I was on a conference call one morning -- the same one I'm on every morning at 9:45 -- and my kids would not stop interrupting me. In the first six minutes I counted 11 questions from the three children. Then I gave up counting.
This has become the norm. Between a full-time job, being a full-time caretaker, a teacher, a cook, a cleaning person and the person who solves every single problem every single day -- from breaking up fights to to kissing boo-boos to picking up messes and meeting every other need under the sun a person could possibly have -- I, like most working mothers I know, am at the end of my rope.
I couldn't decide if it was all in my head. Were the kids actually interrupting me at an alarming rate or did it just seem that way? When I decided to count how many times I was actually interrupted during my daily call, it turned out to be 27 times in 11 minutes.
Moms working from home during the COVID 19 pandemic, especially those with school-age children who are not old enough to manage technology or their workload but still have plenty of work to turn in, are being pulled in every possible direction all day, every day. Sitting at my desk for hours -- or even just an hour -- of uninterrupted work seems like something that took place in another lifetime, though it was just three months ago that I was very much sitting at my desk at "Good Morning America."
It's been a mixed bag working from home during this time. One the one hand, my husband and I don't have to worry about child care and we're lucky for that. On the other hand, we are the child care. And working and being a full-time caretaker of three kids is near impossible.
The morning call comes after everyone has started -- if not completed -- their school assignments, has been dressed, fed and entertained. What more could they need?
Turns out, a lot.
The 4-year-old decided he was now a baby dinosaur hatched from an egg. He needed to roar continuously to prove this to me.
The 6-year-old and 8-year-old decided they needed an additional breakfast: pancakes for one, chicken -- which we did not happen to have -- for the other.
All three decided we needed to put on fireman hats before they finally ran off to the playroom together. That lasted less than one minute, because they needed to bring me pretend food from the play kitchen. Of course.
Now, most of this wasn't audible to the rest of the call participants, but there did come a time when I needed to unmute myself to speak. And that, of course, is when they got really loud.
Luckily, no one on the phone seemed to mind much and my speaking part was over quickly. Even luckier, my time on the phone per day is limited and can generally be scheduled when my husband Ryan, who spends most of his working hours on the phone, is available or during our daily "family rest time," which basically means the kids are forbidden to leave their respective bedrooms for 90 minutes each day, usually following lunch,
But what are working moms to do?
In a recent piece on how women are pulling a "double-double" shift, "Good Morning America" profiled three working moms in different work-from-home situations. Each woman said the No. 1 thing keeping them sane was self-care. For one, meditation, for another exercise.
I decided to take their advice and committed to going for a run each day, no exceptions.
I found it helped -- not with the interruptions of course, but with the way I reacted to them. Do I lose my patience? Absolutely. But I know I have a much longer fuse if I've had time to recharge myself.
Ultimately, this will end. We will go back to work. The kids will go back to school. But until then, we'll need to learn to deal with our new, temporary normal -- 27 times per conference call.