Surviving Working from Home with Kids

May 1, 2020

By: Renee Russo, Mompreneur, Leadership Trainer, Business Coach and Public Speaker


Unfiltered: Family + Work + Home = A Hot Mess

If I thought building my business was hard, nothing compares to trying to keep it alive while home full-time home with my 3 young children and dog! Life as it was had its challenges: client commitments, work travel, homework, sports, activities, play dates etc. In hindsight it was a pretty sweet. Now amid this global pandemic, my 3 worlds: family, profession and self, have collided into one, in the most intense and isolating way. Frankly, most days are a hot mess and I feel like I’m in a bad movie on continuous replay.

The first scene begins with my alarm sounding a 5.30am start, and I spend 10 minutes trying to figure out what day it is and whether this is a bad dream. Then the back-up alarm sounds and I admit that it is a work-school day, and I must get up now if I have any hope of getting ahead of it all. By 8am the kids are all up and fed, the dog is walked and we are in position to start our schooling and morning business meetings. Despite all the planning and expectation setting, someone is always in a bad mood, another can’t seem to figure out their Zoom meeting invite, someone does not understand their assigned task, another has a burning question, a teacher is calling to ask why one of them is not in the class meeting etc. Meanwhile I am fielding client calls and catching up with yesterday’s influx of emails. Somehow we fumble our way through to lunch.

During the intermission the kids and I discuss our experiences from the morning and promise to do better tomorrow. During the afternoon scene the kids have their technology and “free time” time while I run my afternoon coaching sessions. Things usually start off ok, then at some point the drama begins in the living room, right outside my door. There is fighting, cursing and a lot of stomping, my heart races, my stomach turns, I do everything I can to stay calm and not run out of the room screaming. I acknowledge the chaos, laugh it off and reassure the client that everything is ok. From that point on I mute myself as much as possible and hope to God that no-one is injured before my next break. The afternoon gong-show continues and some-how we make it through to dinner.

In the closing scene the house is all quiet, I clean up, prepare meals for the next day, unpack my emotions, do a few minutes of yoga to shake it all off and head to bed with a cup of tea. Note, most nights I fall asleep with the lights on and the tea goes cold. The next day is the same thing all over again! I am sure on some level it is getting incrementally better, but it definitely feels like this crazy movie is on continuous replay.

Amongst all of the chaos, it is evident that we are learning and growing in beautiful and unexpected ways. The children are gaining independence, taking responsibility for their work, solving conflicts and learning how to overcome boredom. As for me, well, I am learning many valuable life lessons and discovering some new techniques to better manage it all.  Here’s what I’m working on:

Preparation – I hope for the best, prepare for the worst!

  • Prepare meals, documents, school work and resources are set up for the following day.
  • Have a game plan for the day, with goals for the best-case scenario and options for the worst-case.

Manage expectations – What “must” I get done today?

  • List all the tasks, to-dos and priorities, and categorize based on priority level (high vs low).
  • Identify the top 3 that must get done and be willing to roll the rest forward if needed.

Stay accountable – I do what I say!

  • Ensure my meetings and calls are confirmed and booked in my calendar with reminders on.
  • List all promises made to clients during calls and check off by end of day, these can’t wait.

Embrace imperfection – Don’t be so hard on myself

  • Work is now taking place at home, kids, dogs and crazy kid art work on the walls are all part of it.
  • Fancy clothes and heels are not happening, frankly showers are optional, put on some mascara and a clean t-shirt, you are good to roll.

Let it go – Embrace failures and let it go.

  • In all the chaos and multitasking mistakes and errors will happen.
  • Learn, forgive and move on. My best effort for the day is enough.

The reality is that I am not alone in my struggles, these challenges are widespread and no one is immune to the affects of this global pandemic and new world of isolation. While I appreciate all of the online advice and tips out there, the truth is that we all have a different matrix of complex variables that we are dealing with.  In all of the chaos, I’ve found that my deepest learning has come through facing my new reality with honesty, surrendering to the journey with humility and embracing the hot mess with pride!