Transitioning to working from home is one thing but, transitioning to working from home and having your kids at home with you is a whole new ballgame. As my son skipped his way to the car at pick up last week after hearing that school is closing, first thing he said was “We are on vacation for three weeks, what are we going to do!?” Well, um, mommy has to work. And, we can’t go to the movies or go to Dave and Busters. Tech Interactive is closed. And, the mall is total mayhem. My initial response was, “Well, let’s talk about it tonight over dinner.” He’s heard that response once or twice before and knows what that means. That is the response I give when I need him to get ready for some level of disappointment. His quiet response of “okay” was quickly followed by the head down, shoulders folded in, and the phone in his face as he escaped into Snapchat on the ride home. Truth be told, it’s not a vacation, but it feels like one to him. As a mother of a tween, the thought of his brain going to mush after three weeks of online gaming is a scary one, and being the control freak that I am, I simply cannot let that happen —not on my watch.
So, we’re going to put in some guardrails for the next three weeks. Not super strict. I don’t want to suck all the fun out of being stuck at home surrounded by our precious toilet paper rolls and paper towels, but enough to put some structure in place so things don’t become so mind numbing that we forget how to tie our shoes.
I work, a lot — it’s a super busy time right now. I need to focus. I do video calls all the time. Him coming in and asking for batteries for his game controller while I’m on a video call with my boss isn’t ideal. So, a couple things I’m going to try to instill…
8 Ground Rules to Set with Your Kids While WFH
1. Set ‘business hours’
First things first. What are mom’s hours of operation? With my son, I set defined ‘business hours’ that he has to (try) to respect. Rule of thumb— when my door is closed, unless the house is on fire, or you’re bleeding a lot, like soak through one Band-Aid in a minute kind of blood, I’m not interruptible. That will most likely be early hours as most days are jammed pack through lunch.
2. Maintain daily structure
There will be reading time, online e-learning time, and things he can do by himself. We’ll schedule that in so he has some structure to his day and it’s something he counts on. He won’t love it, but it’s one of the “gotta do’s”.
3. ‘Paper bag’ lunches remain the norm
You can’t be hungry all the time. Our mealtimes will map as close to your school schedule as we can. Reminder, mom’s not whipping up chicken picatta because you’re tired of sandwiches and an apple. When everyone was stealing hand sanitizer out of people’s carts, I loaded up on raisins, trail mix, fruit and granola bars. Help yourself to those all day long. Sorry, they were all out of Snickers and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, shuckeroonie.
4. We’ll take a break together every day
The ‘when’ may change, but it will involve going outside. Exercising in my Mirror with “Rachel” who teaches a mean hip hop class. Or, doing something physical with our bodies. Which is good for me as I sit 12 hours in my home office, and good for him too so he doesn’t pass out at the first mile he has to run upon returning to school… Yes, I’m already thinking about him returning to school.
5. Use your inside voice
Good news is, you don’t need to whisper— it’s not a library. I feel very lucky that I work for Poly. We make products that make working from home much more efficient and block out so much of the background noise. My Voyager 6200 UC with active noise canceling does wonders when exclamations of disappointment ensue from his bedroom because he almost won in his racing game. Trust me, those moments can be awfully dramatic. I’ve learned to stop running in there asking, “are you ok?!”. Turns out he’s just fine, he just won’t be receiving a virtual trophy anytime soon.
6. The house needs to be kept clean and orderly
I may have team members join me at my house for small huddle up sessions, so we remember what one another looks like in the flesh. Don’t worry though — no hugs and six feet of distance. I just hooked up my Poly Studio USB video bar so several people can join a call together and be seen and heard from the family room and the kitchen—well beyond six feet apart!
7. Get dressed
Video is a must for my calls, so if you do walk in my sweet boy, wave hello, because you’re on camera. And, my Eagle Eye Mini is small, yet mighty and it will find you. Which means, that Hugh Hefner-like robe of yours should be saved for weekends. Get up, shower, and get dressed. And, mommy will do the same. I may even spring for earrings, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. A virtual background in Zoom, or a blurred background in Teams works wonders to hide Hugh when he does make an appearance.
8. Be patient
I can’t drop what I’m doing and run into your room to see how you’ve saved the world this time. I will come when I can. And yes, super proud of you always for your new rank as Squad Leader. You go baby. Now back to work I go.
If we stick to this it’ll be a breeze, right? It won’t. I know that. And, I need to let go of expecting perfection. This is unchartered territory, so we need to go with the flow and hope for the best. If all goes half well, there is also the added bonus of extra time with my son. I can’t lose sight of that. Sneaking in a hug between calls, or even during one, is pretty precious and will make my workday something special. Sometimes it’ll work and sometimes it won’t. But we’re doing the best we can. Good luck to all you working parents out there — we got this!