Working From Home Through the Pandemic: Why I’m Struggling

My job can really be done from anywhere.  I am a Program Manager which means I spend most of my time on meetings with people from all over the world.  Even before COVID-19, I worked from home a few times a month including some days where my 3-year-old was home with me.  It was challenging but it was just one day, and I knew the next day she would go back to her normal daycare and preschool schedule.

On the night of March 15, I got an email from my leader stating we should work from home if able due to the pandemic. 

That happened to be the same day Johnson County had its first case of community spread. Since I live in Johnson County, all of a sudden it got really serious.  My daycare was remaining open with new strict rules but we chose to keep our daughter home. All it took was one family passing it to me and my family through my daughter, Z.  We also have 2 kids that transfer between houses, so that means I would also get their Mom and her family sick as well. It wasn’t worth it. 

The school also announced their extended closure and within a matter of 24 hours I was suddenly a work from home Mom, teacher and business professional. 

How was I going to do this?

Monday I tried an option of dual duties.  I would basically try to work and parent throughout the day with assistance from a schedule. 

How the Pandemic Changed My 40-Hour Work Week

I would get Z started on a task and then go run to my computer, answer some emails and try to work. I really was trying hard to keep her off screens, but I blew the doctor-recommended “30 minutes a day” out of the water.  She was interrupting me multiple times and the schedule wasn’t helping. I tried this again on Tuesday but it just wasn’t working. I couldn’t do both things well and ended up just doing both things poorly.

The other problem was that Z wasn’t understanding what was happening.

Why wasn’t she going to school and daycare? And why was I continuing to work when all she wanted to do was play with me?  We made a little at-home calendar that showed her what days were the normal work days and normal school days, and then we tried putting a magnet on what day it is.

Wednesday I tried another option and adjusted my working hours.  I woke up early to work from 5 AM to 9 AM. I then took a break from work and was with my daughter doing activities until 12:30.  At her quiet time, I picked my workday back up until 5 PM. My husband stepped in during the afternoon and took care of kid duties.  The problem with this option was that I still ended up working all day and ended up just extending my workday by three hours.

At this point, I was losing it.  It was only Day 3 of this and I was really struggling. 

Z still wasn’t understanding why we were stuck inside and my job was struggling because I’m not able to give it the attention it needs.

I had already planned Thursday and Friday as vacation days so I took the time off and focused on being a mom.  This was so much better! Since we are social distancing, it was much easier to do it while focusing on one role. 

But how could I make this work long term? I considered short term disability or burning through my vacation, but I have work that I have to get done and I really couldn’t leave it behind. 

We have hours at work to take if we need it, like dependent care.  And most of this time, if it isn’t used, it gets thrown away each year.  If I still worked early morning hours and then took dependent care time on Tuesday and Thursdays, I could focus on Z during those days.  My husband would copy that schedule and take Wednesdays. That leaves only Monday and Fridays of trying to do both kid time and work. If I still adjust my work hours, move my meetings, and stick to the schedule, this really could work.

I’m still figuring it all out and maybe you are too. 

I don’t have a perfect answer. But I’m blessed to have a job where I can work from home and not miss a beat or a paycheck. It’s only been one week and I’m already on three different ways to manage my time.  I am adjusting as needed which is the most important part. We have to try new things to make this situation work for us.   

How are you handling working from home?

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