Day two of social distancing found two of my adult daughters sitting by the pool and my husband working from home. I was trying to keep busy as the world seemed to be changing around me by the minute. I sprayed the weeds in my beds, applied pre-emergent and attempted to clean out the gutters. When I walked out back with the pooper-scooper, one of my daughters said, “Mom, you have a lot of jobs.”
As I did my dog-owner version of an Easter egg hunt, I thought about her comment. And I thought about how things have changed in my marriage over the past 32+ years.
When my husband and I got married, we agreed that when kids came along, I would assume all inside chores and he would handle the outside chores. Those were the days when he went to work and came home every night so we were a bit naïve. As my husband began to travel more and more, I had to assume more and more of his chores. His travel is so extensive now, I do both inside and outside chores – or outsource them. Hubby says I’ve gotten really good at outsourcing our chores.
In relationships – especially marriage relationships – we have to be willing to be flexible and work to “make it work.” As my husband’s job has changed and my mom duties have changed, we have had to change our expectations of what our responsibilities need to be.
So, a lot of you have had a week or few days working from home and sharing your “office” with your spouse – and a kid or two or more. I’ve loved seeing the pics of the workspaces people have created. I’ve enjoyed reading how people are coping with their new work environment.
I’ve also heard the woes of some in my writing community who are used to doing their “work” at home in a quiet environment and are struggling with their spouse sharing their space.
I’ve heard the difficulty working parents are having as they try to do their work in a different environment AND now they are trying to homeschool their kids. (I homeschooled one kid for one year so I feel ya parents!)
For the past 20 years, my husband has worked from home when he isn’t traveling. He’s either gone 24/7 or here 24/7. Travel has stopped so he is now here 24/7 indefinitely and two of our adult daughters are home. One is working from home and the other is going to be doing her senior semester classes and activities online.
I’m not an expert on how to manage the work from home situations but I do have some experience and a few tips.
- Give grace – This is new to many of us and extending grace to everyone as we figure out this new work/school arrangement is the most important tip.
- Your spouse is not your baby-sitter – Just because your spouse is home, it doesn’t mean they aren’t working. It is tempting to think while the baby is sleeping or kids are watching a movie, you can leave your spouse on kid duty while you run an errand, go for a run, etc. Make sure it is absolutely okay with them. Don’t assume.
I learned early on in our work from home relationship that even though the baby was sleeping, it wasn’t fair to ask my husband to be in charge while I ran a quick errand or even went to pick up food for the two of us. He was nervous the whole time the baby would wake up and then he couldn’t go comfort or tend to her since he was on a conference call. It really wasn’t fair to him. Don’t assume.
- Offer your spouse a cup of Java – The idea here isn’t really to give them coffee, it’s about being cognizant they might need a refill on their coffee or glass of water. If you make your lunch, offer to make theirs too. I realize most of your spouses can get up and get their own coffee or lunch but it is a way to show them you care.
My husband tends to get on conference calls back-to-back-to-back for hours and hours so I sneak in and refill his coffee or take him an iced tea. If I make my lunch, I offer to make his too and take it in to him. Yes, he is capable of doing it himself but it is a way to connect and show love.
- Realize it might be noisy – Our adult kids who are home are used to walking around with airpods in their ears and my friend’s son is used to wearing headphones to play his games so doing their on-line classes or work from home the same way is no big deal to them. Most of the 30+ year olds are used to talking freely as they work and so they may not feel comfortable using a headset. My husband is on the speakerphone all the time. It is noisy in the house but he is more productive that way. I retreat to the porch or other room in the house if it bothers me. Again, extend grace.
One note – I did have to ban one of my hubby’s co-workers from being on speakerphone after the kids were home from school because of his foul language.
- Don’t fret about the dog barking – Or the kids fighting – I mean, playing – or the cat jumping up on your keyboard in the middle of that zoom call. We all should try to minimize the commotion but since homes aren’t offices or cubicles, there will be interruptions. Limit the disruptions but realize they will exist. Use those moments to find out a human element about that co-worker.
When my husband is in his home office, most everyone else is in an office and they know he is home and dogs bark. Now everyone is home and there are lots of dogs barking.
When my husband first started working from home, we had young girls – and a dog. The office space we carved out in the house was directly under our teenage daughter’s room. She loved to turn her music up loudly and practice her hip-hop dances. While my husband was on calls, people would ask what the thumping was. He’d tell me to tell her to stop. After I told her to turn it down, I would remind him he moved his office into our home. We didn’t move our home into his office. Grace all around.
- Stop for lunch – It’s tempting to just keep working but I would encourage you to take a lunch break. Even if it is to get up and walk into the kitchen for a quick snack. It’s good for your mental health to stop and pause.
- Put your pants on – Seriously, even though we can work in our PJ’s, it might feel more productive if you get dressed. A few days of working in our PJ’s might be great but if you are feeling lazy and sloppy, get dressed.
- Don’t forget to exercise – Get out and walk or go for a bike ride. The tendency is to hunker down but it’s good for your heart, soul and body to exercise.
- Give grace – This is so important and it warrants being said twice. Assume the best of the people sharing your workspace or home. Tensions are high in these uncertain times so we need to respond with grace and love.
If you have tips that help you, please comment. It will help us all.