Working From Home with Kids: 7 Weeks In

I’ve been meaning to write a follow up post to my original to discuss what life is REALLY like during quarantine.  I re-read my original post and then starting writing, but after about two pages realized it was more a journal entry than an informative post.  I decided to pivot, and just create a list of things I’ve noticed.

  • We’re still operating on a loose schedule. There are general bed times (e.g. 9 or 9:30 for the 13-year old, so she’s up by 9 or 9:30 for school) and general wake up times.  Everyone handles their own schedule.
  • I haven’t set an alarm clock since this started. I do not miss waking up anyone else.
  • I also do not miss making school lunches, and since my kids can feed themselves, it’s great. They still haven’t learned how to properly rinse dishes and load them into the dishwasher.  We’re working on it.
  • I’ve done better with giving them chores to do around the house. The 15-year old needs explicit instructions, the 13-year old loves mopping.  Happy to let her have that task.  No one likes laundry.
  • The kids are handling their school work really well. They spend most of their day working in their rooms (they each have a desk and a laptop), coming out for lunch or breaks.  I found this sign on my daughter’s door this morning:
School Work From Home Messages

School WFH Messages

  • They still have meltdowns about school. These are mostly related to school work and less related to social issues, which I’ll take.
  • After the first week of online school, my 13-year old informed me that she hates sitting at a computer all day. (I’ve heard similar from my friends who are teachers.)
  • I try to start each morning with time sitting outside, a work out, and then I shower and get dressed. That routine has always worked for me, and I wear jeans most days, as does the 15-year old.
  • After dinner we are still working on family time. With the nice weather we’ve been going to an area of the Metroparks where the road is closed to ride bikes, skateboard, and walk.
  • We’ve had some Zoom meetings with family, some meetings with friends, and the 13-year old is great at FaceTime and Google Meet with her friends. They have class meetings, too.  The 15-year old is not great at initiating friend time – sometimes I think we’re still arranging play dates for a toddler.  My husband had him play catch with a friend the other day, which did a world of good for his outlook.  Introverts need friend time too!
  • We’ve done a couple socially distanced hang outs with friends. Those will get easier as it gets warmer, and we have plenty of room to spread out on our porch and in our yard.
  • Work has not been too different. I get a few more interruptions than usual, but no more than I would when the kids are home during the summer.  I expect this might change in a few weeks, when they wrap up school.
  • Screen time is higher than I would like (for all of us), but it’s not awful.
  • Animal Crossing is a great game.  I am not the most frequent player in our house, which is good because the island would still have a tent for a museum and no bridges.  I think my house has cockroaches.
  • I’ve finished one puzzle, which was 500 pieces.  I am slow at puzzles.  I have a 1000 piece one I need to start.
  • Yard work has been great therapy, but I don’t like weeding.  I figure, whatever works right now is enough.
  • Everyone now realizes what a distraction/annoyance the dogs can be since they can be loud and want to go outside frequently. For this reason, Mittens was named Quarantine Employee of the Month for April (thank you Andy Mallon for the inspiration).
Stellato Home Office Quarantine Employee of the Month for April: Mittens

Stellato Home Office Quarantine Employee of the Month for April: Mittens

All in all, we’re doing well.  I enjoy not having to rush for anything after dinner or on the weekend.  I’ve lost count of the number of trips and events that have been cancelled, and there are only a couple “once in a lifetime” things that make me sad (the 15-year old was headed to the state theater competition, which won’t be rescheduled).  If there were milestones we were missing, like graduation, this would be much harder.  I feel for the seniors, and for anyone graduating at this time.  And I am tired from constantly living in a state of concern, and not knowing what will happen next.  It’s exhausting.  The best we can do it take it one day at a time, and focus on the little things that bring joy.  Keep at it friends, we’ll get through this.

Working From Home…with Kids

Before I worked for SQLskills, I worked for a software company, Hyland Software.  One of the best things about working at Hyland was the Child Enrichment Center (CEC).  It was a day care until the kids were about 3, and then it was Montessori-based learning until the kids “graduated” and went off to kindergarten.  The CEC hours were 7AM to 6PM every work day, and the teacher to child ratio was about 1:8.  And it was on site.

Both of my kids were born when I worked at Hyland; my oldest is now 15, my youngest is 13.  When my kids were babies, I could go down during the day to breast feed, and during the 7 years they were there, I could go down and visit them…at any time.  I knew my kids were safe, they were well-taken care of, and they were happy.  I would tell the teachers, as often as I could, that the reason I could do my job so well was because they did their job so well.  I could never put a price on that.

Fast-forward almost eight years later and I have two teenagers, and there is a lot that’s the same.  When the kids are at school during the day, I know they are safe and taken care of, and for the most part they are happy.  As such, I can focus on work.  This changes when they are home.  I know they are safe and taken care of, but now I need to make sure they are not bored.  It is much easier do this when they are 13 and 15 compared to 6 and 8.  But, I need to know that they have something to do, because otherwise I am not effective at work.  If half of my brain is thinking about them, I am not fully focused on what I need to do.

For the last two years, in the summer, they have attended a few camps, visited different friends, and are home.  We make it work, and my days can be crazy because sometimes I have to take the kids somewhere, or they have friends at the house.  If the next few weeks were going to be like summer, it would a routine with which I’m familiar.  But starting today, they are home for at least three weeks, probably more.  Last Thursday the governor of Ohio announced that schools would be closing for three weeks to try and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  These next two weeks are spring break for my kids, and the third week they will “attend” school through online learning.

Note: I fully support this move, but it does make working from home a bit more challenging than usual because there are no camps, and my kids will not be going to anyone else’s house, and none of their friends will be coming here.

What We’re Doing

In addition to normal working from home challenges when the kids are here, I have to make sure they have enough to stay busy (physically and mentally).  And if they don’t, I won’t be able to focus.  I’ll admit that I’m winging it, but here is the plan so far…

I know that the younger the kids, the more involved the parent has to be.  I’m fortunate mine can truly fend for themselves in terms of getting dressed, eating, etc.  However, they are still teenagers, and they need rules, structure, and direction.

First, everyone is operating on a loose schedule.  We’re starting with bedtime and wake up, because otherwise they will morph into complete night owls and then getting back on a “normal” school schedule will be dreadful.  So, in bed by 10PM, up by 10AM.  I know 12 hours seems like a lot for sleep, but the 13-year old needs her sleep.  This is a time for her to catch up.  It also means that I will get up early and have a few hours to myself to get work done.

The 10PM bed time means that if anyone wants to watch a movie, it has to be started by 8PM.  The rest of the schedule doesn’t have specific times (this is their spring break, so they get this time off from schoolwork), but these are things I want them to do each day for the first two weeks:

  • Clean up their room (nothing on the floor, put clean clothes away) and make their bed.
  • Spend at least 30-60 minutes reading or listening to a new book.
  • Spend 30-60 minutes outside (if it’s raining, do your best). For my 13-year-old this means going on a walk with me and the dogs, getting in some of her training for spring track, or playing volleyball outside (with another family member).  Inside, she can hit the volleyball against the wall in the basement.  For the 15-year-old, it means playing catch (baseball) or hitting off the tee, or going for a walk.  I told them if they want to go for a bike ride or a hike, we can do that.  We will practice good social distancing when in outdoor public spaces.
  • Make their own breakfast and lunch – this is a good opportunity to develop some new cooking skills. I will try to eat lunch with them when I can.
  • Help with cleaning – vacuum, mop, laundry, wipe down door handles and light-switches, empty dishwasher, etc.
  • Spend 30-60 minutes of family time (e.g. play a board game). This does not include eating dinner together, which we do anyway.

Individual Differences

These are some ideas to get us started, but you’re probably looking at this list and realizing it doesn’t fill an entire day.  I KNOW.  The 15-year-old will spend a lot of time online playing games with his friends.  For now, I’m ok with that because he gets social interaction and that’s good.  In terms of internet bandwidth – for some people that may be a problem, but I have a separate line I use so it’s usually fine.  However, there are times where I have kicked them off the internet and told they cannot play games or stream anything until I’m done.  He’s also started creating videos for his YouTube channel related to all these online video games.  I’m all about creativity and improving any technical skills, so this is fine in my opinion.

The 15-year-old also tends to hibernate in his room; I don’t know if this is an introvert thing, or a teenage boy thing, or both.  But we have to work to get him to do stuff with the family.

I am most concerned about my 13-year-old because she’s an extrovert.  She needs time with people.  For her I’m encouraging FaceTiming with her friends, and with my mom, as much as she wants.  She has an art station where I expect she will spend a lot of time painting, and I plan to make time during the day to do something with her.

My Plan

If you’re wondering when I’m going to get the part about how I work from home with kids…this is it.  I have to have a plan for them.  My schedule changes daily.  Sometimes I have a lot of calls or dial-ins, sometimes I don’t.  I am planning to write my schedule on our chalkboard each day, so they know when I am absolutely not available.  I can also close my office door (which I don’t do that often because there is always a dog that wants in or out).  I will try to get as much as I can done before they wake up.  I will also be working later in to the day, because I’m expecting more breaks.

Again, even though the kids are pretty independent and can fend for themselves, having them at home is a distraction, even if they don’t need me.  It’s a constant battle in my head.  When school starts again, and they have to do remote learning, the days will change in that they will have a larger to-do list, and we will probably create more of a schedule.  Most of the school work can be done independently, but my 13-year-old sometimes needs help because she is dyslexic.  However, the help I have to provide is nothing compared to having a 7-year-old at home.

Lastly, even though I’ve mostly talked about what they need, I am well aware of what I need.  First, I have to workout.   I need physical activity for my mind as much as for my health.  I will probably knock that out first thing each day (and I’m no longer going to the gym, so that means a strength or yoga workout at home, or a run outside).  Second, I need breaks from being with the kids.  I am an introvert, and I need time to myself where I am not working.  This will be my biggest challenge.  I have a list of things I like to do: baking, puzzles, yard work, reading.  I need to make sure that I block off 30-60 minutes a day for one of those things.  If I’m not taking care of myself, I won’t be able to take care of anyone else.

If you work from home with kids, feel free to share additional suggestions below.  If you have a blog, write a post!  I am sure there are plenty of folks in this situation looking for ideas.  Best of luck to everyone who is doing as much as they can while working from home in the current state of the world.  It’s a very unpredictable time, but we can get through it.  Be kind, stay calm, and please don’t be afraid to ask for help.

T-SQL Tuesday #99: Life Outside SQL Server

T-SQL Tuesday

T-SQL Tuesday is a blog party held the second Tuesday of each month.

I am late to the party (I am often late to the party, just ask Aaron Bertrand, this month’s host).  I chose door #1 for this month’s T-SQL Tuesday Dealer’s Choice party.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I’m a runner.  You might also know that I like spin.  And maybe you know that I’m a spin instructor at Psycle, a studio here in Ohio?

The bike...

The bike…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My regular class is on Tuesday mornings, but I sub for other instructors when my schedule allows.  Teaching spin is big in some places – like Soul Cycle which some say started the whole spin craze – to the point where instructing is a full-time job and it includes benefits.

I’m not in it for the money.

The extra cash is nice, but what I love is watching people evolve, and get better.

I’m a coach at heart.

I have found that I love not thinking about how I’m doing, but rather thinking about how to get someone else to do their best.

The studio...

The studio…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is why I teach

Both spin, and SQL Server.  Off the bike my favorite course is IE0, for the Accidental/Junior DBA.  The first day everyone is pretty quiet – they don’t want to share what they don’t know.  By the last day everyone has realized that no one is an expert, and they will tell stories and ask the fun “why” questions.

This happens in spin.

People show up the first ride and they are afraid they’ll be the worst rider in the room.  A few rides later and they’re asking questions about their bike set up, or sharing how they’re feeling about class.  Weeks, months, even years go by and you see those individuals get stronger, faster, more efficient…and in some cases become instructors themselves.

Rock Hall Ride (thanks Colleen!)

Rock Hall Ride (thanks Colleen!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That happened to me.

I started riding to become a stronger runner, but I found that I loved the dark room, loud music, and sanctity of the spin studio just as much as I loved the fresh air, sunshine, and the sound of my feet running.  It is, at our studio, therapy on a bike.  Some may scoff at the notion, others attend and find it isn’t their thing.  And that’s cool.  You do you, you find your thing and go all in, and spread that light wherever you can.  But if you find yourself in Cleveland and you’re up for a ride, let me know 🙂