Reflections on one week of working at home with 1 husband, 2 kids and 1 cat
As horrible as the situation is, particularly for those who are really influenced by the pandemic either health- or workwise, for us – academics with kids – it might actually be a nice opportunity to get some research done and combine this with some quality time with the family!
It all started off so well! My 12-year old daughter was sleeping in until 11.00, because she thought she just had a holiday, my 10-year old son was practicing his free-running tricks, and my husband and I both had our own floor to handle all our Skype and Zoom calls. This is all exciting and challenging, but of course we are going to nail this!
Mmm, trying to get my son to do at least some schoolwork and reading a book rather than being on the PlayStation turns out to be a bit of a challenge. And in the meantime, colleagues and students start coming in with worries and requests; of course, I want to help them as quickly as possible. All of this in a week during which I planned to finally do some writing…
This is a nightmare… Why does my husband have to scream when he’s on a Skype call? And why do two different schools have to give out so many different instructions, so we get lost in what needs to be done for what kid? And how to handle the nervous breakdown of my son, because I do not explain fractions the way his teacher does? And why is the internet connection so bad in too many places of the house (where I try to hide in order to escape some family members)? And why does the cat want to lie on my computer when I finally have five minutes to get some work done?
After a good family conversation at the dining table, this is a much better day. My husband and I divided the day in timeslots during which we both can work, the kids start to get used to the new routine and thank god the sun is shining! (I know, it did as well yesterday, but I was too upset to notice…)
Almost weekend! This actually went quick, and after the first difficulties, we seem to have found a routine in which all four of us can work at home. Let’s see how long this will last, but I now safely dare to say we will manage for another couple of weeks.
How I survived this week
As with so many things in life, it again turned out that communication is key. We, as a family, had to get used to discussing things with each other that we never had to discuss before. But deciding on some basic rules did the trick. Secondly, perhaps even more than during normal working life, it is crucial to relax and go outside. As John wrote, consecutive skype meetings are undoable; they lead to headaches and back pain. So, go outside, as long as we are still allowed, and take a good walk from time to time.
More difficult for me: lower the expectations of what can be done during a day. I am extremely good in telling my students and colleagues to relax, and to simply do whatever we manage doing, but how to actually put this into practice? Well, being forced to does help, so I gave up on my long to-do lists. And I again realised what wonderful colleagues I have. Throughout the week I really enjoyed the brief chats, exchanges of funny messages, and joined creative thinking about how to solve problems. If you have not done so yet, stay connected with your colleagues one way or the other.
Positives that came out of this week:
- My daughter baked many delicious cookies, and I got my ass kicked by my son in table tennis.
- Growing respect for primary school teachers…
- Increased awareness of how I appreciate our students for actually listening to me as a teacher.
- Big appreciation and respect for my hard working colleagues who turn out to be even more creative and hardworking in ensuring that all our teaching can go digital than I expected them to be!
About the author
Esther Versluis is professor of European Regulatory Governance and head of FASoS’ Department in Political Science. Esther has taught many courses in European Studies at both BA and MA level, including supervision of many, many BA and MA theses. But, like most of us, she is also a newbie when it comes to online teaching.