About six weeks before coronavirus hit the United States, I quit my full-time job to become a freelance writer. Talk about superb timing.
However, at the time, I was excited about my new venture. I was ready for more freedom in my day to balance work, motherhood and my personal life. I decided it would be great to spend a little extra time with my kids so I decreased their days at daycare from five to three.
I really didn’t plan to actively work the two days they were home with me. I figured I'd maybe check email or take a call if needed, but the rest of the time would be focused on doing things with the boys and getting stuff done around the house.
Boy was I wrong.
It was a rough start trying to balance my work with taking care of the boys. As moms of little kids know, they demand a million snacks a day among a host of other requests. And when you tell your kids you’re going to be on a phone call? They only get louder, needier and wilder. It became clear very quickly that I would not be getting much work done at all when they were home with me.
Then coronavirus came. Now my boys are home with me 24/7 while I’m trying to run my business. It’s just me, and if I don’t deliver work, I don’t get paid.
This has resulted in me being glued to my computer for the entire day until it’s dinnertime and my husband comes home. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my kids, “Just a minute” or “Hold on.” When my oldest asks me to play with him, I have to gently turn him down and tell him, “Not right now. I have to work.”
At 4 and 2 years old, my kids don’t really grasp what’s going on. My oldest knows we are home because of “germs” and “sickness,” but he doesn’t grasp the weight of the situation. They are out of their routine, too, and miss their daycare friends.
The guilt that mothers often have has become compounded. I feel immense guilt when I have to choose work over my kids. I don’t like that they watch so much TV but it’s something that holds their focus for just a little while as I scramble to get work done.
I’m already starting to feel the anxiety and dread of when I send them back to daycare. Will it be the right decision to make and possibly expose them to outside germs? When the first sniffle comes, will I crumble into a ball of regret? The magnitude of this pandemic is something no one in my lifetime could have imagined. And there certainly wasn’t a parenting guidebook for it. We are all learning as we go. If you’re working from home, trying to balance business hours with your parenting or home-schooling responsibilities, I have a few tips to hopefully lighten your guilt.
1. Get up early if you can. This one is tough for me because my kids still wake me up at least once most nights and they normally get up between 6 and 7 a.m. But if your kids are older, try getting up at least an hour before they typically do. Spend this time getting as much work done as you can or just take time for yourself.
2. Take an actual lunch break. When you’re working from home, it’s so easy to feel like you need to work all day. But align your home work hours as close to your office hours as you can. This includes a lunch break. Use this time to refuel and spend time with your kids.
3. Plan the bulk of your work around naps. If your kids are young and still napping, utilize this time to get as much work done as you can. If they are older, set designated quiet times where they read or listen to something with headphones on.
4. Finally, give yourself some grace. The truth is that no one will ever be the same. We don’t know the full extent of the lasting impacts of this pandemic, but I have to believe that as long as you are showing your kids love and meeting their basic needs, they will be okay.
Children are incredibly resilient. So let go of some of that guilt.