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 🙂

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on public speaking / presenting / teaching

A colleague of mine asked me this on Twitter the other day:

When you started speaking did you know straight away that it was something you loved doing?

My answer: No.

It’s a really good question, and I said I’d go more in depth.  We have to go way back in time.  In asking the question, I believe my colleague was thinking about speaking in the SQL Server community, but for me it started before I found the SQL Server community.

I don’t think there are many people that love public speaking from the get-go.  At the University of Michigan I had to take Communications 101 (a public speaking course) in order to graduate.  I dreaded it.  Most people did.  But I took in in the fall of my sophomore year and got an A.  (Yes, I went and checked my college transcript.)

But the first time I really spoke to a group of peers and professors to explain or teach something was my first year of graduate school.  We had a day to celebrate the accomplishments within the Kinesiology department, and I had been working on a grant that tested the effects of Botox on children with cerebral palsy.  My advisor, Dr. Brown, wanted me to present our initial findings.  I had 10 minutes.  I created 10 slides and had a one minute video to show.  I remember Dr. Brown telling me that she used talk about one slide for 10 minutes, she had no idea how I’d get through all 10.  I was terrified I’d finish in 5 minutes.

I have hazy memory of my talk – I remember what I wore, I remember thinking my voice was shaking, I remember feeling nervous, I remember nodding at Dr. Watkins to start the video…and that’s it.

I can’t remember any feedback, but I do remember thinking I didn’t want to do that again.

Flash forward a couple months to Dr. Brown’s idea that I could teach the motor control section of the Movement Science 110 course.  Teach to freshman and sophomores.  People who were PAYING a lot of money to go to school at Michigan.  Again, I was terrified, despite Dr. Brown’s logic: I’d get paid, I would experience teaching, and it gave me a chance to learn the material even better.  I didn’t even have to create the content – I could just use what she had already been using.  I don’t know if I even tried to argue, I probably knew I wouldn’t win (Dr. Brown was pretty persistent).  So in the fall of 1997, I started teaching.  On the first day I had student argue with me about theories.  THEORIES!  I was teaching science.  I wanted to quit, but I didn’t.  I taught that class for two years, and I probably learned more than my students did.

Fast-forward a couple years to my first job in technology, at a software company, providing technical support.  I was soon asked if I was interested in training customers as well, as there was only one other person who handled training at that time.  I said yes – voluntarily this time.  I learned the software, I learned how to teach other people how to use it, and I got better.

By the time I worked in the Database Services department at Hyland I sought out opportunities to teach.  Every year there was a user conference, and during my first year on the team I asked a senior member of management if I could help with his presentation.  Now, I don’t remember the impetus, but we started co-presenting, until the year that he looked at me and said: “You can do this without me, I’m about to retire.”  I taught that class at multiple conferences over the next few years.  I asked to add database classes to the conferences and I developed and delivered those.  I provided internal training and recorded material to be viewed by partners and users online.  By then, I loved it.

When I discovered the SQL Server community and found out there was a conference every year (the PASS Summit) my initial thought was, “I want to present at that!”  And so I worked my way up.  I presented to my user group in the winter of 2010, and then at the Cleveland SQLSaturday in February 2011.  My first Summit was that same year, with a lot of other SQLSaturday events in between.

I’ve now been “presenting” off and on for about 20 years.  And I put presenting in quotes because I don’t think of it that way; I think I’m always teaching.  I’ve gotten a lot of experience in those years, and as a result I’ve gotten comfortable in front of a crowd and have developed my own style.  And while I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, I still work to improve.  I tweak every session trying to figure out how to make an explanation even clearer.  I change demos all the time, trying to get them *just right* so they easily demonstrate a concept.  I continually read an audience and make adjustments on the fly when I can.  It doesn’t end, and I’m ok with that.  I do enjoy presenting/teaching now, but I didn’t when I started…because it was uncomfortable, because it was hard, because I didn’t know what I doing.  Because like everything else, it takes practice to become good, even if you have a knack for it from the start.

The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot
~Macklemore and Ryan Lewis