Conference call time.
I give my design updates to the team while my two-year-old drives miniature cars across my face.
Working on new typography for a client, just been asked ‘whatchadoing?’ 43 times in 20 minutes.
Thinking D&AD should award me as the best multi-tasker since the Swiss army knife.
Design work for a multi-platform campaign… my “co-worker” is marching round the room in my shoes singing ‘Old Macdonald’ at the top of his lungs.
Realise I was meant to send a piece on the reality of working from home with young children two hours ago. It’s a new reality that is, as you’re probably just realising, a lot tougher than you thought it’d be.
I’ve been working from home two days a week since my son was born. Initially, it was a doddle. When he wasn’t napping, he’d lay under his play gym, grinning and gurgling at his soft toys and reflective materials. If anything, I envied him.
Two days a week was manageable. It broke up the week and kept things interesting. Colleagues cooed at my toddler over Teams.
Now, like many families across the UK, it’s the new normal. My two-year-old now has company since his 11-year-old sister’s school closed. But, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word “MUMMY” this much in my whole life.
“Mummy can I get a new app?”
“Mummy where’s my *insert list of things that always turn out to be right under her nose*"
“Mummy I’m hungry, mummy do dancing, mummy… mummy… MUMMY…”
So, how do you get through it?
Firstly, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If there are two parent’s at home, start splitting time up between you both. While one is building play-doh models of what a monster made of bogies might look like, the other can be in another room concentrating on work. Split the time equally when you can, if you don’t, stress and resentment can set in fast.
Make a schedule. I’ve also found making a schedule to split the day up for the children works well, using online resources and art projects gives them much needed focus and yourself, quiet time for concentrating on work.
An example of what I’ve started doing is:
1. In the morning, we do full family PE class with Joe Wicks, it helps start the day off with some energy boosted endorphins, especially when we’re all stuck inside now.
2. Mid-morning is lego/block building for the toddler. This is something he enjoys doing himself, but also includes us to occasionally ‘project’ manage his build. For the 11-year-old this is maths time, she has her online resources from school, and us there to ask any questions.
3. At Lunch time all our laptops, phones, and tablets go away and we have a family lunch. The urge to check everything is ok with work, or look at the latest developments in the news, might be strong but a lunchtime free from those stresses is really helping us focus on the kids and being a family. Go into the garden if you can, fresh air helps relieve the cabin fever, and lets the toddler run off his excess energy.
4. Early afternoon is art time for the kids. Whether it's crayons, paint or play doh, prepare a little area for them to get creative. I can get on with my work during this time and still be part of their ‘creating’ with checking on their progress, or giving them subjects to create around.
5. Late afternoon is when we turn to tv and iPads or reading. Don’t feel guilty, like you should be teaching them how to play the Peruvian mountain harp, or showing them how to knit a full outfit from cat hair that they collected from the sofa. Take the help technology has given us. It frees up your time to finish up with work projects or emails.
With everything that is going on in the world right now, it's so easy to let the stresses of this new position we find ourselves in take over and consume our thoughts. You could be feeling anxious about how you are going to cope over the next weeks or months but, if there's anything I've learned when working from home with children, it's there is always a workaround. It makes you more creative in your problem solving. Which at a time like this, is pretty important.
My “co-worker” has fallen asleep in his lunch… Which has just given me an idea for a brief I’ve been stuck on for days. Nice one, Charlie.
Suzanne Waters has over 18 years experience working across the globe on all elements of graphic design. Joining Communicorp UK in 2014 as a Senior Graphic Designer, Suzanne has created advertising campaigns, corporate branding and artwork across a diverse range of briefs. Her clients include Celtic Football Club, Warner Bros Music, Mazda, Ed Sheeran and Amazon.