Quarantine, social distancing, and “working” from home are the new normal. For those without kids, it’s a magical time, filled with naps, eating whatever, sleeping till whenever, and just generally living life. For those of us with kids and babies, though, trying to work from the house while entertaining small children is proving to be, um, difficult. Maybe your childcare shut down in keeping with state guidelines. Maybe you had a nanny making your life a literal dream before all this and have had to temporarily suspend them because of the pandemic. Whatever the case, you’re now stuck inside with tiny people that demand constant attention, food, and entertainment. It’s like being marooned with your very drunk friend who can’t speak and only screams, cries, and whines when she wants attention or more cold pizza.
In an effort to not pull our hair out, we chatted with Lauren Benbassat, co-founder of mēle shake, a fully-balanced smoothie made from real food, about how you can work from home with your kids without completely losing it. She’s a mom and entrepreneur, and she’s got tips for staying focused, productive, and sane even with kids running around.
Organize Your Hours
Obviously, my go-to when I need to actually write a story (hi) or get some work done is making the most of nap time (or other times when my kid is distracted), and times when my partner is available to help too. Benbassat takes that a step further with some time management tools. If you think you’re organized, Benbassat, a self-proclaimed “Google addict”, keeps a detailed Google calendar that she shares with family members and the people she works with.
“I have multiple calendars which I share with various teams/parties,” she explains. “I have a personal, a husband/wife schedule, my work calendar is open and shared with team, and additionally, I have a shared ‘childcare’ calendar so my family and co-founders can see my availability for each day.”
Creating a schedule and routine not only helps you stay organized, it can also help you feel better, and therefore, more sane. If this were me, I’d add a tab for snacking time, trash TV time, and pretending to exercise time, but you also can (and should) pencil in date time, me time (more on that in a sec), meeting times, and the like.
Make Time For You
It seems really contrived to even mention self-care these days, but when you have a child, it’s so f*cking important. You’re responsible for a tiny human for what feels like every second, so being able to steal an hour to take a bath, read a book, or just watch some crappy TV will help you feel refreshed.
Benbassat knows very well that your me time as a working mom is extremely limited, and admits, “the life of a WFH mother and entrepreneur doesn’t leave much time for self-care, honestly.” So she carves out time for herself when she can, in what she calls “small moments.” For instance, “a morning walk with baby in stroller and coffee in hand!”
She adds, “If you don’t have the ability to walk outside right now, put on some music and have a family dance party. I love @amandakloots Musical Morning Playlist on Spotify.” She will also swipe on “a quick mascara and lip” when her baby goes down for a nap so she can feel like a real person for a second, and of course is a fan of “a long, hot shower once baby is in bed for the night… add a glass of wine if you want to be really extra.”
Personally, I’ve got the wine part down, and I think I still have mascara on my lashes from three days ago, so I guess I’m pretty much killing this whole self-care thing.
The momtrepreneur (sorry, but it’s accurate) also mentions that, aside from self-care, giving yourself some mental breaks can help with productivity later. “From 5am to 10pm, my day is non-stop. While I used to make time for journaling and meditation pre-baby, I’ve had to find new ways for mental health breaks. I find that classical music in the morning while I check my email and get priorities in line is what soothes me the most.” You’re not a robot; give yourself some breathers throughout the day to avoid burnout and help you stay productive.
Define Your Space
If you’re working from home, defining the space where you do your work can help with productivity. Having been working remotely on and off for the past 8 years, Benbassat says, “having a designated space for your office is KEY.” Obviously, having a separate office is ideal, but since that’s not possible for everyone, just make sure you’re changing up your environment and blocking off some area to do work in (sadly, this means no longer calling your bed “the office”). “That way,” she explains, “when you ‘go to work’ you are physically relocating to a new space and shifting mentally to work-mode.” She adds, “For me, I need three things to add to my work space: a plant, a bit of sunlight, and my water bottle.”
In other words, maybe don’t sit on the couch in front of the TV to do that project. And leave your bedroom as a retreat—no laptops, spreadsheets, or conference calls allowed.
Eat, And Make Time For Eating
It may sound crazy to anyone without kids, but when you have a baby or small child, making time to actually sit, breathe, and f*cking eat is a luxury. But when you’re working, you need food to keep that brain going, so having a good breakfast and lunch is super important.
Benbassat’s number one tip for making sitting down, eating, and actually enjoying your food easier and more time efficient is to meal prep. She obviously swears by mēle shakes as a quick breakfast or snack, but also keeps a number of easy-grab items in the fridge that can be thrown together for a quick dish. For instance, some washed and chopped veggies, fruits, and lettuce that she can quickly add to salads, bowls, or sides. She also swears by quinoa with lentils: “I prep a big batch on Sunday, cooked with chicken broth and ghee. I use throughout the week for quick bowls (with chopped veggies) and dinner sides.” She also mixes up a quick and protein-rich 3-bean salad with chickpeas, black beans, and green beans (you can sub for whatever beans you like). “Toss with red wine vinegar, olive oil, and Italian dressing seasoning, marinate in fridge,” she instructs. “It’s great with crackers, added to salad, or as a side.”
If you had told me a year or two ago that I would become one of those people who forgets to eat, I would have laughed in your face. But as a mom, this sh*t is real.
Look, working from home isn’t easy. Working from home during quarantine as a result of a worldwide pandemic is hard. Add kids to the mix and you’ve got a recipe for a breakdown. Stop, breathe, and tell yourself the work will get done, the kids will be fine, and someday we’ll all go to brunch again.
Sarah Nowicki aka Betchy Crocker writes about food, fashion, and whatever else she's in the mood to complain about for Betches and like, some other people. She resides in Asheville, NC, where she spends her time judging hipsters and holding on to her Jersey heritage and superiority. Yell at her on Instagram @sarahnowicholson