How We’re Managing All The Things While Staying at Home

Jim Gaffigan is an American comedian and an Irish-Catholic father of five, whose humor is based on the nuances of family life. 

He has a famous joke from a few years ago, about what it’s like to have a lot of kids, “You know what it’s like having a fourth kid? Imagine you’re drowning, then someone hands you a baby.”

For my family, our current situation feels a lot like that joke, we were treading water before this started, and then they threw the kids in the ocean with us. 

Anyone else feel like that?

I find comfort in knowing I’m not alone, especially right now, when we feel disconnected from our friends and family, and our normal lives feel so far away. 

So today, in the spirit of keeping things “real,” I thought I would share a glimpse into how we are currently managing all the balls in the air (hint: we’re not), some lessons learned, and opening the comments up for you to share your experience navigating this truly unbelievable time in our history. 

How We’re Managing All The Things While Staying at Home

2008

First, a little background.

As a family, we’ve navigated some tough times. I quit my job in 2007 to start a business while I was pregnant with Maddie. We had zero money but we were young and felt rather risk adverse. 

Then the 2008 financial crisis happened, and our bottom fell out. I remember the stress, strain, anger, guilt and disappointment we felt. We were in bad shape. Without going into detail, we went through a couple terrible years before coming out the other side.

I know the nausea you feel when you have no idea where the money is coming from

Economic insecurity is real, and it’s terrifying. 

That experience gave us buckets of empathy and made us stronger.  

Looking back over that time, Bri and I now know if we don’t operate as a team, we lose.

Thankfully, a decade later, we’re in a much better situation.

Today, we have three daughters, in 7th and 4th grade, and a 15-month-old busy-body baby.

Our life was patch-worked together (at best) before they made school virtual and issued our stay at home order. Now, like so many American families, we are working double time to keep our heads above water.

Days fly by in a blink and are never ending all at once.

So here’s how we’re trying to keep it together, be sure to add your tips in the comments below so we can share with our community. 

Set Priorities

The first thing we did was set a list of priorities. When everything is important it’s easy to get overwhelmed. We knew we had to articulate our own priorities so we can stay on track.

Our list is simple:

(1) the mental and physical health of our family

(2) our careers and finances

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(3) community and connection

(4) school work and other learnings. 

Anything outside of that is on pause.

Our family guidepost is to assume the best of each other, and that looks different for all of us, including the kids, each day. 

Family Health 

Have a Check In

Every morning, Bri and I check in with each other over our first cup of coffee before the kids get up. How did you sleep, how are you feeling, what does your day look like?

But the most important question, the one that helps us the most, is “what do you need from me today?”

Our answers vary. Sometimes it’s logistics like, “I have a 2 pm call, can you manage the kids?” Other times it’s , “My heads in a bad place, I just need you to know that.”

If you share your life with another adult, start to ask this of one another. You’ll start the day feeling well taken care of, heard, and on the same page.  

Bookend Your Days with Wins

I recently read somewhere to bookend your day with wins and I think it’s the best advice ever. 

Start strong, finish strong, do your best in the middle.

Right now, as much as I love routine, we’re focusing on rhythm instead. Our mornings and evening are structured, in the middle we know what we need to get done but we have to be flexible. 

Don’t Be So Strict

We’re letting the kids indulge in things more than usual.

Screen time? I don’t care, talk to your friends all day, once your school work is done.

You want purple nails? Sure.

You stayed up all night watching a movie? Good for you.

We’re picking our battles. You can’t be disrespectful or unkind, other than that, I’m not getting involved. 

The other day the girls were bickering and I said, “either stop or fight someplace else” and they got up, as if in agreement, and finish arguing in another room.

Get Outside

Bike rides and family walks in the sunshine are mandatory. The fresh air keeps us sane.  We try to take them before dinner as another way to the transition to the evening. 

Careers and Finances

Create a Space to Work

Even when restrictions begin to lift, many people will continue to work from home, so it’s important to have what you need, when you need it and not reinvent the wheel every time you start your work day.

I’m fortunate to have an actual office, but that wasn’t always the case. Even if it’s a simple box filled with essentials that you can pack and unpack on your dinning table to mark the start and finish of the day will help keep you focused and productive. 

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Work Unconventional Hours

While we mark the start and end of the work day with little rituals as a family, in full transparency, Bri and I work all the time. The idea is to take a few structured breaks so the kids have a sense of normalcy. 

The truth is I’ve been working in random pockets of time for the entirety of my career. My husband hasn’t, until now. He’s at his computer by 5:30 every morning to get a jump on the day, and we both often work well into the night. 

I also work several hours on Saturday and Sunday night.

We trade time back and forth so someone is always working based on their deadlines and someone is with the kids. 

Right now we’re doing the best we can and it’s exhausting and overwhelming. 

If you find yourself in a similar situation, you’re not alone and you’re not crazy for thinking it’s impossible because it is. I just keep telling myself this is temporary. 

Set Goals

Even though times right now are uncertain, when life gets back up and running, I’d like to be ahead of the game in some areas. I came up with several goals for work (including hitting 10,000 followers on Instagram) that will set me up for success as life returns to normal.

Not that there is any extra time, but think about what you can focus on. Is there a longterm project you can accelerate? A learning you can take care of now instead of later? Something you’ve been putting off? 

Don’t make the goals unrealistic, just focus on one or two things that can move your needle forward. 

Community and Connection

Have Something to Look Forward To 

As events and big plans started to get canceled all around us, we knew we had to do something to keep our spirits up. 

Bri started  a “cocktail of the week” which has been so fun. He either makes something new or resurrects and oldie-but-goodie, like a cosmo, and we have one (or two) outside while the kids play.

We also came up with a list of movies to watch with the big girls and did a Star Wars marathon a few weekends back.

We try to come up with something fun to look forward to help separate the weekdays from weekends. It makes a big difference. 

Stay Connected

One happy way we’ve created structure in the kid’s daily lives is maintaining their extracurricular lessons. Ava takes pitching lessons a few times a week via FaceTime, and Maddie has Saturday morning voice lessons on Zoom.

At first, we thought we would pause everything until we knew what was going on, but I’m so happy we prioritized it because it makes life feel normal for all of us.

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Of course, we’re hoping on virtual happy hours too.

School Work and Other Learnings

Virtual Learning

By far, virtual learning is the hardest piece of this puzzle. My kids are coming at it from a point of leverage, given that they are part of an incredible school community and have access to resources.  Even still, this is an impossible time for working parents trying to “teach” kids. 

My big girls are older and fairly independent so we’re not sitting next to them while they work. They are working in the office with us so we can quickly answer questions, and make sure they don’t get distracted. 

Our rule, again, is simple. Do your best and hand your work in on time out of respect for your teachers. 

And a note, if your school is organizing any kind of virtual or socially distanced event, take part in it! One of our teachers hosts a recess Zoom call which is hilarious to listen in on. We’ve also done a drive-by parade for our most favorite teacher, and we all cried and cheered together. 

These little moments are important for everyone involved. 

Real Life Lessons

Watching my middle attempt to load the dishwasher a few weeks ago made my brain hurt. How does she know know how to do this?

If they get anything out of this, we hope they become a bit more independent. They have to make their beds and put away their laundry correctly. (Correctly being the keyword here.)

 

There is a huge age difference between our big girls and the baby. They both help so much with her, we couldn’t pull this off without them.

When I start to feel guilty about how much we depend on them, I see moments like this and realize it’s a gift and an incredible lesson for them.

And, remarkably, it’s the one thing they never complain about. By the time this is over they’ll both be skilled babysitters. 

Lots and Lots of Grace

Perhaps the biggest realization we’ve had, as individuals and as a family is that there are going to be good days, and there will be bad days, and that’s okay.

We’re just handing out grace left and right, assuming that we are all doing the best we can, even when (and especially when) it doesn’t look like our best. 

So whatever your situation is right now, hang in there. It’s simply impossible to do everything that has been asked of us, and yet we’re all doing it as best as we can. 

Tell us below, how are you managing and what are you learning about yourself or the people you spend your life with?

 

 

 

 

 

 

How We\'re Managing All The Things While Staying at Home

29 thoughts on “How We’re Managing All The Things While Staying at Home”

  1. What a great post! This is a realistic perspective that I needed. Every day, I do my best and I’ve gotten into enough of a routine where I am not worrying or thinking about the pandemic at all times. And that’s a huge win for me.

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  2. Love this article (check in). I am retired and my husband is a professor at a university who is trying to accomplish online teaching of science lab and field courses. Our grown son usually is with us, but has moved out due to Covid-19 because he works in the service industry and is afraid to bring it home to us. As a 37 year veteran of teaching middle school science I know that kids learn by doing, so I do not have any patience for parents who are blaming teachers for this situation, I love that you allow your “big” girls autonomy with their school learning. It also sounds as though you have responsible kids who enjoy learning, kudos to you as parents teaching them that important lesson early! I also believe that kids can learn a great deal from this experience as long as they have caring adults to help them process the lessons. If all students see are angry, frustrated parents who play the blame game during this crisis, then that is the lesson they will take away from this, but if they are taught that they have a role to play and can help in this situation, then they will come away, not BEHIND as so many suggest, but having gained real life understanding that they could not have gotten otherwise. Keep up the good work! Thanks for the reality check.

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    • Thank you, we’re lucky on a lot of fronts when it comes to our kids schooling. I’m always hesitant to even talk about it because our experience is so different from others, I never want to be tone deft. The thing I keep thinking is, my kids have everything they need, AND THIS IS STILL HARD. My heart goes out to families that are in struggle, it’s beyond impossible for them. That said, I can see our kids growing in different ways, for the better, during this.

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  3. First, thanks for acknowledging not every day is going to go well or that we can do everything equally well during this time. I agree that we all need to give each other a little more grace during this time. Women can do anything, but not everything all at the same time! As a single mom I’ve had to learn this lesson repeatedly. My suggestion for parents at this time is to set a time when you will not try to work, clean the house, etc. and just focus on your children. This is such a strange time for kids and they may not be able to express their concerns or how stressed they are, and they need us more than either they or we realize. This week we have a goal that if we can be diligent about work and schoolwork, we will completely let go on Saturday and play, have fun and just be together, no “after this short break let’s get back to cleaning” or “I can review your work in 15 minutes after I’m off this call”, and most importantly, no guilt over setting aside all the to-do lists for a day!

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    • Setting aside time just for the kids is really important, isn’t it? We set aside either Friday or Saturday night to do a big family thing – usually take out and a movie of the kids choice. I’m was pleasantly surprised how enthusiastic my almost 13 year old was for it – and how much they all looked forward to it all week!

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  4. I have two young adult children who are home for now – my 22 year old is a senior in college and, like all schools, his classes went online so he is home for the foreseeable future. My 24 year old works in theatre in Miami and her theatre is shut down until who knows when, so she came home for an extended visit and to save money since she is not working. My husband is also working from home. We are all trying to figure out the balance between “everyone has their own stuff they need to get done” and “we all live here together right now so there are some common tasks we need to share” – luckily, everyone is pitching in pretty well so we haven’t had many issues. My daughter and I are sewing masks for medical providers and for our friends and family, so we have gotten into a pretty good rhythm with that. Other than sewing, I try to accomplish three things each day – a shower/getting dressed, a ten minute tidy session, and some time outside for fresh air and sunshine. I have a swingy chair on my front porch and I love to sit out there and read! For our anniversary last week, my husband and I sat on the porch with a glass of wine while our kids made us dinner – it was so lovely that I think we’re going to do cocktail hour a couple of times a week! we are lucky that we live in NC and our weather right now is gorgeous – my garden is blooming and spending time outside is saving my sanity right now!

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    • The weather makes such a difference! Every day I say a thank you that this isn’t happening during a snow storm. You’re anniversary sound so sweet and lovely! Congrats 🙂

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  5. Loved your post and what a great perspective you have. As a mother of 2 college children (who are now home doing on-line learning), I can’t imagine how much harder it would be during this time with babies & younger children. I also have been trying to give my family & myself extra grace with this whole situation since we are typically all very social creatures & not used to being together 24-7. On the harder days, I just try to think to myself I’m so very lucky that we are all together, safe & healthy. On good days, we laugh at stuff that might normally annoy us. Laughter goes a long way.

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  6. This is a wonderful post – so full of wisdom from real experience I am probably much older than most of your clients (73) but young in heart and body!! My husband and I shared 40 years of marriage in December We have no children of our own; but I have a wonderful stepdaughter in her 50’s. We have known job layoffs (24 years ago) and rebounded; deaths of parents and one parent who lived with us for a while. All learning opportunities that we got through. This virus so far has eluded much of our community (we are in north central PA). I subscribe to your column and your ideas are great and have helped me a lot, Happy belated birthday – stay safe,

    Reply
    • Thanks Jean – I so appreciate you following along – and I think you’ll discover we have MANY community members exactly your age!
      I have to say, I am grateful that this happening at a time when my husband and I have enough life under us to navigate it like grown ups. It’s definitely making us all stronger.

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  7. Love your post today. The picture of your daughter holding her baby sister is PRECIOUS!! The love shines through!! I have one daughter who is 20 and finishing up her sophomore year classes and finals now. We love having her home and hope she’ll be able to return to Knoxville so she can get some actual hands-on experience at her internship! I love your idea of having something special to look forward to for weekends.

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    • I’m sure it’s so nice to have her around more than usual! But fingers crossed she can get back to her internship – I feel so bad for all these kids (of all ages) missing out on life events!

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  8. Thank you for a wonderful message today. I especially liked the 4 questions you and your husband ask each other to start your day. Lovely!

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  9. Thank you for sharing! So real and healthy. I love your daily check in, and your thoughts on kids and independence. The first week of at home school almost did me in – I had to spend Easter weekend decompressing and venting to my husband. Now I’ve realized that I have to let the kids do it, assist lightly as needed, but not take it on. And throw perfectionism to the wind. I’ve been doing yoga (alone!) and am noticing the benefits 🧘🏻‍♀️ And daily walks are keeping us all feeling good. Stay safe and well! Xo

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  10. Great post and thanks for sharing some real life with a blend of “grace” (aka reality) with a little bit of trying to use the time for what it can make possible… we are trying to do the same, it’s not all bad or all good. We also use a 5-6pm “family outdoor time block” in all our schedules (my kids are 8 and 9 so have at least a conceptual schedule) as a way to make sure everyone gets some sunshine and movement and to transition the day – otherwise mom and dad might struggle to end the work day I suspect. I’m trying to focus on getting that nagging list of “around the house” projects and tasks done as a trade off for all those things I can’t do thanks to this crazy situation. We need to add more family discussion of “wins” in the day for some positive thinking. Hang in there!

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    • You too! And you’re right, it’s not all good, but it’s not all bad either. We’re just trying to stay focused and keep our sense of humor – as best we can 🙂

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  11. Megan, this is a great show of priorities in a world – and industry – that sometimes shows a lack. As a teacher/administrator, I respect that the schooling comes last, but an essential part of the list of 4! We constantly convey to all staff, that they must understand the struggles happening, to varying degrees, in homes and that students want routine and connections first. Keep the relationships, retain prior knowledge, and they will return to us ready to flourish. Thank you for such a well grounded post!

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    • Thanks Judy, I really appreciate this. We’re definitely taking the lead from our school too. They’ve been incredibly supportive and understanding during on this, which is all the more remarkable because they had no virtual learning plans prior to being thrown into this situation. Teachers are just the best!

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  12. This is such a great post. We are the same age, and my children are only slightly older, and as for you, the Great Recession was a terrible, terrible time for us. My husband and I hung on by our fingernails for several difficult years, but emerged with a stronger, better commitment to work as a team and with better priorities. I think those recession character gains are helping us today because now we KNOW how to pull together. I could have written much of what you said. Despite the fact that my girls’ school situation is better than most, online learning has still been difficult. One of ours is in high school, so she continues to prioritize her grades (There’s a real possibility she could be the valedictorian in a few years, so she is looking to the future and trying desperately not to lose ground.), and we try to support her as much as she needs in that endeavor. Our seventh grader, on the other hand, is just getting the job done, and we are fine with that, too, lol. To stay sane, we are doing a lot of the same things you mention. Our movie marathons are a lot of fun. Hubs and I are making a priority to stretch and workout together at least three times a week. Those moments alone in the basement to chat and take care of ourselves have proven to be a valuable source of sanity. We finally tackled a home improvement project that we had supplies for and had needed to do since we moved in more than a year ago, so that project (and the resulting cleanup) have kept us busy, too. We’ve said nothing about the fact that both girls are on the phone with their friends every moment they’re not working or watching movies/playing games with us. You spent 4 straight hours on FaceTime playing video games with your two buddies? As long as your homework and piano practice were done before you started, then good for you! You stayed up all night painting a picture of your boyfriend’s cat—you’re awesome. We are so very fortunate, and yet it’s still been a time of stress and worry—especially about his elderly father and my grandparents, and even for my parents who are older but not elderly. It was lovely to read about another family managing work from home during this time. I’ve enjoyed your blog for quite a while, and it’s been a nice source of normalcy during this strange season.

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    • Gosh, we are so much on the same page! I love hearing this. I keep reminding my husband, when he starts to question screen/electronic time, that my 13 year old self would be doing the same thing. And yes, to being fortunate and yet still under so much stress and strain, I find it hard to reconcile sometimes. Hang in there – you’re doing great!!! xxx

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  13. This iis a wonderful post, Megan. It has something for all ages and situations–a basic “How to” for everyone during the pandemic surreal times. I have to applaud the families with grown children returning hm during this already challenging time. My husband and I are both working from home. Especially difficult for him as he has a professional career now with remote secretary, tech asst and learning curve to deal with zoom meetings, skype and tele conferences. We have grandchildren that we have zoom and FT only. We have had a birthday drive by and an Easter parade car caravan. We have had a grown son live back home for a year to save money. Thankfully on all counts he is
    happily living on his own now. After that experience I have to say it was the most challenging time for all of us. Your post helps with answers to a lot of issues that pop up during regular times and pandemic times adds a level of stress that requires super human qualities –having grown children back in the nest being a #1 challenge Our married son&wife and our grandchildren seem to be doing great with ups and downs of course as you pointed out all part of
    normal response to abnormal times. I absolutely love your posts, your philosophy and your take on getting through this crazy unprecedented time. Keep us going with your positive, honest and inspiring messages and posts. LifeStyle tips, life saving ideas and pandemic personal “how to’s”. Thank you for your energy in putting it all together and sharing with all of us. Best wishes, prayers and heartfelt thanks going your way…to you and your family.
    From a seasoned Fitness/Health and Wellness advocate, coach and inspo warrior!anne

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  14. Thank you, Megan, for your insight and inspiration on a whole variety of topics. You are a ray of sunshine at this dreary time in our lives. Even through your own personal trials, you still find time to inspire us all. Thank you.

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  15. Really enjoyed this post; you are such a lovely, authentic writer. It’s a gift and I enjoy it! I’m going to start bookending my days with wins – love that idea! My kids are grown but I work full-time and it feels way more than full-time at the moment but that is okay. I want to do what I can to help my company and our customers. Plus this helps keep me grounded and focused – I feel so very lucky in many ways. I make sure I out everyday for a fast walk and that has a significant impact on my physical self but especially helps clear my mind of cobwebs and unwanted thoughts. There are days when life feels a bit lonely (I’m a far right extrovert) but Zoom is great and it’s fun when you pick up the phone, people are available to chat! That’s a nice change – we should all try that a bit more. At school my most favorite book was the Diary of Anne Frank; in this strange time we are in, I keep thinking of Anne and what it must have really been like for her family in their isolation during the war. It sounds quite morbid but I don’t mean it to be; I just want to keep reminding myself that this will pass, we still have lots of freedoms and I for one have many big and little things to be grateful for – I don’t want to forget that.

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  16. Great post. Still struggling with stay at home orders. I worked from home 3 days a week before all this started. But now full time at home, kids doing online school, mother staying home from senior center day care, new puppy, hubby working more. He is a first responder so there’s worrying on my side for his safety. It’s just too much sometimes.
    Trying to do it all it’s hard most of the days. I’m exhausted by the evening My work hours are not flexible. So I can’t really take breaks whenever.

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  17. Thank you for these words. I think you aptly summed up the learnings from this time. Everyone’s situation is different and no one’s is harder than any other. Everyday is different and it is what it is. I look forward to your posts as I enjoy hearing about your family and personal experiences. I appreciate your openness. You feel like a friend. I wish you safety, wellness and the continued ability to find the joy.

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  18. Thank you for such a well though out account of the new normal. As a teacher and parent of 3 adults(28, and twin 22 year olds), it has been difficult to see them struggle with the senior year of college and NP school and there be no celebration of all of the hard work. Little things have become much more important. We order take out on Fridays, movie nights, lunch and dinner walks, and just congratulating each other and truly listening since where else do you have to be? I have often observed as the Mom that while this hopefully is the worst of times(not certain that it is) we have grown as a family unit and spent time we would have never made for each other. I so appreciate your glimpse into your family’s life and bringing your community together.

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  19. Loved this post – so real!
    The thing that is helping me the most is to find 1 thing that did not work well last week and try something to improve it for this week. 1 adjustment per week.

    I like the idea of “ending with a win” – will try it!

    Reply

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