My husband rarely works from home, and for good reason—because he manages both people and equipment, he’s usually needed at the office. But when I had a doctor’s appointment last week and no one else available to babysit, I decided to ask my husband to work from home rather than drag my 3.5-year-old and twin infants out with me. The plan was to have him do his job out of our home office all day, but take a 90-minute break when I’d be out of the house. Though it ultimately worked just fine, it was an eye-opening experience for both of us.
My poor, unsuspecting husband learned—basically on the fly—that he’d need to follow certain ground rules to coexist peacefully with me and the kids and still get any work done. Namely:
1. Don’t mess with the routine. My morning routine goes as follows: Wake up to sound of screaming baby, yank screaming baby out of crib before she gets a chance to wake the other baby, nurse said screamer, nurse other baby, hope toddler doesn’t wake up in the middle of either nursing session, go say good morning to toddler, beg toddler to sit quietly in room reading books so I can take a three minute shower and slap on clothes, dress toddler, and head downstairs for breakfast. With me so far?
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Because my husband leaves for work at the crack of dawn (actually, I think he leaves before then—he’s usually out the door before 5 a.m.), he’s not around to observe this routine. Weekends are different. On weekends, he can get the toddler while I juggle nursing the twins.
That day, he heard our toddler calling out while I was in the middle of nursing. He thought he’d help by letting the toddler out of his room to play downstairs while I nursed my girls upstairs, so he could go back to his early morning conference call. Not a good idea. There’s a reason I wait till I’m done nursing to interact with my toddler—the second I do, he wants attention. So that morning, I had no choice but to engage in a screaming back-and-forth conversation (“No, you cannot climb on furniture…”) while my husband left the house to continue his call on the porch without further interruption.
2. Just because I’m yelling doesn’t mean I need your help. I have a rambunctious toddler. Sometimes he doesn’t listen, and sometimes I need to raise my voice to make him listen. It happens. But me yelling is not a distress signal. I don’t need assistance; I just need to make my point. If the situation really gets out of control, I’ll ask for help.
3. It can easily take 30 minutes to complete a 90-second task. This is something my husband marveled at on numerous occasions during the day, but when I have to stop what I’m doing every 17 seconds to pick up a crying baby or help my son in the bathroom, a simple three-line email could very well take me almost 30 minutes to write.
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4. It can get very loud without warning. This happens on nights and weekends as well, only it doesn’t tend to last as long because I’m not quite as outnumbered. But when I’m busy nursing a baby and therefore stuck on the couch, and the other starts screaming while her older brother decides to start playing with his toy garbage truck—the one that makes that oh-so-realistic beeping sound the real ones do—and crashing it into the wall, there’s not much I can do to mitigate the noise. Which leads me to my next point…
5. Getting work done is virtually impossible when your primary task is taking care of your children. I warned my husband that he’d be solely on baby duty for a good 90 minutes in the middle of the day, but the poor guy actually expected to get job-related work done during that time. Clearly he’s got a good sense of humor.
As much as my husband learned a thing or two by working from home for a day, I had a few takeaways as well:
1. I do get a lot done, even though I sometimes don’t feel that way. Taking care of young children equals getting things done. Maybe I don’t do as much freelance writing, or cooking, or laundry as I’d like in a given week, but then I realized: Wiping tushies is getting things done. Nourishing children, be it via nursing or begging my toddler to finish his yogurt, is getting things done. Entertaining a 3.5-year-old all day is getting things done (while keeping his sisters quiet and calm in the process is all-out magic).
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2. Having help is extremely important. Extremely. And I shouldn’t be shy about asking for it more often. That day, I was determined to be respectful of the fact that my husband had a job to do, so I pledged to just pretend he wasn’t there. That means I didn’t ask him to spend a few minutes soothing our daughter when she woke up from her nap cranky, even though I was helping our toddler finish the puzzle I promised we’d tackle together.
Sometimes even a few minutes of assistance here and there can be invaluable. Even though my husband was working, I should’ve asked for help when I needed it. I’ll be sure to do that next time—if there is indeed a next time. After last week, I’m not sure how soon my husband will be up for another work-from-home day, and frankly, I wouldn’t blame him one bit.