Ever since I returned to work after maternity leave I have dreamt of how great it would be to work from home. I pictured myself in a perfectly styled home office, eating healthy lunches and then picking my daughter up from creche 5 minutes after finishing work with plenty of time to play in the park.
Now I’ve been working from home for 4 weeks, involuntarily because of the coronavirus social distancing restrictions, and it is nothing like I imagined. I know I am very lucky because I still have a job and I can work from home, so I don’t want to moan, but I just want to write this to remind myself in the future what this time was like.
The biggest difference is I have my 2 year old toddler at home with me to entertain. My husband is here too so we can take it in turns but it means my working day hours are really erratic. Unfortunately I still need to get as much work done, so I’m constantly juggling meeting requests, and often end up working later into the evening to make up time. The weekends end up looking pretty much the same as the week days as any spare time is spent on work or queuing to get food at the supermarket.
I miss my husband! We are in the same house all the time, but ironically we get less time to enjoy together as a family and talk.
It makes it really hard to switch off mentally. I don’t go home and forget about work for a few hours, like I normally would. I always hated the commute as it seemed like wasted time but at least I could read on the train and switch off for the day. I’m now constantly thinking about what I need to get done, which is draining. That coupled with financial uncertainty and concerns about the health of loved ones is very tiring.
The silver lining is all the quality time I am spending with my daughter. She is at that age where her language is exploding so every day I see her learn new words. The last few weeks we’ve had some great first moments together like….
- Playing hide and seek for the first time
- Dressing up in pretty dresses
- Her first roly poly
- Making rice crispie cakes together
- Singing and dancing to new songs
- Chasing bubbles in the garden
- Feeling so proud that she knows all the words to her favourite story herself
- Counting to ten for the first time
- Trying cosmic yoga classes together
- Hand and foot painting, followed by impromptu midday baths
- Listening to her conversations with Daddy
When I’m working I’m in my empty box room. We never got time to set it up as an office before this happened, so it certainly isn’t picture perfect. Every now and again my daughter bursts in to ask if I’m working and suggest I should have “a nice cup of tea” which is one of her favourite phrases. It never fails to cheer me up when I see her marching in, even if I’m in the middle of a conference call. One day I was struggling to keep from laughing on a serious call, when she came in wearing just a nappy and a pair of my high heel shoes to tell me she’d done a big poo. I know a lot of my colleagues are in the same situation, and I’d hope even the ones with no child distractions would be understanding.
Most days we get out for a walk, trike ride or pram walk and that is the highlight of my day. Sometimes we don’t get far because she wants to stop and study a hedge, but it forces me to slow down, and it’s great for living in the moment and not thinking about work or the wider economic implications of this time.
We are lucky that our daughter is young enough that she isn’t worried or anxious about these changes. She misses her friends in the creche, and doesn’t understand why she can’t play on slides in the park. We are probably letting her watch too much TV and eat too many snacks, but none of this should have a lasting impact on her.
No one knows how long this will last so I’m taking each week as it comes and coping by…
- Eating lots of biscuits
- Taking time each day to turn off the news
- Dreaming of future holidays we might take when this is over
- Appreciating the time spent with my family
Things will get back to normal, although hopefully with a greater appreciation for essential workers. For me it won’t have completely put me off the idea of working from home, and I might suggest to my employer a few days a week at home might be productive. However any dreams I had of working completely from home with my child by my side will be squashed. I now know that a few days in the office for me and in the creche for her are good for us all.