What you have to know when pandemic forces you to work from home
When I started my law firm (of one) almost two years ago, I decided to work from home.
We had our third baby coming in a few months, and I wanted my daily commute to be downstairs instead of downtown.
My wife was very supportive of the move. She was really getting tired of listening to me complain about the streetcar getting “short-turned,” or stalled, or whatever, en route home at the end of a long day.
We intended to set up my basement office as an elegant man cave. But apart from a borrowed throw rug from my 8-year-old’s bedroom that he didn’t want anymore (“too babyish”), my bunker of delight turned out to be more of a dumping ground for all the unwanted toys and clothes than an office. And man, you should have seen it at Christmas, all the wrapping paper everywhere …
But wait, you didn’t start reading this piece to hear about my office. You started reading this to know the most important thing to be able to cope and survive this world-altering pandemic.
Well, by far, the most important thing you need to know about working from home during the pandemic is …
Oh, hold on. My 8-year-old son just came in YELLING!
“Daddy! Daddy! I need help!! Help me!!!”
Me: “Oh my God, what’s happening? Are you OK? Where’s mom?”
My son: “There’s a GUACAMOLE spill on the floor!! I spilled guacamoleeeee!!! Help!!!!”
Sorry, I’ll be right back.
Hi. Phew! That was a messy one.
Okay, where was I?
Oh yes. The most important thing you need to know about working from …
My wife yelling from upstairs: “Lunch is ready!”
Me: “Okay, thanks, I’ll be up in one minute.”
My 4-year-old son sneaks in as I’m writing this to you right now, climbs up and sits on my lap.
My son: “Whatcha doing, Dad?”
Me: “Trying to help people.”
My son: “Doing what?”
Me: “Giving them some advice on how to survive working from home.” My son: “Tell them not to die.”
Me: “OK, thanks.”
My son: “No problem. And lunch is ready.”
I’m so grateful for being close to my wife and three kids. I really am.
But it can get a little overwhelming sometimes. I just need some space, you know? Like 10 hours of alone time everyday!
My basement storage locker of our rental house that is pretty much mine has all the great distractions of laundry, the second fridge and a set of noise-cancelling headphones my wife gave me for my 49th birthday because I was complaining about all the wonderful sounds of childhood stomping on the living room floor; a.k.a., my head.
Oh, I forgot to mention. We home school our kids. Well, not so much “schooling” them, more like they’re just staying at home with us. They’re learning by absorption. And it seems to be working. My eldest is learning how to read by playing Pokemon Shield. My middle child is interested in science questions through an online educational site concerning the largest number, what space is and really, anything about death. He’s obsessed with death, as you may have noted above.
Which leads me back to the most important thing about working from home … Ha! You thought I was going to get interrupted by my kids or my wife, didn’t you? Fooled you!
As I’m writing this, I’m listening to the latest announcement from the government on the rising numbers of dying from COVID-19. And I’m feeling rather frazzled from the morning shop to Loblaws, seeing the empty shelves of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and baby Tylenol — I can never seem to get there right after a shipment comes in. How is it that people know when the shipment arrives? Are they just camping out in the parking lot, waiting for the trucks? I’ve been to 12 stores to find a few rolls of tp, and it’s starting to get me down.
Yes, the most important thing you need to know about working from home is learning (fast) how to cope with constant distraction. From your loved ones, for sure, but also your mind.
It’s easy to fall into a depression, even if you have never been depressed in your life. It’s easy to start emotionally eating. Or just eating. All. The. Time. Or becoming obsessed with doing the dishes, the laundry, holding your baby, avoiding client calls …
Make a to-do list every day. And check at least three things off it. That will make you feel better. It always does.
My 4-year-old son: “Dad, I need help.”
Me: “What. I’m almost finished …”
My 4-year-old son: “Mommy is putting the baby to sleep and I can’t find Frozen 2 on Disney+.” OK folks, this will only take a few minutes. I’ll be right back.