How my husband and I are (barely) balancing our careers, housework, homeschooling, and caring for 3 kids — while keeping our marriage intact
- Alexandra Frost is a journalist and content marketing writer who lives in Cincinnati with her husband and three kids.
- Since they began sheltering at home on March 14 due to COVID-19, Frost and her husband have learned how to balance their
careerswith housework, homeschooling, and caring for their children.
- Frost says it's important to create a schedule and stick to it, consider virtual couples counseling to improve communication, and remove pressure to be overly productive.
Back on March 14, my family and I began sheltering in place due COVID-19, and official orders soon followed from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. "This won't be so bad," we thought, envisioning sweet moments at home with our kids, who we often see only in passing during our busy workdays. We'll have a few virtual meetings, eat lunch together, and tackle lingering projects like cleaning out the basement and remodeling our back patio.
But by day three of quarantine life, the truth settled in.
We quickly realized just how much time everything in our lives took: parenting three children (ages 5, 3, and 1), my husband's career as a middle-school administrator, running my own small freelance business and also working as a high-school journalism teacher.
Turns out it all takes precisely 145 gazillion hours per 24 hour period.
We soon ordered an extra-large desk, a second computer monitor, an additional mouse and keyboard, sound-canceling headphones, and a sturdy desk chair.
We thought we were all set up. Physically, we were —but that's about it.
Tension mounted as we attempted to balance diaper changes, virtual classes with teenagers anxious about missing prom, and lightsaber fights between my older two boys. Zoom created that microphone mute button just for us, I'm sure. We realized we needed a schedule, and fast. But does a schedule help when all of our meetings are at the exact same times, and our kids need 24/7 supervision without any child care options?
The first week involved struggling to carve out time for our own careers, an odd dynamic for a couple who has always been deeply supportive of each other's jobs. But we were both in panic mode, navigating major changes at work as everything went completely virtual almost overnight.
What usually kept us sane was now non-existent: time to exercise, uninterrupted space to think and process work problems, coworkers to bounce ideas off, and even a quiet lunch break in which my only responsibility was feeding myself. While the togetherness did have its magical moments, many of them felt like a fight for emotional and career survival.
All this, in addition to the stress of, you know, a pandemic, has made the past several months a true test of patience, love, and flexibility for all members of our family.
As the weather warms up and our kids enjoy long days at home, as if summer break started early, we're in more of a groove. The kids ride bikes past our office window as we work, oblivious to the worldwide panic happening around them.
To them, COVID-19 sounds like a strange Star Wars character, and "getting sick" carries the weight of a small boo-boo from a bike-riding spill, complete with a "sweet" Band-Aid. Their crankiness comes and goes. They enjoy playing in pajamas until noon, but they also miss seeing their classmates and visiting the park.
During this time, we've found several parenting strategies through trial-by-fire.
Create a schedule and stick to it
At first, we thought the schedule was a kind of suggestion, and we'd see who needed what and when. That didn't go well. By day five, we had an asterisk system to designate which work meetings were passive or active, meaning the parent attending that virtual meeting could sort of keep an eye on the kids at the same time. This relieved much of the tension of meetings that were double-booked, as usually one or the other parent had a less than active role in that particular meeting.
Hands-on playing has taken the back seat until 4 p.m., when we start to wrap up the workday. Our kids have adapted to play more with each other, and creative problem-solve on their own. I like to think of this as improving their independence rather than half-attentive parenting; the truth is it's probably somewhere in the middle.
Meet with a virtual counselor
Even in a solid marriage, the circumstances of working at home for an unknown stretch of time means things will come up that you should "air out" with an objective third party.
We've received some serious gems of takeaway knowledge from our virtual counselor, everything from scheduling tips to gentler ways to communicate with each other. Our counselor pointed out the underlying emotional stress that the pandemic puts on all of us. If you are missing friends' nights or coworker hang-out sessions, you need someone to talk to who isn't in your immediate family.
Lower your productivity expectations
Whatever "extra stuff" you wanted to get done, slash that list in half and divide it by ten.
The basement I wanted to clean out still looks exactly the same, now with an extra pile of toys. The back patio is no longer even in the three-month plan, let alone accomplished. It's time for survival mode, not overly impressive accomplishments.
Social media posts have pushed us to relax and recognize we shouldn't feel pressured to get anything extra done in quarantine. We've also applied this thought process to more areas of life: parenting, career progress, the house, reading books, exercise, etc.
Creating small affirmations and doable goals has kept things moving: I will accomplish one medium-sized work project daily, I will do a full load of dishes, I will do a load of laundry and put it away. I will move my body daily, etc.
These tips are keeping us afloat. As tacky as it sounds on TV commercials, we really are all in this together, as a family, and as
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