Married With Kids...and Both Working At Home By Jim Grigsby
When was the last time you had a business call interrupted by a screaming three year old (an actual one, not an immature coworker)? In the Grigsby household, that is just another work moment.
Tina and I both work at home – one upstairs and one downstairs - with two three year old toddlers and their grandmother in between. Tina is the virtual office veteran, having done this for six years; I have four years experience. At times it is hectic and noisy; most times it is noisier than a Bruce Springsteen sound check.
Hectic because we need to balance conference calls, doctor’s appointments, project deadlines, travel and child care. Tina is a Compliance Analyst for a healthcare software company and I am a sales manager for a healthcare consulting company. Every day we make it work.
After we sold our South Carolina home and prepared to move to Florida we lived in a three bedroom apartment. The spare bedroom was Tina’s office, our workout room and a storage area. My office was the apartment’s computer area. It was like working in a packing crate; a packing crate that amplified the sounds of two toddlers and a Tibetan Terrier.
In that environment telephone calls were a considerable challenge as voices carried throughout the apartment like the aroma of brewing coffee. Even behind closed doors, there was the intrusion of screams and whines. Because I was had no door, just an opening, I took calls in a sprinter’s starting position so I could dash into our bedroom, hoping a client or my boss didn’t hear an unhappy child expressing an opinion. More than once I blamed the noise on the radio or a passing associate.
Today we have a split level home; Tina’s office is on the first floor and mine is upstairs. It is a great arrangement until the laws of physics come into play. Did you know that the raging voice of an angry three year old boy carries upstairs, increasing in volume as it climbs? It also carries across tile floors, through a door and into his mom’s office. Around here telephone headsets are a must. If Bose needs volunteers to test noise blocking headsets, we’re available.
Time management is the second major challenge. Tina’s mom lives with us, so we have to juggle three schedules - conference calls, travel, doctor appointments and child management – this requires communication and flexibility. A typical morning conversation is “I have calls at ten and one, Mom has an appointment at 3.” Or “I’m leaving at three tomorrow, not four.”
While “Thomas the Tank Train” and “Dora the Explorer” are wonderful shows, they last only 30 minutes. We have a library of DVDs, many that run for over 60 minutes; these are our fallback. When we both need quiet time and have child watch, we use the videos to provide time to work in peace. Unless a toddler disagreement breaks out, we have an hour of quiet for focused work. After the work is completed, it is time for a break that involves hugs for good behavior or discussions about the need to keep quiet while Mom and Dad work.
The magic time in our house is 2:30 – nap time. While Mom and Dad wish it were their naps, it is the time our children begin their naps. In an oasis of silence, I make more calls from 2:30 to 4:00 than most sales people make in four hours.
Molly, our Tibetan Terrier, adds to the racket as she barks at every passing truck. FedEx, UPS, USPS and garbage trucks are her favorite targets. This past Christmas she may have set a personal record for daily and weekly barks. Tina’s pre-call checklist includes removing the little barker from her office.
Married with kids and both working at home succeeds because we respect the other’s time and work, are flexible and communicate our schedules and changes in plans. Having the children at home is not the distraction it could be; it is an unexpected bonus. No matter what kind of day we have, our children are always ready to hug us, to share their joy and to ask when we can play. They are our all time favorite coworkers.
When you have that kind of daily bonus, how could you want any other work environment?
About the author: Jim Grigsby is the author of Don’t Tick Off The Gators! Managing Problems Before Problems Manage You (Rainbow Books, Inc.); he can be contacted by email firstname.lastname@example.org or through his website Jim Grigsby Books.