Shift Change: 11 Ways to Stay Productive, Happy, and Rested When Both Parents Work From Home
In our digital age, it is not uncommon to have a double-income family with both partners working at home. But how do you manage when kids become part of the equation?
This past weekend I’ve slept more than I have in over 3 months. Why? Because I was so sick with a run-of-the-mill cold that I had to sleep in the guest room; leaving my husband in sole charge of our 3-month-old son. We’ve established a pretty good routine for managing our working life now that I’ve gotten back to working, but being sick threw a bit of a wrench into our nice, managed schedule. So, being the perfectionist that I am, I turned to the internet gods for advice on how to make our schedule even more efficient. They seriously let me down.
I’ve been a long-time advocate of the productive 3- to 4-day workweek, which I thought would make my life easier with the baby, and it has… to some extent. But as all parents know (and as non-parents think they know, but really don’t), your life is no longer your own when you have kids. You no longer get to be the 100% boss of your life–or rather, you are still the boss of your life, but your priorities shift, so the illusion you had of control is a lot less convincing than before. So, knowing I am not in control of my time like I used to be, I searched for that wise soul with 20 years (or even 5 years) of parenting and entrepreneurial wisdom who could guide me in my quest. I thought for sure that with all the working parents in the world, someone would have addressed this, but I found nothing. Nada.
Sure, there’s advice for managing family businesses, for how to boost your productivity while working from home, for ditching the guilt of being a working mom. There’s research on how we’re becoming more accepting of stay-at-home dads and working moms, stories about why being a work at home parent is the worst, and more; however, I have found nothing useful on how to manage when both parents work from home. So for those of you who are praying that the internet will offer up some helpful advice, here’s what my husband and I have figured out so far.
- Establish a quiet workspace–as far as possible from the kid-space.
- Set a work schedule and stick to it (as much as humanly possible).
- Schedule the non-work things that are important for your health, relationships, and sanity (going to the gym, mommy and me groups, dates with your spouse, getting a massage, etc.).
- Give yourself a break (ditch the guilt trip–you can’t possibly screw up your kids any more than the rest of us).
- Give each other a break (take turns: sleeping, working, cooking, etc.).
- Enlist outside help (housekeeper, babysitter/ nanny, bookkeeper, personal chef, etc.).
- Communicate honestly and openly as equal partners (don’t let exhaustion or resentment build).
- Be willing to reassess and change anything that doesn’t work for your family.
- Make sleep a priority (for everyone–not just the kids).
- Establish non-working times (such as the weekend) and keep those for quality time.
- Do household chores as efficiently as possible. (For example, laundry can be done in 15 minutes a day by throwing a load in the washer before starting work, transferring to the dryer at lunch, and throwing them in a basket to be folded in front of the TV at night.)
To give you a clearer picture, we basically alternate work days. He works Mondays, I work Tuesdays, etc.. (Although, we can usually manage to get work done on baby care days, since our son takes a nice long afternoon nap.) We also give each other a night off of overnight baby (and dog) duty on weekends, so we know we’ll each get at least one uninterrupted night’s sleep per week. We have gym time scheduled (my gym has free babysitting, but his doesn’t), and we try to make sure that whoever goes grocery shopping takes the baby so it doesn’t interrupt the others’ work time. We have a housekeeper come in weekly, and we do the quick laundry method mentioned above except the housekeeper puts away the laundry. My husband does most of the cooking, but I take care of the baby clothes, organization, and assembling the cloth diapers (which is more work than you’d expect!). At some point, we’ll probably need to get help in the form of childcare, but for now, this works. (I imagine when we do get childcare, it’ll be along the lines of a babysitter who comes in 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, and eventually some sort of half-day preschool, but we’ll see what happens as the months and years go by….)
There you have it. I’m sure we’ll figure out more ways to increase our efficiency and productivity as time goes on, but if you have more to add, please feel free to share your wisdom in the comments below.