A couple weeks back, I wrote in my post about homeschooling challenges that I’d post again once things got better. We have by no means figured it all out yet, but we have settled into a new routine.
Our kids’ school has been trying to evolve to support family needs, but even with all the improvements they’ve made, our family hit a breaking point about a week ago. With the juggling of schedules not working, we made a decision to shift our work hours. I suggested that if I could have uninterrupted work time from 6-9 AM and 3-6 PM, I could be the primary support for the kids from 9-3 PM when my husband’s work was most busy.
There were a couple of factors in this decision. First, my husband is a financial advisor, and while he had a lot of flexibility pre-coronavirus, he now needs to be on the phone with clients and colleagues all day, every day. I have more flexibility to do my work, and even some meetings, in the early and late parts of the day. Second, my husband is great at meal prep, loosely structured activities, and active activities. I’m better with calendars, keeping track of assignments, and frankly, dealing with the intricacies of getting logged into, and managing behavior during, video calls. So, this work shift has been our new mode of operating, with some negotiating here and there if one of us has an important meeting outside of those windows.
Today, Tuesday April 14th, was a pretty good day, all things considered. Here’s how today transpired. If you don’t want the play by play, just skip to the bottom for the conclusions.
Note: DH = Dear Husband. 8YO = my firstborn. 7YO = my younger son who turned 7 over the weekend.
4:45 AM. Wakie, wakie! Did my 10-minute meditation on the Calm app and then prepared my bulletproof coffee. Limited myself to 20 minutes of reading the news.
[Work Shift #1]
5:30 AM. Cleared emails – not a small feat based on what had built up on Monday. Reviewed and provided feedback on a strategic planning session deck. Reviewed and provided feedback on a sales presentation. Reviewed and provided feedback on a client deliverable. Took a brief break to talk with 7YO when he woke up and really wanted to talk with me. Did not take break when DH wanted to talk with me – felt a little bad but needed to concentrate on a problem I was trying to solve.
7:30 AM. Had a meeting on company finances followed by a meeting with one of my team members about our client work. My third meeting cancelled, freeing up a bit of time to prepare for a meeting later in the day. Basketballs bounced in the background as DH practiced passing with the kids.
8:50 AM. Commuted to the kitchen to take over with the kids who had eaten breakfast and were ready to begin. Talked briefly with DH about adjustments to the schedule for the day. Scrambled a bit to figure out the latest schedule and the new Google Classroom meeting access.
9:00 AM. Got kids logged into their “morning meetings” on Zoom with their teachers. Went back and forth between the rooms trying to keep them from changing backgrounds, changing their screen name to “poopie face,” and sending chats to all their friends. Meanwhile, created a schedule for the day on the whiteboard through an elaborate color-coding of all family member meetings. I would have created this the day before, but only now did I have the data from the teachers. Then switched gears back to work to get a state tax return finalized and in the mail a day early!
9:30 AM. Reviewed schedule with 7YO and 8YO, realizing 5 minutes in, as I explained the schedule, that I was supposed to currently be on the phone with a colleague of mine to prepare for our strategic planning session the next day (this is very atypical for me to completely space a meeting). Quickly tried to pivot to get both kids to do their quiet reading. 8YO flipped out (I think my kids have a sixth sense about when I really need them to do something). I attempted to talk with my colleague who was very patient about the multiple interruptions from the kids.
10:00 AM. Tried to get kids back on Zoom for their next meetings with teachers. Links and passwords were broken. It was a long 12 minutes as we tried to figure this out. Finally got them on their meetings, but then both kids had demands (one needed Pirate’s Booty and the other sharper pencils). By the time we figured that out, one of the Zooms had ended due to poor bandwidth from a teacher. Tried to get one kid to quietly read again while trying to get the other one to stop fooling around with his video game. Not a productive 30 minutes.
10:30 AM. 8YO continued quiet reading since I had taken away his video game time based on his behavior earlier and he was desperately trying to earn it back – and I really needed him to earn it back. I gave 7YO a writing workbook, which he surprisingly engaged in independently. I worked on some client work and exchanged messages with my team.
11:00 AM. Got the kids on their next Zoom meetings, which worked this time. After doing the runaround for the various materials, I got back on the phone with my colleague to help prepare for our strategic planning session since we were delayed and interrupted earlier. She gets the gold star for patience today.
11:30 AM. 8YO worked independently on his study unit – he’s studying Disney Imagineering and working through a website. 7YO whined about completing a math worksheet. It was a “2-minute drill” I printed from www.dadsworksheets.com and it took him 20 minutes to not do it. The good news is that 8YO offered to help and that seemed to work for both of them. I worked on several emails prepping for our weekly leadership team meeting later in the day and made the kids lunch.
12:00 PM. Pointed kids to their lunch and told them when they finished they could have some video game (Minecraft) time. Got on a scheduled phone call with our new hire starting next week.
12:30 PM. The house was so quiet during video game time, I thought maybe I should knock out some more office work, but this was my last chance to get a quick workout in. I did a 22-minute Pilates-Yoga class and it was awesome.
12:55. Asked kids to stop playing Minecraft. I had clearly let them go too long because they screamed and wailed as if I had whacked them on the head with the iPad.
1:00. Got kids back on their meetings. 8YO had an appointment with the speech therapist. 7YO had an assignment to listen to a “read aloud” online. I showered.
1:30. Transitioned kids to the next Zoom. 8YO had performing arts and 7YO had some other kind of enrichment. I corresponded over Slack with colleagues.
2:00. Kids got iPads to play more Minecraft. Tried to get on meeting with a client but neither internet line would work, possibly due to Minecraft. Luckily, my colleague ran the meeting. Kids interrupted multiple times to complain about the internet and get additional video game time approved.
[Work Shift #2]
2:30 PM. DH emerged from his “office” and took over. Thank goodness he ignored the whiteboard schedule that said they were supposed to work on their units and took them outside instead. The silence that ensued was beyond amazing. I continued in scheduled meetings for the next several hours – a committee meeting for a community board, then our weekly leadership team meeting, then a couple of working sessions for client work. I was interrupted just a few times, mostly related to helping get the kids logged into their occupational therapy appointment because DH had technical issues. I wrapped my meetings at 5:30 and tried to get a few final items done hoping to use every last minute until 6 PM. A few minutes after, both 7YO and 8YO knocked on my door and told me it was time to stop working – They are also now adjusting to this new schedule and holding us to it.
6:15 PM. Taco Tuesday wasn’t quite ready to serve, so DH sent me to the basement to hit some golf balls. At dinner, the kids seemed in pretty good spirits, and for the first time in several nights, didn’t complain about not having enough attention. After dinner, I practiced piano for 10 minutes and then read a lot of books with the 7YO. We also called my mom and then the kids showed me how their dad had taught them to tie their shoes. Then we all got in bed pretty early, where I am now, typing this.
So, how was that a “good” day? I felt like the kids got a fair amount of attention from us, made progress on their schoolwork, and maybe learned a couple of things. Also, I looked up their total amount of screen time and we’d made it within our 90-minute, coronavirus extended limit on Minecraft – that’s one major success indicator! And while I felt bad about my ability to focus during some of the work meetings, I actually made significant progress on several fronts related to work today and got several administrative things completed too. I still got to exercise, hit golf balls, and practice piano. If every day can be similar to today, I’ll take it, especially if it is just for a few more weeks.
The biggest downside from a family perspective is that we have less time all together since we’ve moved into this divide and conquer mode. We don’t all see each other for breakfast and we no longer have before dinner walks through the neighborhood. I’m also working even more on the weekends to try and catch up. From a work perspective, I am still feeling the constraints, but the focused time early and late is helping.
Of course, I continue to wonder if there’s a better way. I feel like I’m having to choose between being the leader my company needs or being there for my kids – and still not doing either optimally. Most people I know are taking this stay at home order very seriously and have a really hard-line about having anyone in their house – childcare included – but most people I know have older kids or a spouse who can really handle the homeschooling. Is childcare a necessity, or can we do this? I’ve had some very healthy debates with multiple groups of friends and business leaders on this, some of whom think it would be okay to hire someone to come into the house and others who think that kind of calculated risk is what sends us into a spiral as a society. For now, for us, it still feels right to try to do it on our own and truly practice social distancing. I have no judgment on what others do related to childcare as it is a quandary and there’s no great answer.
All that said, I am very present to the good that could come out of this, for my work and my family. From a work perspective, this is pushing me to let go of things, ruthlessly prioritize, and figure out how to have fewer meetings. That’s something I’ve needed to do for a while. Pre-coronavirus, I generally had meetings 7-9 hours a day, and it didn’t leave much time for impromptu conversations or responses. I’m doing more of that now and would like to be able to continue it. From a parenting perspective, I’m really starting to understand my kids’ strengths and challenges. I know I’ll be able to support them more going forward. And there are so many other little things – like they know how to tie their shoes now!
We all keep saying, “everything is going to change,” after we get through this. I know that’s true, and I know we can pull so many good lessons out of this as we stretch ourselves as parents and leaders. I hope my next blog on this topic a few months down the road is about sharing all the great things I learned while homeschooling!