Working From Home During A Pandemic: #MakeItWork

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working from home

Probably once or twice a week I hear from friends, my parents and colleagues “I
don’t know how you are doing it [working from home at a busy PR job and leading a county-wide board from home] with Harper running around.”

I’m not special or alone by any means. I have at least 20 friends and colleagues in the
same boat. When the stay at home orders rolled out in early March of this year, I
know some people were stoked to finally get the green light to work from home.
Most of those people may not have children of any age, may also have a dedicated
office with a door to go sequester behind and may also have a partner at home
during the workday as well to tag-team childcare with. Or extended family in the
same city or even state.

I have none of those except for Mondays when my husband, who works outside our
home, is off work. Tuesday through Friday, I’m on my own with an almost 3-year-
old and sometimes my almost 12-year-old stepson.

Don’t get it twisted, I adore extra time with them when working from home (when they allow me to get my work done, aren’t fighting, screaming, or destroying the house) and I also want to do our part to slow the spread of the virus and protect our health.

We already had two big health scares among the four of us this year and I don’t welcome any more thank you very much.

So I am working from home because I have to and I’m fortunate to be able to. Fortunate to work for a company that is taking this pandemic seriously and protecting its employees.
Fortunate to have a job that I can do from anywhere most days. Fortunate to have a
home, enough to feed my children, live in a safe neighborhood, and live among
amazing people who daily help each other out.

Fortunate to have an Internet connection. Fortunate to be able to multi-task, block out the ambient noise of two children and a puppy, fortunate to be the type of person who has a strong work ethic that was instilled in me by parents and grandparents. Fortunate to have a job when millions in this country are out of work.

I also have a duty to do so. A duty to all working mothers, doing the same or harder.

Those mothers on the frontlines who I’m sure would love to be able to spend more
time in the safety and comfort of their own homes and with their children, especially
healthcare professionals. We all need to bow down to you and do our part.  And working from home with kids is what I’m doing.

A duty to other professional women of color in this county who have jobs that statistically
speaking we didn’t have 20 years ago and still are working hard to keep and occupy. A duty my husband who is on the frontlines in a physically demanding job. A duty to my children who need me. A duty to my neighbors and community to stay healthy and slow the spread. And a duty to my colleagues and my company to perform to the
best of my abilities.

Working From Home

I have tips for doing this, but every family is different. However, if you need some
inspiration as you are looking at your inbox while having one, two or more kids
trying to get your attention here are my top five tips:

Routine is so damn key.

Make one, modify as needed, and repeat daily. It’s for your sanity and to keep those
mini-humans in line and all of you moving towards the goal of making it through
another day and to the weekend.

Hoard activities and toys.

I get things, namely for my toddler, to keep them in a closet and bust them out when
needed. Example if I have a board meeting to lead or a press release to get out, I get
her to clean up her other toys or activities (sometimes if time permits) or use the big
girl potty (yes we are also trying to get the kid out of diapers) and then surprise
from the closet here we come. It will buy me some time, not a lot, but any time with
no noise, tugs on the clothes, or crying is prime time.

Naptime if your best friend.

We all know this in normal circumstances, but in this what I believe will be our new
working from home normal for some time, nap time is E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. By any
means legally necessary, try to get the younger ones to stick to a nap schedule. It
buys you more of the prime time I mentioned above, or self-care time (e.g. insert
favorite online workout here), or if you need it, a power nap for yourself. It’s a win-win-win situation.

Outside time is your second best friend.

When my stepson is home, this is even better as he can supervise my toddler and
she adores going outside with him to play. We have a small yard, and I know not
everyone has that. Scoop out some space anywhere you feel comfortable letting
your kids play. If you need to hotspot your cell phone and go with them, do that. If
you can let them be on their own, cheers sister! This is also a good way to get the
older kids off the devices. I have stock now in those self-sealing water balloons,
which are great for a multi-age cool down outside.

Make yourself turn off.

I have this super farmhouse chic box for storing things my mother-in-law bought my
years ago. I now use it to store my tech, notebook, important media publications to
read or anything that visually reminds me of work. I then put it to the side in our
dining room and don’t open it until I need to work again. I don’t have a dedicated
office so this helps to compartmentalize work time and non-work time at home. Also,
the garage door opening when my husband arrives home is a good audio cue to start
wrapping things up. Time warps happen. Related to this, start working when your
youngest child wakes up. See the routine note above.

Just keeping #makingitwork.

If you’re working from home, you are likely to do far better than you think you are and I’m convinced my kids’ language skills are improving from hearing me on video calls so that’s the icing on the cake. Plus, we are healthy and all together which is the ultimate
goal always. Be well!

working from home

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A Colorado native living in Southern California for more than 20 years, Charla is a trained print journalist (Bachelor of Arts, Literary Journalism from UCI) with an MBA in Marketing. Her passion for communications, creativity and community guides her professional and personal life activities. Currently, she is Communications Specialist for Cox Communications. She is responsible for external communications and public relations in Orange County, Palos Verdes and Santa Barbara. As a volunteer, Charla is first Black President of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Orange County chapter where she has served on the board of directors for five years and Director of Communications for the UCI Black Alumni Chapter, which is also a board of directors position. In her downtime she likes to dance, practice pilates, walk and listen to music outside, do home improvement projects, read mainly nonfiction books, and hang out with her family and friends. She considers herself a pro power napper as well. Charla resides in Irvine with her husband Robert, stepson Robbie, and daughter Harper.