Working From Home: 10 Ways I Balance My Work and Caregiving DutiesSerge Bielanko
For the past nine months I have been juggling a whole new set of bowling pins in my life.
Being able to work from home wasn’t something I had ever really dreamed about much before I had kids. In fact,the idea wasn’t all that appealing to me at all.
I liked the notion of getting up in the morning and heading out to my job; I actually had always had jobs that I enjoyed doing (or that were at least tolerable to me) and so the whole ‘rise and shine’ scenario of work-a-day living made perfect sense to me, even from a young age.
Even when I toured with a traveling rock band for over a decade, I was always the first one up in the morning, locked away in the solitude of some motel bathroom while the bass player or the singer snored his face off out in his bed, looking at my Trucker’s Atlas/planning the drive that I would be taking that day in order to get us all to the next city and gig on time.
Work was work.
And I saw it as something that one did outside the home.
Then, my wife and I had a baby girl and things began to change. We both agreed that we didn’t want our daughter placed in a daycare facility as an infant. It wasn’t that we were scared of doing that really, because we weren’t at all, but rather, she had a good job with benefits and I had the lesser paying one. So, we crunched some numbers and realized that we could make something else work for us if I went ahead and took less hours with the property management company I was working for and devoted more of my day to being a stay-at-home dad.
And so that’s what I did.
Being there with Violet was an awesome experience for me, too. It was something that took some getting used to, but I learned as I went and I had the time of my life.
Fast forward to today and things have changed even more for my family and me. We had another child, moved across the country, and my wife and I took the biggest career leap of our lives by each attempting to write for a living.
This means we are home. In the house. A whole helluva lot.
And while it seemed like a darn dream scenario on paper (and we DO have the added benefit of being around our kids a lot more than many working folks are able to be), the truth is: it has presented us with a whole slew of tricky trials and complications.
We have had to really adjust to the fact that we are both here, on location, with at least one kid present all of the time, and lots of writing/work needing to get done in order to pay the bills. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not boo-hoo-ing at all.
But it’s been harder in some ways than I originally imagined it could be.
So anyway, here is my take on how I attempt to balance the art of changing diapers with the art of writing.
Early In The Morning 1 of 10Having two young children demands that you have a morning plan of some sort. My two are usually up by 6, so there isn't much time to waste. Luckily, for my wife and I, I actually LIKE early mornings whereas she really doesn't. So, I lead the parade down to the kitchen for breakfast while my wife starts on her writing at her desk in the bedroom. I like our mornings together, the kids are always in a good mood and we have some good laughs
Some Morning Downtime 2 of 10After breakfast, I usually let the kids watch a little TV while I sort through some emails and listen to CNN in the background. Everybody gets a bit of a break for about twenty minutes, until it's 'bath time' and time to get ready for school! It's pretty amazing what I am able to get done in a small window of just a short period...although my wife swears that I spend every second of that time on Facebook.
Pre-K And A Nap 3 of 10Our daughter goes to preschool for about 5 hours each week day. This benefits everyone, really. Henry takes his morning nap and Monica and I then have a few hours to write uninterrupted. The thing is though, Henry's morning naps are starting fade, as he is able to keep himself awake right through the morning without missing a beat! So, we might have to experiment with getting him into a small program a few days a week, so that one of us doesn't lose one of our biggest chunks of writing time.
My ‘Office’ 4 of 10If you work from home, it sure helps to have some place where you can go to get stuff done that isn't in the line of family activity. Monica has a nice set-up (a single desk) in the bedroom where she works, and me, I retreat out into my garage. Out there, the WiFi from the house still reaches and so I have a little set-up of my own consisting of a lawn chair and a big block of wood that I use as a desk. It isn't really very fancy, but it works just fine for me. We take turns either placing the baby monitor from Henry's room in with Monica or pointing it out the window so I can hear him if he wakes up.
Taking A Break 5 of 10One thing that I really love a lot about working from home is that we can and do take advantage of certain days to get done our writing as fast as possible. This allows us to get the kids out for a hike or maybe a trip to feed the ducks in the park at least a few times a week. It's really nice to get away from the house when you spend so much time there, and it isn't ever lost on us that we're pretty lucky to be able to do stuff with the kids when a lot of other parents just can't.
The Playroom 6 of 10When we first moved into our house, Monica created a cool office for herself in a big downstairs room. But, that didn't last long. One day she just looked at me and announced that her office would now be a playroom for the kids, so we would just have to find some other venue to write/work in. Well, it proved to be an invaluable move, because, although we never just lock them in there (believe me, I would if I could find a way), it is a central location that they can hang out in during the afternoons. And that comes in very handy when one or both of us is still working on something, which is often the case. Still, more often than not, Violet and Henry leave the room after a short stint and come out looking for adventure. So, lots of our working ends up being done, or at least finished, with two kids trying to march plastic animals and dinosaurs all over one of our laptops.
Quiet Time 7 of 10Lots of parents advise that trying to create a schedule and then sticking to it can be really beneficial for both children and their folks. And they are absolutely right, in my opinion. Since we moved to this new place a year ago, we have always taken the kids upstairs for an hour or two of 'Quiet Time' each afternoon. They are really used to it now, which is great for us, because we get to count on a little more time to work. Still, there are days when Violet simply doesn't want to have a nap or read books in her pile of pillows and just saunters back downstairs. So, there is always the chance for a spanner in the works, so to speak.
Evenings 8 of 10By 5ish most days, both kids are back downstairs, 'Quiet Time' is history, and Mom and Dad have both gotten their work done. Then it's time for dinner and maybe some porch or yard time. It's actually quite similar to when we both used to work away from the house in a way. You start coming down off your work cloud and are able to let go of the work day with the slamming shut of the laptop. Then, we can all unwind in our own ways. Of course, this leads to complications at times, because usually Monica or I have spent a little more time with the kids than the other person has that day...so there is an unspoken look often thrown about that says,"It's your turn to hang out with them while I finally get a shower or start cooking some dinner." Luckily, we both like to cook, so we can split that duty up pretty evenly too.
Minor Escapes 9 of 10Everybody has a thing or two that they like to do when they are able to steal an hour or two in the evening for themselves. When it's my turn for that, I usually head out to my garage/'office' and work on some kind of project I've been dreaming up. Here, you can see some letters I made out of foam board and spray paint for the kid's playroom. It hardly seems like much of an escape, I suppose, but just being able to be by yourself for a spell and work on something that isn't your 'job' is really worth it's weight in gold to me.
So Much Time Together 10 of 10If there is one real conundrum about two parents both working from home, it has to be the fact that you are around each other WAY TOO MUCH. You never actually realize how much space you get from the other person when you head off to an office or a job site or whatever until you don't have that anymore. Thus, although I don't get to go as much as I'd like to, just a few hours fishing on a Saturday morning can actually feel like a two week vacation sometimes. And that's something I don't ever think Id be able to ever live without.
You can also find Serge on his personal blog, Thunder Pie.
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