At the beginning of the global pandemic and resulting quarantine, some of my friends recommended that I post some tips for those who are newly working from home. I started a few drafts before scrapping the effort: in no way does quarantine resemble my old work-from-home routine. All of my old tips, like getting out of the house once a day, or making time to socialize during the evenings to make up for solitary work days, do not apply!
I never could have guessed my 2020 would look this way even a year ago. Not only am I adjusting to balancing my work with taking care of a tiny human, but now I’m doing it in isolation, too. I don’t have any tips because this is a brand new experience for me. But what I can do is share how it’s going. Spoiler alert: this work/life balance doesn’t have a lot of work in the equation.
Here’s my daily schedule. Feel free to take a glimpse into my life in order to relate or feel better about how you’re handling quarantine or both.
Our wakeup call is fully dependent on Eva. When she gets up, either John or I get up with her, usually whoever had the better night. I eat while she plays with her toys, and then I put her in the high chair where theoretically she eats, but mostly she just plays with her food.
During Eva’s morning nap, I have to act fast. I can get either one article written or a couple of emails answered. If she wakes up in the middle of a task and John isn’t too busy, he gets her while I wrap up. Having John home is an enormous privilege. Because of him, I can take a Japanese class over Zoom every Monday while he parents Eva. The silver lining is that he’s getting to see more of her growth than he did previously. While he was at the office, I was the only one who was there for her first smile, her first roll. Now he’s home for every new milestone.
I cook lunch and prepare baby food for Eva. Afterward, we play or FaceTime her grandparents, which is the closest I get to having childcare. She and I usually go for a walk around then to get out of the house, and then I put her down for her afternoon nap.
This is when I try to get household tasks done. Every day, I do the dishes (because we’re eating at home every meal), and almost every day, I do a load of laundry (because baby). I may also clean, order groceries, prep for dinner, or puree more baby food. At this point, I might be asking, “what does your husband do?” and the answer is, “what he can.” He has to work minimum eight-hour days and manage a team. I know this is upsettingly consistent with reports of how quarantine tasks have broken down by gender. But for our family it’s a financially-based decision, especially considering I was working part-time to begin with.
Since it’s so heavy on housework, my afternoons least resemble my old life. Even before the pandemic, with a younger baby, I didn’t do this many chores: I’d be able to visit my parents, or my mother-in-law would come to visit, or I’d go out to events like storytime and swim class and hang out with other parents so it didn’t feel like such a slog. I agree with this article about how weirdly, parenthood has made quarantine better, not worse, because it gives structure and purpose to my day. But it’s still a lot of work with no end in sight.
After dinner, John and I put Eva to bed, an elaborate routine that involves video-chatting her other grandparents, taking a bath, and reading at least two books. It’s all finished by 7:30.
Then it’s time for work!… if I’m not entirely burned out. Then I just pour myself a drink and play Animal Crossing. But let’s say it’s a good evening and I crack open my laptop. I’ll usually work for around two or three hours on articles for Forbes, Anime News Network, and Gunpla 101. The structure of my career has changed—like many freelancers, I’ve lost some income sources during the pandemic as some previous employers have tightened their belts. On the other hand, my affiliate marketing blog revenue has skyrocketed; as more people stay home and shop online, I’m making an ever-larger cut. Another bonus: many of my prior web design clients are rehiring me for feature requests and security updates since a WFH world means their portfolio websites are more important than ever. In a three-hour workday, it’s made me reevaluate the most practical ways to spend my work hours. But once again, this is on a good day. I have stressed-baked many batches of cookies in the evenings, too.
What’s not on this schedule: thinking about the big picture. Instead, I’m even more task-oriented than usual, using the normally ill-advised strategy of using my email inbox as a to-do list. That’s great for putting out fires as they come up, but terrible for planning ahead. I’m taking this quarantine one day at a time, because to think about what’s likely ahead of me is just too demoralizing. Of course, who really knows what the future holds—these are unprecedented times. So even if I don’t feel like the Otaku Journalist right now, it’s OK to just write what I can, even something simple like this post. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.
Top photo: One of the aforementioned stress-bakes.