Woman going through her small business taxable benefits.

Working from home during COVID-19

When North Carolina’s Governor Cooper shut us down in late March, my immediate thought was, “Well, this stinks, but surely things will let up soon and go back to normal.”

The order was passed on a Friday – a Friday, mind you, that my children were already home, due to a county water boil advisory and the elementary school closing for the day. As I tucked them into bed on Thursday night, I had no idea that this was the beginning of a long stretch of family time.

As with most parents, the news on Friday around the water boil advisory was met with a minor amount of irritation at the last minute schedule change. I love my babies dearly, but a scheduled school closing is a bit of a juggle on my best day, and with the last minute closure, I was left rescheduling web meetings (I laugh now at the idea of rescheduling because my kids are home), parsing out heavy brain work, and running to the grocery to pick up extra lunch stuff, with my lively 6-year-old in tow.

My friends, however, laugh when I tell them I had no clue we even had a COVID problem. I learned long ago to curate the content I digest, and that I am a content hermit, except for subjects I’m passionate about. We live on six acres, and have several chickens and several gardens. I was a proud homesteader before COVID made it even more cool. I stay busy. I did get a COVID pool. It’s harder to take care of than I thought it would be, but fun to swim in since we haven’t been to the beach in a while, so there’s that.

In any case, the way I see it, if it’s important, someone in my circle will tell me, so I figure I’m relatively safe from a barrage of zombies shuffling down the drive unexpectedly.

That Friday, I rescheduled everything for Monday. Governor Cooper released his order, and much to my dismay, I quickly realized Monday would be the Monday-est Monday ever. Not only had I pushed off my Friday appointments, but now I’d also be paying the price with full backup singers. Only, instead of singing, they mainly ask for stuff, whine, and ask questions about the universe, while I’m in the middle of a web huddle.

As a former (and now current) homeschool mom, I lived the juggle before. Over the weekend, I grabbed Education.com activities, made the chore list, and actively worked to stem their boredom with educational and productive activities to ensure that they would be busy bees while I worked to catch up on Monday.

Parents know the hustle and bustle of keeping the littles distracted while they work the odd day from home. I wasn’t ready, however, for my other half, an IT Engineer, to be home that Monday as well. His orders came in – no more working in the office until further notice. Even today, we aren’t sure if he will be returning this year (he is pretty bummed, being that he is missing out on the company bowling alley, basketball court, and gourmet cafeteria). Also, according to him, my avocado toast does not replace the one he gets at the cafeteria. It passes, though. Before he worked from home, I had never had avocado toast (gasp). We take turns making breakfast, and I’ve jumped on the avocado toast bandwagon. That stuff is delicious.

In any case, that Monday was a bit hairy, but we survived. Marco (my husband) and I bounced the babysitting between calls. We relied on each other. Years of the WAHM/SAHM (work at home mom/stay at home mom) discussions were turned a bit sideways, honestly, because we saw each other working through the day together. He juggled right alongside me, and my day was lightened. Our family grew closer, and over the following months, my colleagues got to know my children better than before, and I got to know theirs (fur babies included). I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the ability to get closer to my teammates, even though my heart is incredibly saddened by the things happening outside our door.

As I write this, we have ground rules. There is a sign on my husband’s office door when he’s on a call, and I don’t go upstairs unless he isn’t (otherwise, I get to say hello to all of his colleagues, if his virtual background isn’t enabled). We spend time as a family throughout the day, do chores together, and try our best to eat breakfast and lunch together.

I’ve become a ninja at positioning my webcam away from my bed, so I can work from my bedroom while Marco works from my old office. Teams just released their virtual backgrounds, which are kind of fun, and I’ve never appreciated noise-cancelling headphones more. There have been many opportunities to learn and do things a bit better, since the first few clumsy weeks of COVID-distancing. Daresay, things are close to a science right now.

My newest co-worker is my husband. He works for a different company, but our home has turned into the newest coworking space on the block. It has been inspiring and strengthening to be a team through the day, and to live the parenting struggle together at home.

I don’t know what the future holds. My father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer at the same time the stay-at-home order hit, so I run errands for my parents a few times a week, and work hard to be available for whatever they need. Marco has been told not to expect to return to work until 2021 at the minimum. We save money from the lack of commute (30 miles one way – homestead – middle of nowhere), and as a work from home mom, it’s nice to have the support of my partner during the day.

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