is that I feel like as a momtrepreneur I had really just found my groove in the past year or two. I had gotten the hang, finally, of what had to be done when, and figured out how to balance my family and professional responsibilities. And just as I got comfortable with my life, a pandemic struck and suddenly, like many, I find myself juggling many more balls than I want to manage, and none of these balls can be dropped. Really, each ball is much more like a fragile egg and represents an important segment of our life that now needs to be managed, or worse, micro-managed. From cleaning the bathrooms to grooming the dogs, all of these tasks that used to be done by others are now also mine. Not that I can’t do it, I just regret that I have to. I think we have all seen the tweet about our grandparents being called to war and we just have to sit on the couch, but with this sudden shift, at least for the mom in the family, there is not actually so much couch time.

Some Tips for Coping:

  • Establish boundaries. This is important both for kids and for clients. This actually is good advice that stemmed from a chat with one of my besties Shelley. Often outsiders looking in can see your family and say, “hey, you better stop that right now.” So, in my home I have always loved to work in my den and kitchen when I don’t have to be in my booth recording. Now that my twins are remote learning, they immediately wanted to spread out all over, including these spaces that I have always relished as my productive spaces. I immediately reminded them that they need to work in the dining room or there rooms. We cannot all remain silent while they are online with theirqw23 school. It just is not practical. This very important boundary has helped keep the sanity.

Likewise, clients are all working from home now and they may be testing the limits of professionalism.  While I have always accommodated different time zones, as my household responsibilities have now multiplied exponentially, I need to set boundaries to work hours.  It is ok to say “I wrk from 7 am to 7 pm.” These are unusual times and we have to make sure we take care of ourselves and our families.

  • Delegate Household Tasks. Typically, we are fortunate to have a cleaning lady. At present we are paying her not to come in. Our house is rather large and I simply cannot maintain it in the way that we are used to on my own, even if I did not have a business to run which I do. Further, as I want my kids to know how to maintain their own place and they’ll be living on their won sooner than I can believe, learning these life skills is actually really good for them. We have made a chore chart and a schedule. Certain chores are being done on certain days. Then the twins switch off. For example, yesterday Emma dusted the entire house and Jack cleaned all the knobs and handles with lysol and emptied all the trash. Today I will do all 6 bathrooms. Harlan will vacuum. Tomorrow Harlan and I will change the sheets together. As a family it is much easier than as individuals.
  • Plan Ahead. I have been doing meal planning for a while, but this involves a new level of planning. In our area, the markets and online services have terrible shortages. Planning ahead makes it posable to avoid going without.  It also makes it less stressful. My kids constantly want to know what we are having, so the schedule is reassuring to everyone.
  • Maintain Work/Family Schedule: Planning ahead is not just essential for meal planning, now that everyone is home and the kids need academic support and we all have to share a space, a schedule is essential to functioning as a unit and being considerate of everyone’s needs. Each member of the family, from my husband to the dogs, has a routine and needs that all overlap. Working together is a much better plan then a melt down. I mentioned at the start of this blog that I am juggling a lot more balls now. The kids teachers have been amazing about adapting the curriculum to being online, but they now want to discuss their work. They seem to be watching movies in everything from Music to History, and having a family schedule means we can enjoy these moments together. That leads me to my final point.
  • Find and Relish the Silver Linings: While we may all be social distancing to avail a life threatening virus, some really special time with our families and neighbors (at a distance of course) is the result of this time at home. In my family, right before this shut-in period we got a beautiful new puppy named Daisy, and she has been a great distraction. My husband typically commutes to NYC and works very long hours. Instead, he is here and each afternoon we are going for long walks together. I love every single minute with him and I know that I will miss this time so much when live as it was before resumes. I know that my kids really miss their time with their friends, and as soon as they can they will be out and about again, so I love every single moment I get that we are all together. I very much wish that this virus were not so scary and that I did not fear for the lives of the people I love the most, but in the mean time I try to focus on this gift of time with my family.

Living The Dream Means You have to Actually Let Yourself Live It

Yes, if cauliflower can be pizza, then even the dreams of a 40 year old suburban mom can come true! One day I’m out marketing at Whole Foods, the next day I am one of their voices! But when I started going after my voice over career with gusto it did not mean I was in any way less passionate about my life as a mother to Emma and Jack. Being a working mom often means spending a lot of time at the intersection of our personal and professional aspirations. For most, motherhood is not something we just fell into. Rather, like my voiceover career, I spent years dreaming of the children I am now proud to have. For some of us, myself included, conceiving these children was not easy, and not a day goes by that I don’t look at them as a miracle. I was also told countless times that if I was very lucky I might have one baby, and could never have twins. So I find myself looking at my twins, and cannot imagine a world without an Emma or a Jack in it.

That said, when I built my career as a voice over actor around my twins, I still intended then and intend just as much now to be present for my family while pursuing my work full-time. Is it a juggling act some days? Yes! I find inspiration in places I never knew I would look. I knew a girl growing up, now Dr. Jaime Zuckerman, and we went to school together through high school. I find myself always looking forward to Jaime’s instagram posts. In a time when people carefully craft these perfect scenario’s on social media, I find Jaime is keeping it real and I am so thankful for her content! She leaves me feeling inspired and I enjoy seeing what this working mom of three has to reveal. When I find working moms like this on line I see that I am not alone and we are all in this together!

The point is that if you build a career like voiceover so that you can be available to your family, it is then okay to choose to prioritize your family and schedule your bookings around what your kids need. It is possible to do both, but that will only happen if you actually schedule it that way. Here are some tips that I have found make this ride a little less bumpy:

Plan Ahead

This goes for both voice over and family. I maintain a huge calendar and as I do not exist separately neither does my calendar. At first I did have two calendars and suddenly we were missing things like the dentist! They were nice about it but I was horrified. So, I find one calendar helps. I do as much as I can in advance. Before writing this blog I planned all my dinners for the next week and did my grocery shopping for the week. After I post this blog I will prepare lunches through Wednesday.  I have set laundry days and set days to do social media posts. Planning ahead is not only provides comfort, it gives a sense of rhythm in what can otherwise be a chaotic daily schedule. Some clients will send work with a far off deadline, particularly in eLearning, but as I do mostly commercial work it is a rare luxury that I can schedule my work beyond a 12 hour window.

Delegate

I delegate as much as possible, both in my home life and in the studio. Here are areas I suggested delegating:

  • Chores-  Everyone in my house has responsibilities with the exception of Violet, the dog. She is just a mush who looks happy. From doing the dishes, to making the beds, cleaning bedrooms, holiday prep… the list goes on and on… but everyone helps. I feel very strongly that it is not my home, it is our home and my kids are quite capable. I appreciate very much all that they do, and I am happy to wait for them to help, but we all chip in.
  • Marketing- Since the twins were born, my husband has helped with grocery shopping. Now the kids love to do it too, so it often is a family affair, but it does not fall to me to do alone. We often market at off-peak hours like Saturday nights and can get in and out quickly.
  • Homework Help- My kids have learning differences. Both twins are dyslexic and need help with different aspects of their work. My husband and I do what we can, as we have different strengths, but we also welcome help from family members! My sister is amazing with Math. My mother-in-law handles Latin and Spanish. We have a tutor for Chemistry. This is a huge help as VO work from the West coast often comes in after dinner and I need to be able to go down to my booth a lot in the evening.
  • Editing-  Outsourcing voiceover work is important. As the voice, you can’t outsource that. Sometimes some clients have clauses in the contract that limit subcontractors. Often, though, you can higher an editor and it is a huge help.

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

It is not easy to work and to take care of your family. Ask yourself, did your expectations of how you parent or run your home change when you started your business? At first mine did not. I will confess that there are days I go down to the kitchen at 5:20 in the morning to get my kids ready, and I don’t go back upstairs until after 8:30 at night. The bed was never made. What can I do? I worked hard.  I did my best. I got a lot done. If I weren’t so busy, the bed might look like a display in a department store, but that is not my reality, and that is okay. As my role has changed, my expectations have changed. I think back to my old school friend Jaime and I just keep plugging.