It’s an understatement to say that the world is forever changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From school and office closures to the crackdown on large public gatherings—and so much more in between—life as we knew it seems like a distant memory. Several weeks into our “stay at home” orders, my family, as well as millions of others, are feeling a myriad of emotions.
On the “good” days, my husband, two sons, and I are simply thankful to be healthy and have plenty of toilet paper. On the “less-than-good” days, I spend time consoling my younger son, who is a high school senior, when he’s sad about missing his last few weeks of high school fun, or I wake up at the crack of dawn so that I make it to the store to buy a gallon of milk before it’s gone. We have more good days than not, luckily. As I write this post, though, I feel a bit overwhelmed with my new normal. Overnight, it seems, I suddenly had to learn how to be a good coworker and homeschool mom, on top of my usual work and home duties.
Changes to the Work Environment During COVID-19
Before the pandemic and the changes it brought to life as I personally knew it, I had been happily working from home for several years. Before becoming a freelancer, I had spent more than a decade of feeling trapped while working in cubicles and dealing with office politics and distractions. And truthfully, I did not (and still do not) miss any of that.
My husband, on the other hand, works for a large organization. Unlike me, he actually enjoys working in an office environment and (gasp!) gets along with his coworkers. About a month ago, he came home with a new laptop and headset to begin a new, temporary stage of his career…teleworking. His office is closed completely until who knows when, yet he can still do all of his work remotely. Ironically, he has adjusted to working from home better than either of us expected. However, he does look forward to eventually returning to his office, and, to be honest, I look forward to that as well.
The Truth about Coworking With Your Significant Other (+ Family!)
Initially, I was excited about having my family together for a few weeks. My husband and I don’t usually have much time together due to our work schedules. Our first few days together were nice, and I enjoyed his company. As anyone who works from home regularly knows, it can get lonely at times. After just a few days into our new coworking arrangement, though, I was ready to go back to my previous “normal.” I realized that although I still love the man (we have been married over 20 years), it doesn’t mean he won’t annoy me at times. I’m sure he feels the same about me, too.
I discovered three issues (that I was unprepared for) with working at home while my family is there:
Issue #1: The kitchen table has been my “office” since I started working from home. Reluctantly, I allowed my husband to set up his laptop on the other side of the table. It has not been ideal, but it could be worse. One downside to working at the table together means he’s also eating there while he’s working. And eating means chewing. And, as it turns out, the sound of his chewing annoys the heck out of me. The more I try to ignore it, the more I notice it.
The Solution: Rather than grit my teeth and get frustrated, I choose instead to leave the table when he is eating and I am not. Taking a few minutes for exercising or showering is a much better way to start my day.
Issue #2: Homeschooling doesn’t mean I can let my son watch YouTube videos or play games on his Nintendo Switch all day. He still needs to spend time learning and completing school assignments each day. My son also needs a little supervision with fixing his meals and help with some of his schoolwork. All of this can become distracting when I am trying to work. However, I have work deadlines to meet, and my husband must be near his computer during business hours so that he can answer phone calls.
The Solution: Before diving into an assignment or conference call, I make sure my son has eaten and is working on a project he can handle independently. Or, I let him do his own thing for an hour or so. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose child is enjoying more screen time than usual.
Issue #3: Showering whenever I feel like it during the day is no longer an option. When I was by myself most of the day, I could easily get lost in my work for hours on end. I wanted to be at a good stopping place before doing anything else, such as showering or eating. I would usually put myself together before the family got home, though. My husband, however, has chosen to stick to his usual work schedule and showers first thing in the morning. In the first few days, he didn’t say anything about the fact I was still in my PJs at lunchtime. Then he started dropping hints about how good it feels to take a shower first thing, etc.
The Solution: Okay, my husband was right about that one. Sticking with good habits, including showering, eating, and wearing regular clothes, has helped me feel much more productive overall. Plus, I’m serving as a better role model for my sons.
Over to You
There is little doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives. I am shocked and saddened each day by the numbers of people who are either sick, have died, or lost loved ones to this horrific virus. How are you coping with the changes to work, school, or life in general?