My Five-Year-Old Coworker

Lessons learned from sharing an office with my family.

By Chris Woods

Working from home has so many benefits, and I have often touted that I’m more efficient in my home office than I ever was in a corporate setting. I love my home office: my routine of dropping the kids off at school, drinking coffee on my back porch while I answer emails, my wife working from home, as well, and the efficiencies I’ve become accustomed to.  But, like millions of other Americans now working from home (fortunate to still be employed), we now have a new challenge: monsters – I mean kids!

Being blessed with three smart, beautiful, fun-loving girls (ages five, three, and one), I consider myself the luckiest guy in the world.  They’re healthy, free-spirited, and have a passion for exploration. And, if you would have asked me last month if those are traits I would have wanted in a colleague, I would have said “absolutely.”  However, having lived the last 10 days with them at my side, I now realize what I’ve taken for granted.  No longer can I just sit in front of my computer and work through my to-do list, or take a spontaneous phone call from a client, or leave any sort of writing utensil on my desk for fear I’m going to turn the corner and witness a ‘Baby Woods Original’ adorning my walls.

Originally, my wife and I assumed we could just take turns managing the girls.  We even created a calendar so that we could make sure we didn’t schedule calls at the same time.  “This isn’t going to be so bad,” we thought (famous last words of ignorant parents).  Day One rocked both our worlds.  No one could have prepared us for the barrage of requests, questions, distractions, meltdowns, and constant demands for snacks – so many snacks!  That night, it was clear that we had lost the battle of Work/Life/Kids balance, and we were too exhausted to game-plan for the next day.

Day Two didn’t offer much relief.  Fortunately, reinforcements came in the form of advice from a good friend and colleague who also has two little girls.  He shared a picture of an activity schedule he and his wife created to keep their kiddos occupied and focused on revolving activities.  We decided to give it a try and made our own version.

To both our surprise, our kids LOVE the schedule.  They even reference it to see where they are in their daily routine and are compliant when their desires don’t match what’s on the agenda. Although the schedule hasn’t eliminated all conflict, it has certainly helped in managing expectations and has become an anchor in our household for adjusting to this new situation. 

As every passing day brings news of prolonged social distancing, school closures, and a delay to our normal lives, it’s important to recognize the unintended benefits to our situation.  I’ve spent more time with my children, observing their personalities and ever-changing perception of the world.  We’ve had more family dinners and game-time than ever before.  And, I gotten to observe the relationship my girls have with one another.  They are closer, play more together, support one another, and have found new commonalities that they explore as siblings.

I’m approaching this week much differently than the last. That includes waking up three hours earlier to have some quiet time to focus on items that need prolonged attention, meal planning for the entire week (including snacks), being more intentional about scheduling calls during nap time, and making sure that I record these precious moments with my family.  I anticipate things getting tougher in the weeks to come, but for now, I’ll stick to my new activity schedule to build a routine that includes more diaper changes, more distractions, more random question answering, more laughter, more quality time with my family, and more lasting memories.

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