Working at Home with Young Kids - Advice You Can Actually Use!

The Future Farmer dressed herself the other day. I have to wonder if she's been reading some of those well-intentioned pieces floating around the news sites lately that give advice on How to Work at Home, to wit "get dressed like you're going into the office, as dressing like you're going to work will help you get into the mind space to work." Now if only someone (me) had told her that we were going to be shoveling dirt at our office (greenhouse) and her outfit was less than appropriate, considering she's wearing tights and the first thing she does in the greenhouse is to go barefoot.

During this time when so many people are trying to juggle working from home while caring for their young children, I thought I'd share some of our best tips here at Rural Roots, gained through years of hard won experience farming crops --any trying to farm out the FF whenever we can.*

*No one should take tips from me on anything except maybe growing a garden, wine alliterations and how to hide zucchini in everything in August.

1. Designate a space that will be your office where you will work. This should be a private space with a door that closes, if possible. It should also have: a deadbolt, soundproofing from floor to ceiling, no cell service for them to call you, and possibly an electrified door handle (just a minor jolt, to make sure it's really important if they need you).

2. Get dressed for your job. Of course, since your job now is also to be a circus ringmaster (they're your monkey, unfortunately), children's entertainer, waiter (so. many. snacks), rodeo clown, and possibly boxing match referee, your standard work outfit might need some.... tweaking. I recommend track or yoga pants, plus a 5 day old stained sweatshirt. One of those safari shirts with all the pockets might be handy for stuffing with snacks for throwing over your shoulder at the darling animals. Oh, and unless you're doing online face time meetings, washing your hair is optional.

3. Working at home is all about priorities. You can not have a clean house, happy kids, finished work, and family dinner on the table every day at 5;30 sharp. Choose one. Rotate it occasionally.

4. Jettison screen time guilt. Seriously, you need to lose that guilt faster than the Future Farmer lost the little set of tools I gave her to play in the dirt yesterday. Look, it's kind of a crazy time (if you hadn't noticed) and kids feel it too. Also, the weather still isn't awesome.

Let me tell you a story. I spent 2 of my precious child free mornings last week "researching" (read: Pinteresting) and writing down DOZENS of activities for FF. (FYI, this was at 6am, before she wakes up and ONLY if I don't make a sound or turn on any lights in my own house. I will forever love my husband for setting the coffee pot so I don't have to fill it, because I swear sometimes she even hears the cream go into the coffee. Luckily I have learned to stir my coffee without letting the spoon hit the sides of the mug). I even categorized them under 4 headings: Crafts, Activities, School, and STEM, for crying out loud. THEN I spent the next 3 days spending all of my time setting up activities, cajoling her to do said activities, or DOING THE #*$& activities WITH HER. Then yesterday I gave up and found the TVO kids website channel and downloaded 3 kids games on my iPad -- it took a pandemic, but I finally broke my own 'Don't touch my iPad' rule--...... and I got more done yesterday than the past week combined!!!

Sidenote: I have spent my fair share of time bemoaning the inadequacies of rural internet in general and Xplornet in particular, but guess who is now on my Christmas card list for uncapping their internet limit during this time?).

5. The Articles (yes, capital A "Articles") traditionally recommend outsourcing duties like cooking, childcare, etc. Obviously in this time of self-isolation, this isn't possible. But we have found it almost as helpful to hire a (fake) nanny, (fake) chef, (fake) assistant, etc. The reason is that you then have someone to blame: "The nanny didn't get the kids to pick up after themselves and also let them use your Sharpies to colour at the coffee table", "The cook burnt your grilled cheese, kiddo." "My assistant didn't send that email. Oh, and they were the one who broke your favourite mug, too!" This makes for a more harmonious household, with all of the social isolation -- and none of the payroll!

6. Calculate how long it will take you to do a project, time block for it.... then double it (for snacks). Then again (for breaking up fights). Then add an hour (to find the episode of Paw Patrol they NEED to watch). Then get up at some unseemly hour (to finish it in peace), spend an hour panic scrolling, spend 20 minutes searching for Managing Anxiety apps, attempt to meditate or ground yourself or whatever they suggest (I clearly haven't attempted this) while your mind races, lock yourself into the bathroom to cry while children pound on the door and stick their tiny fingers through the 1/2 crack beneath the door, take deep breaths, call your most solid friend, put on fresh coffee, turn on Word Party (it's educational!) for the kids, and do what you gotta do.

Seriously, friends. Grace. For you. For them. For the world. You'll get through this.

****PS. If you're wondering how I managed to write this Loooong missive: my house is a disaster, we didn't eat until 8pm last night, so the kid didn't go to bed until after 9pm and so she actually slept until 7:30am, I was up and finished my news consumption by 6:30am (no panic scrolling!), AND she's on the iPad beside me at her "desk" eating her second breakfast and well on her way to her third.

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