You know those Susie Sunshine articles titled “10 Things You Must Do to Make Working from Home Awesome Even with Kids!”? featuring smiling parents and neatly groomed kids with sunshine streaming onto a clean desk. The mother dressed in a spotless white shirt? That’s not my family.
None of the four of us is sitting at a Pinterest perfect desk with a fresh manicure, flawless make-up, or a fresh cup of coffee.
We only lasted three days before I had to call an emergency family meeting. In that time, we experienced:
- cocoa-gate when sweet younger brother decided to make homemade, low-carb cocoa for himself and his sister. He used no fewer than 16 sheets of paper towels and still left a 2 linear square foot swath of cocoa powder and spilled cocoa on the counter. He also failed to put a quart of cream back in the fridge.
- Invasion of the dirty dishes. Everywhere–upstairs in the bedrooms, the bonus room, the kitchen table, the counter by the sink! Everywhere except the dishwasher!
- An epidemic of “Mom, can….” followed by “…fix breakfast, look at this, make lunch, or find my..” Mom works from home. When my fingers are flying 90 miles an hour at the keyboard, then “Mom can…?” has to be followed by “Mom can’t…” which creates guilt.
- Mom turned nagger-in-chief. “Are you up? Are you online working on classwork? Do you know what you’re supposed to do? Are you doing it?” Repeated 8 times per day per kid and met with rolling eyes. Topped by catching son playing Mario Kart.
Pinterest or Instagram-worthy we are not.
The totality led to an emergency family meeting where I considered showing them the old movie The Shining to make clear what can happen during isolation, but I decided to take a more measured approach. And if that didn’t work, cue Netflix and Jack Nicholson.
Our family meeting included the following loosely constructed agenda.
- Agree that mom is going to lose her mind if we don’t work together.
- Understand that the kids now have work too in the form of online courses. School hasn’t stopped.
- Establish a rough schedule for waking and eating. If you need to deviate, do so quietly and respect that others are working. Understand that mom has not left her full-time job to become a full-time chef.
- Stake out our new “work sites” and respect that as each others’ respective work space. In other words, don’t come into mom’s office uninvited and sit on the floor to play with the dogs unless mom is on the floor already!
- Make sure each new work site is equipped with what each person needs to do his/her work–internet access, table or desktop for working, headphones, and even software for online meetings/ classrooms.
- Take seriously the phrase, if you mess it up, clean it up.
- Set goals for the week. Prioritize them daily. Check off what you’ve completed. This isn’t summer vacation. Yet.
So how did all of that work out?
My daughter promptly added her goals for the rest of the week to the family white board. My son, the 13-year-old, established a sticky note system with an urgency level of 1-10. He calls level 1 “Hi! How are you?”. Level 10 is “interrupt if the house is burning down”. He has stayed at a level 3 for most of the week.
The first day after the emergency meeting, we all had online work at 10:00 am. With our work spaces spread out across the house, we only worried about whether the Internet would hold.
By 10:15 my daughter sent a group text. “I’m in class! SHHHHHHH!!” I figured the boys were horseplaying upstairs as I had the doors to my office closed and was using headphones. My voice is notoriously soft, the kind that needs a microphone to call the dogs.
My husband, the likely culprit, texted back, “I’ve asked mom to chill.” Then Grace warned, ‘I could literally hear all of you!” Oops. Since then David and I have gotten another ALL CAPS text to please be quiet as we had lunch in the kitchen.
Instead of seeing each day as a pajama day on an extended break, we’re all mostly up and mostly working by 8:30 am. I’m likely to start working by 6:00 am which gives me a buffer for interruptions and assures at least a couple hours of mostly quiet work.
The pups are also getting more walks as that’s considered a legitimate break from our respective screens, and I’m doing a better job of leaving “work” each day and joining the family after dinner for games, puzzles, or movies. Our breaks are more intentional and shared.
Most importantly, we are all enjoying dinner together where we share what we’ve accomplished or not, and where we share our schedules for the following days. We are talking to each other again. And while we will never be Pinterest perfect, we’ve taken the time to make it better and to laugh along the way.
For now I’m not going to cue up The Shining.
Categories: Cooking Keto with Kristie