When this whole “work from home” thing was first implemented in March, I knew it would have its challenges, but I also had grand visions of what it would be like: “think of all the time I’ll save not getting ready for or driving to work! With no options for scheduling in-person meetings or social events, my house is going to be so clean and organized!” Fast forward to today: my house is probably the messiest it has ever been. I run our dishwasher twice a day. I’ve never seen so much recycling and garbage pile up in a home, and I consider it a major victory when I’m able to log eight hours of work in a day.
This is probably a good time to mention: I’m the mother of a two-year-old.
Two. That magical age of not old enough to sit quietly and do schoolwork for an extended period of time, and too old to just lay there quietly. The age of constant movement, constant excited shouting, being the sweetest person in the world one minute and on the ground throwing a tantrum the next. The age of needing constant supervision.
Even with my daughter still in daycare part of the day and splitting childcare duties with my husband, I would be lying if I said I didn’t go through a period where I struggled trying to figure out how to work through these unprecedented times. How do I keep up my level of productivity at work and to the clients I serve, while also planning ahead to help set them up for success moving forward, taking care of my family, looking out for my own mental health, and living under the stress of such broad economic uncertainty? And I know it’s not just me experiencing these thoughts, based on all the chatter I’m hearing in my personal and professional networks. No matter what your quarantine situation looks like, we all have similar challenges.
This photo was taken on the same day this blog post was written. This is how I found my daughter after leaving her alone for two minutes. Thankfully, the markers are washable.
As I came to accept that this time in our history is different than anything we’ve collectively experienced before, I also realized that meant I needed to approach my professional and home life differently in order for any of this to work. Just as we advise our clients that their organizations need to pivot their communications strategies in the age of COVID-19, I needed to pivot, too. What I once considered “normal” is now, for a time, out the window.
A few pieces of advice that have helped shape my new routine:
These two points have been so important for me to understand and internalize. It’s not possible or realistic to keep a regular work-from-home schedule right now. We are in a crisis, and we have to adjust our expectations of ourselves and our colleagues. If we realign our focus to be on our IMPACT, rather than our EFFORT, we are less worried about getting in our eight hours of work a day and more worried about putting out good work that better sets us and our organizations up for success on the other side of this—professionally, personally and mentally.
I’ve finally adjusted and trained myself in a new system that works for me, my employer and my family during this time. Some tips I have you from what I’ve learned works for me:
In order to focus on that whole impact over effort thing, prioritization is key. Cut out the muddiness and look at what should be done to maximize results.
I’ve been lucky to have an employer who works with me to meet my needs and where I’m at, understanding that none of our situations are the same. I’ve found that being open and honest about my home situation has helped my employer understand my reality, which in turn alleviates some of my anxieties about working from home.
Take Care of Yourself
Maybe the most important thing to remember: If I’m not taking care of myself (mentally and physically), I won’t be at the top of my game for my family or my clients and colleagues. There is so much heaviness in the world right now, taking care of our mental health especially is critically important. For me, this means getting eight hours of sleep a night, prioritizing physical activity, and taking time out of each day to read and meditate.
In order to take care of myself, setting boundaries and schedules are more vital than ever, given that I’m living, working, and parenting from home. For me this means I have a set range of hours each weekday where I work, a set range of hours each weekday where I parent and practice self-care, and I block off the weekends to be free from work (unless there is an emergency). When each day looks the same, having a couple days of the week work-free are critical for my mental health.
Let Go of Guilt
Finally, let go of the guilt. This isn’t the time to be employee of the year, mom of the year, AND homemaker of the year at the same time. My house is going to be a disaster until this is all over (and probably after this is all over, to be honest), and I’m just not going to care about that right now. But, if I take care of myself and prioritize correctly, I can still be a pretty damn good employee and mom, and the lessons I learn today will make me that much more valuable to my employer, clients and family in the future.
These are wild times, and to all the other working moms of young kids out there: You’re doing an amazing job. We’re in this together, and we’ll get through it (with the help of a lot of Zoom happy hours).
Let’s be on offense this week,— Amanda Goetz (@AmandaMGoetz) April 20, 2020
Take back control of your calendar.
Focus on impact over effort.
Play to your strengths.
Call the play so your team knows where to go.