Being A 'Working From Home' Dad

Another day, another dollar!
I look back with fondness, on my former office life. The office was my solace, the quiet place and the break I needed.

Then Coronavirus came along and ruined it for me. Two enjoyable parts of my life were suddenly merged. Now I'm stuck working from home, whilst simultaneously parenting our two boys.

What a long and arduous journey it has been. All things considered; I've done well, but bloody hell, it's been tough!

In the news recently, Goldman Sachs boss David Soloman branded working from home as an "aberration". I think I'm with Dave on this one! Give me a 'kid-free' day in the office any time! 

No generation of 'working parents' were ever tested like this. Pat yourselves on the back mums and dads, you've earned the stripes.

The 'Working From Home' Myth

Right, lets set the record straight!

All employees expect a certain degree of productivity, so when you work from home, you don't "get away" with anything. My employer is understanding (in the circumstances) but the work still has to get done. Having the kids in the mix, causes distractions, meaning we probably work harder (at times). 

My wife, bless her, has a 'proper job', so gets to mix in the real world with proper people. Many of the day-time parental duties fall on me, because I'm stuck at home, living like a hermit! She does her bit in the evenings, with reading, homework etc.

"Aren't you lucky to work from home!" someone said to me recently.
"Aren't you lucky I've not punched you yet?" was my thought.

My mood fluctuates and yes, I do value the time with the kids. I also feel guilty, because rarely is it 'quality time'. Sometimes I don't give them my full attention, because in work hours, work takes precedent.

I must admit, for a short while, I became resentful of people on furlough. How dare these skiving b*stards enjoy 80 percent salaries, on my taxes! This was irrational of me, so please forgive me for that. 

The tax system is designed to help the less fortunate in society. Losing your job, or the fear of it, is unquestionably stressful. Many people will not return to careers they have loved and invested so much into. This is sad, and they deserve our sympathy. 

Be grateful for a job, however difficult the parent and work-life balance is.

Winning The Mornings

Despite the stresses and challenges, I have survived it. I put it down to a solid routine and structure. Life (mostly) functions better with structure. 

I love a good motivational read and ex-Navy Seal David Goggins wrote a wonderful book called 'Can't Hurt Me'. There's a quote in it, which hits me every time
"Look, we all have work obligations, none of us want to lose sleep, and you'll need time with the family or they'll trip the f*ck out. I get it, and if that's your situation, you must win the morning."
In short, get the morning tasks done, and do them well. Win the morning and there's less stress throughout the day. A working from home parent, can't slack in the morning.

In the early days of lockdown, nobody won the morning and I was guilty too. Bad habits become habitual. You must win the mornings and find a productive routine. 

Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail

When you work around kids, you need structure. You cannot work and parent efficiently, without structure. Some prep-work in the evening, goes a long way to winning tomorrow's morning.

During the week, we are all over it. Mum and dad get all the kids clothes prepared the night before. The nursery and school bags are also ready to go. You can win nearly every morning, when you've prepped the night before. 

When morning comes, the headache is gone, because we've prepared. A bit of breakfast, a quick wash and we are rocking. The kid's clothes are pre-picked, so there's no messing around. My advice is, be structured and win the morning.

Working Around Your Children

This is where life gets tricky. Boundaries have to be drawn. My eldest boy gets it, he understands why I work from home. I have explained the concept of money and what it enables for the family.

The hardest part, is when both kids are home. They tend to argue sporadically, which impacts my ability to concentrate. Wednesday and Thursday are the days from hell, where I just "get through it".

When the kids are home, set out out some activities to fill their time. Kids are happy to crack-on if they are kept busy and engaged. Educational apps, drawing and painting will keep them busy.

A little bit of NetFlix or Disney+ is acceptable in moderation. Set your child a few tasks too; get them to build you something out of Lego, building blocks or anything they have.

When your kids behave well, make sure it is rewarded. If they help you to crack-on with work, make sure you value that. Recognise good behaviour and show appreciation. My eldest boy is five and loves to broker a 'good behaviour' deal.

"Daddy, if I am good and tidy-up, can I have a chocolate penguin?" he'll say.
"Done!" says dad.

We have a snack cupboard, full of chocolate, biscuits, crisps etc. How many treats they get, is proportionate to how well they behave. 

When the kids are monsters, be tough and don't buckle. No snacks, no gifts, no nothing. Stand firm and stick to your principles, however much they scream!

Final Thoughts

Working from home is going nowhere, so get used to it. Two or three days in the London office would be a nice compromise. The commute is dull, but it allows me time for podcasts, reading, NetFlix and overpriced lattes. The pleasures I took for granted, pre-covid!

I would expect two or three 'working from home' days, when the dust settles. I am at peace with this. I miss my colleagues, the office jokes and Friday lunches. We are social creatures and interaction is part of life's enjoyment.

Nearly there, things can only get better!



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