Working From Home During Covid-19, Melissa Stuckey, Esq.
Phase One of global pandemic: Panic. Phase two: Working from home excitement (WFH). Phase three: Reality sets in. My mind in a flurry, inner dialog begins mulling over the question, “Am I set up for working from home long term, or even for one day?” Normally the kitchen table will suffice as an impromptu workspace but with two elementary age children the kitchen table, the heart of the house, is quickly removed from the short list of spaces in my home that will allow me to focus on any given task besides food and craft projects. You have much more agency over the conditions when the time period is short and thus it is easier to be productive.
Extended time, like more than 30 minutes, in a WFH situation gets trickier as you must create a more stable environment. I am forced to take into account the cherished bundles of joy that rule my home like tiny Ivan the Terribles (my children), pets (neurotic dog and fat cat), and my spouse. Given these loud factors, the answer to the original question of “am I set up for working from home” has been an emphatic, “No.” It quickly became apparent that my home was not set up to WFH and that came as a surprise (even though it should not have). Inner dialog is now weighing two options: hide from my loving beautiful family (best option), or how to ply aforementioned loving beautiful family with enough snacks to get this one task accomplished without interruption.
Work attempts in the AM are vastly more productive for my spouse as I have been assigned the task of teacher, cook, maid, and mommy in the mornings. My husband and I converted our dining room table to the official “work” area so I watch him tune us out while he productively types away at this laptop. ,I on the other hand, am confronted with the harsh reality that my children are not joys to have in my classroom. After a few hours of being told that I don’t know what I am talking about when it comes to the subjects of mathematics, persuasive writing, and basic grammar, I say it’s time for second feeding (lunch). Lunch time is filled with the sounds of their whining, strongly proclaiming that they will not eat that here nor there, they will not eat that anywhere. After enough semi-healthy food gets consumed, it’s time for P.E says the Wake County Virtual Education Calendar, so we head outside. This hour is usually the most pleasant because it is the least resisted by my children. After an hour of being schooled by my 10-year-old at basketball and being shown every bug in our garden by my kindergartner, it’s now my time to be able to work. My husband hands off the work baton to me and he is now in charge of the two-person horde.
Begin the PM session. I sit down at my desk and begin to read the emails streaming in either from clients or about my clients. Some are encouraging, some are infuriating, but either way I get to use my brain for more intellectually elevated tasks than the AM session held. Thank the heavens I do not have ADD or ADHD because my very competent husband is not as talented at keeping the kids away from me as I would like and that I am still visible to my children. The constant stream of questions and requests keep flowing from their mouths, but now I can redirect most time with the glorious phrase, “Go ask your father.”
This set-up works until I have to actually call a client. As most people are working from home now, everyone understands that hearing the Dora the Explorer or a child having a tantrum in the background is not grounds for complaint in today’s working environment. That is not the case when you have to call a client to talk about how their child been taken by their other parent or how they have to flee the house from fear of being punched in the face (or punching their spouse in the face due to 24/7 pandemic confinement). This is the life I signed up for when choosing to go into family law and am truly appreciative that I get to help our clients during the most difficult periods of their lives. However, as a mom working from home, I cannot let the sounds of my home life take away or distract from these quasi-therapy sessions with my clients. Now begins operation Hide from my Family.
Hiding from my family inevitably ends up with me either walking around in circles trying to evade discovery, hiding in my closet with my laptop perched on my lap, or sitting in my car with the doors locked with the phone glued to my ear. The sound of distant voices calling out for mommy or the sound of tiny nails as they scratch at my car window pulls at my heartstrings but not enough to show myself or roll down the car window. Close of business usually ends Operation Hide Mommy but as all family law attorneys are aware, client needs don’t stop at Happy Hour.
Phase four: Enlightenment. Working from home isn’t all great nor is it all bad, it’s just another reality that has its struggles and its joys. Now time for Netflix.