Here’s to Making the Most of it
by Angelica Milberger
At the end of 2019, I clearly recall turning to my husband as we were driving home from a family vacation and saying, “Wow, life has been going so great for us this year. It almost makes me wonder when the other shoe is going to drop.” Enter 2020. Yes, pessimism at its finest apparently, and really who knew that the “shoe” would drop for the entire world? One day you’re going to work and trying to decide what to eat with your co-workers based on the office lunch wheel, and the next day you’re a newly minted kindergarten teacher who takes ZOOM meetings with a 5-year-old cartwheeling in the background.
I’m not going to lie; during the first few weeks of quarantine, I was not at my finest. It was screen time galore and, “Here, yes, take all the snacks you want, please just let mommy work for 10 more minutes.” Then I took a look on the bright side. I’ve been a working mom since my daughter was six weeks old and have always felt confident in my ability to advocate for being a parent with an active career. This crazy time in everyone’s lives is the time to normalize parenting.
“Working mom life” has been a juggling act since the beginning and a pandemic is just another ensemble to add to my circus that is called life. Along this journey, I have picked up a few tips that have been my saving grace to being a present parent while successfully working from home.
Children thrive on structure and working toward goals. They had a life before this pandemic that consisted of a daily routine. I found that taking pen to paper to write my daughter a daily schedule pulled our day together, so that she wasn’t begging for her iPad while I was on a call. Laying out simple tasks such as brush teeth, coloring activity, read a book, dance party or draw with chalk. It makes a world of difference to guide your child during the time that you need to focus on other tasks. Of course, this all varies on the age of your children, as older kids can lead their day on their own.
Your calendar is your friend! I like to block chunks of time in my work calendar so that I am available to my daughter at certain times to take part in her activities, and also be available for meetings with my team at other times. Of course, the rest gets done after hours, but time blocking has reduced my stress levels significantly!
Carve out a work area that is just for you while working from home. It can be the spare room or even your master bedroom closet (yes, that is actually where my own home office is located). Having a dedicated area will signal your brain that it’s time for work, even if it’s in small chunks of time or 2 a.m.
A pattern of planning and organization is the base ingredient in my recipe for staying sane while working from home. I like to make things simple by ordering from a meal delivery service that takes 20 to 30 minutes to prepare. Either my husband or I can put it together quickly at the end of a long day. It’s also something to include the kids in, which is a bonus considering it keeps them productive and learning.
Talk to your boss, talk to your team, talk to your partner. Nobody will understand what you are experiencing during this time and what you need on the work and home front if you don’t communicate it. Chances are your boss is feeling the same way you are right now. In 2019, 97.4% of American families had at least one parent working and 64.2% had both parents working. That puts a lot of stress on working parents during this time, and communication is key so that you can remain on track, both personally and professionally.
We have all had that moment during quarantine when we were ready to pack the kids up, drive them to grandma’s house, toss them out and drive away. No? Just me? It can be so frustrating to have the world feel like it is falling apart, navigate parenting plus be a good employee to boot. Give yourself a break! Look at this time as a gift. It’s even a great idea to start a journal for your children to help them remember COVID-19 in a positive light when they are older. Those of us who are lucky enough to work from home are spending time with our children that we would never have been able to previously. And let’s face it; cliché as it is, time is precious considering that they grow up so quickly.
Angelica Milberger is a working mom in the tech industry and lifestyle blogger. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.