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.