Of all the situations the VirtualPBX remote team faces in managing its Business Phone System, being a work at home mom may be the most stressful. But after interviewing two of our staff members about how they handle that reality, we learned that their challenge may also be among the most rewarding.
We asked our Marketing team member Jennifer Merrigan (and mother of Jade, who is one-and-a-half) and Services team member Kathy Melendez (and mother of Apollo, who is three) to reflect on how they balance work and parenting.
Their answers provided much valuable insight about the nature of remote work and the mental fortitude necessary to stay as productive as they are.
What’s the most challenging aspect of being a work at home mom?
Jennifer: By far, the most challenging thing is that my child is completely dependent on me.
I have to get creative about where I work and, importantly, how I work. I try to get smaller tasks done when she’s awake and playing. And when she’s napping, I try to focus on more in-depth tasks.
Kat: The most challenging thing is to work around the baby needing their mother.
The child will always want their mother, whether they’re with a babysitter or at home, and of course them being at home makes it even more apparent. What I’ve always tried to do was take my child to daycare.
Part of the difficulty now, in dealing with COVID-19, is to manage at home without the break that daycare provides. It’s important to find a space where you can stay isolated, like a coworking space, but now that daycare is inaccessible and coworking spaces are closed, I have to find different ways of working from home with a little boy who wants to see me every five seconds.
How do you find time to work and be productive throughout the day?
Jennifer’s daughter, Jade
Jennifer: I use hyper-focused bursts of work and energy to accomplish my tasks. Often, I only have 10 or 20 minutes to finish something small, so within those spaces, I do everything I can to complete as much work in as short amount of time as possible.
This requires that I consciously divert attention to my work or my child, instantly, as necessary. It also depends on scheduling to a certain degree. I know when playtime or naptime will regularly happen, so I plan as much as possible.
Every day presents something new, so I need to have a flexible schedule and a flexible mindset to handle everything that comes my way. There’s a lot of preparation that comes into it.
Kat: Being a work at home mom can require you to lean on others for support.
I have two older kids and an oldest niece that sometimes help take care of Apollo. If they’re not around, I do my best to juggle my primary methods of customer contact at VirtualPBX: phone and online chat.
When it’s possible, I try to use the phone when I know I have space to myself. Then when I need to pay more attention to my child, I’ll take time in online chat.
How do you deal with stress?
Jennifer: I try to make time for myself.
Every day before dinner, I unwind by doing a quick workout. This helps me stay fit, and it can help me mentally by releasing endorphins. It’s a nice change of pace from the scatter of the work day.
My husband, Jesse, will usually take Jade and give her a bath while I unwind. We can then put her to bed and take some time in the evening to really relax. I like to catch up on reading and watching shows online.
Kat: I like to take my child for walks. We’ll go around the block during my breaks at work.
Exercise after work is done can also help a lot. I also like to drink herbal teas; they help calm me down and release some of the stress.
What’s your best tip for mothers who are now working from home?
Kathy’s son, Apollo
Jennifer: My biggest tip for work at home moms is that you should have the mentality that you’re still going to the office to work.
Have a routine. Get dressed in what you would normally wear to the office. Go to your “office,” wherever that may be – a separate room, your kitchen, the living room.
My routine is to wake up at 6, get dressed for the day, have breakfast with Jade, and check my emails before starting today’s tasks.
Without my routine, I would procrastinate a lot. Your routine will depend on your job; try to work out something that fits your situation.
Kat: Be organized. Make sure you have a dedicated space for your gear. It’s not like the office where your computer and phone stay at your desk. Your home will get messy or disorganized. Try to prevent that as much as possible.
Also, take advantage of the time you have when you’re not working. Get enough sleep at night.
Any final takeaways for work at home moms?
Jennifer: Try to stay positive. Even in these tough times, I try to make the most of my situation.
We used to take Jade to a clubhouse where she could play, but it’s been closed, so we made our own little splash pad for her to play in.
I really appreciate that we can still have fun.
Kat: Enjoy your kids and everything they offer. In all the mess of coronavirus, the hectic nature of suddenly working from home, the huge changes in routine… it gets intense.
I try to be prepared to make work as easy as possible. And I look for the good moments with my kids both inside and outside of work hours.