Molly Moorhead, a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder, is working at home during quarantine in St. Petersburg, Florida, as she and her husband try to keep their young sons occupied and happy while their daycare is closed.
Monday morning came, as it always does — except instead of settling at my desk in my eighth floor office, coffee in hand, I was wandering through the house, juggling my open laptop and looking for a place to sit. There were two young children making a lot of noise.
They’re mine, those children, but everything about our lives had become so unrecognizable so quickly, that I looked at them and thought, “Why aren’t you at daycare?”
Thus began my work-from-home journey, with my husband and our 5- and 2-year-old sons along for the ride.
As it turned out, I was not very good at this. I didn’t realize you could be “bad” at working from home. But at least at first, I definitely was.
If possible, retrieve your desk chair from your empty office and use it at your new home work station.
I defaulted to my bed that first day, the only quiet place I could find to join a Zoom meeting. I worked that way for two days, with a pillow behind my back and another on my lap to hold my computer. On the third day, I woke up doubled over with back pain, suddenly aware of the importance of having a real workspace and a good chair.
As the days passed, the kids gradually settled into a morning routine of breakfast, getting dressed, going for a family walk and then watching a little TV, timed for when my husband and I need to be digging into work. Actually, we’re still trying to make that routine take hold, to create a sense of order and precious, precious quiet.
It lasts between three minutes and … yeah, that’s it, three minutes. Some days, I take approximately 14 breaks an hour to make snacks, engage in sword vs. light saber battles and hunt for lost toys. (“Have you looked right in front of you? Try that, then come talk to me.”) My 2-year-old makes numerous Zoom cameos, and he frequently bursts into the bedroom to give me “two hugs.” I never get that at the office.
Accept all hugs, even on Zoom.
And this is just me, mostly cocooned in the bedroom at an old desk we dragged in from the garage and shoved in a corner. My husband works in the dining room, the nerve center of the house, where the kids stampede past on the way from the living room to the playroom and back. They cannot help but engage him in conversation.
One afternoon, he got so frustrated at the constant interruptions, I offered to switch places. What a difference a closed door makes. I couldn’t type six words before being asked to dispense Cheez-Its or take my turn in Chutes and Ladders.
Savor the quiet. It’s always fleeting.
Our kids are too young to get bored, the way I imagine preteens and teens must feel as this quarantine period drags on. They play, I mean really play, with their toys in a way they never seemed to when our lives were so much more scheduled. They’re spending more time outside. The 5-year-old has become an accomplished tree climber, and the hedge out our side door has been dubbed “Dino City,” an exotic land where toy dinosaurs battle with Woody and Buzz and and someone is always in jail, bound to the shrub by a twist-tie.
All this stuff, I love.
There are moments I have to remind myself I love it, as my sanity unravels a few more threads because I have to stop editing a story to break up a fight over a LEGO pirate ship — and then do it again. And there is that nagging feeling that I’m excelling neither in my job nor my parenting because my attention is always divided.
When that feeling creeps in, that’s when I know I should get up and take a walk.
Molly Moorhead is a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder.