Day in the Life of a WFH Mom

When I wrote this last post, my kids were still attending online school, and I had to help the younger one a lot. Now, they are back at school full-time! Full time school is Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 2:00pm. Back in 2019, when I was commuting most days of the month, there was after-school programs that lasted until 5:00pm. But now, there is still no after-school available. I am fine with that for now. I’m just so glad they are having the opportunity to learn with their peers in person. And both kids (even the younger one who used to hate school) are really happy about learning in person!

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

6:30am: I wake up and quickly get dressed and feed my dog Ziggy. I’ve bought an automatic feeder for my cat and it’s changed my life. For awhile the cat would wake at 5am and yowl for food, waking the dog, who would then lick my face until I got up. It’s sad that I now think of 6:30am as sleeping in.

6:45am: I take Ziggy out for potty. Now that it’s spring (almost summer), I am trying to get my almost potty trained dog to the point where she doesn’t go in the yard anymore. This is extremely taxing since I’m the only walker of the dog.

7:00am: I wake up the kids, get them dressed and ready, and feed them breakfast. I also pack their lunches.

8:00am: We are out the door, walking the half mile to school with the dog.

Happy to be back to school in late April!

8:40am: I am back at home with the dog. I eat breakfast and drink coffee while reading a book.

9:00am: I have finished coffee and switch to tea, which I bring into my office, as it’s time to start working.

12:00pm: I take the dog around the block for a potty break, and grab lunch from the kitchen and bring it to my office to eat while working.

1:40pm: School is out soon, so I take the dog with me to pick up the kids. They play in the schoolyard for about 20 minutes before we start walking home. This is my official lunch break.

2:35pm: At home, I fix a snack for the kids (usually cheese or hummus and crackers, fruit and carrots, or pizza rolls).

2:40pm: Back to work. The kids have “free time,” which means usually TV or video games. On Mondays, the older has piano. On Tuesdays, their uncle takes them to the park. On Wednesdays, a babysitter takes them to the park or plays board games. On Thursdays and Fridays, sometimes one of us parents will be free to do something.

5:00pm: Off work! I usually go around checking in on the kids and then take the dog for a walk. Sometimes we’ll all go to the park briefly if the kids didn’t go earlier.

6:00pm: I feed the dog and cat and make dinner. Then we immediately clean up: do the dishes, clear off the table, clean the counters, go through the kids’ backpacks and clean out their lunchboxes and water bottles. We try to have the kids do most of this. I also check homework and help do it if necessary, but both kids seem to do their homework in school.

7:00pm: My new favorite time of day. The kids are allowed to play video games and the dog has already had three long walks, so I sit in my west-facing window and read a book. Usually, tea is also involved.

8:30pm: The kids are done with their game time. We watch one show together.

9:00pm: We head upstairs. I’ve started putting them to bed a little earlier than when they were in online school since now they actually have to be up and dressed before 8am. The kids take showers. I read to the youngest for awhile, and then the oldest gets an audiobook. I usually shower while this is happening.

How does a 23-pound dog take up most of my bed?

10:30pm: One last potty time for the dog, and then we head to bed.

For now, I am loving this schedule, which allows us to have plenty of time together, as well as plenty of independent time. I’ve also never had better work-life balance. Soon, however, summer vacation will be upon us and all will change again!

Day in the Life of WFH and Homeschooling Mom

Since March 13, 2020, I have been a full-time working from home mom who also sort of homeschools two kids. I say sort of because since the end of March last year, the NYC DOE has been having Zoom/Google classroom schooling. But back then, I had to do everything for both of them, including keep two very separate schedules. And also do my own job. And also feed everyone.

Slowly, everything has been shifting. Since the fall, my older son has been able to handle all of his assignments without my help. This morning, my younger son showed me that he finally learned to take attendance by himself.

But these homeschooling days may soon be over. Next week, my kids are supposed to go back to school five days a week, from 8am to 2pm. I am very glad my older son, who is graduating elementary school in June, will have the opportunity to see all of his classmates in person again before switching schools and maybe not seeing them again ever.

It’s a little bittersweet, because while this life has been challenging, I feel like I never would have gotten the opportunity to know my kids so well had we not been forced to be in each others presence for 24 hours a day for more than a year. Thinking about that give me the idea of writing down my typical daily schedule, before it changes again.

6:30am: I wake up and quickly run to let Ziggy (who’s 95% house trained) outside. I haven’t set an alarm in more than a year. This is just when I get up now. Then I feed my cat, Oz, while the dog is still outside. Once he’s eating, I let her in and get her breakfast. Then I make coffee.

7:00am: This is probably my favorite time of day. No one else is up yet. I typically drink my coffee while sitting in the bay window and reading a book. When I commuted, I loved reading on the train, and it was the one time dedicated to reading for pleasure. Since I don’t commute anymore, my reading time went way down in 2020. But now that I’ve found this perfect time to read, I’m a lot happier. Plus, unlike subway reading, I can do it in my pajamas with my feet up.

It’s hard to read when being squeaked at!

7:30-8:00am: The kids wake up and demand breakfast. I attempt to get them dressed as well.

8:00am: I take Ziggy out for a short walk while the kids eat and watch TV. Note that my spouse is still home–the kids are not alone.

8:30am: School starts for both kids. Sometimes, I have to do something with the younger but usually I take the opportunity to eat breakfast.

9:00am: Work starts officially for me. I get another drink (sometimes coffee or tea or just water) and head into my private office, which I am so happy to have.

9:20am: Morning class is over for my younger son. He comes to tell me this and then sits by me while reading a book.

9:45am: Book finished, son begs for “free time.” Usually I am working, so I have no choice but to allow the free time.

11:15am: Older son reports that his class is over. He either plays with Ziggy in the yard or reads or plays with his brother. I may walk the dog if she’s not playing. Otherwise, I start lunch prep. They kids eat lunch early because of class schedules.

12:10pm: Younger son’s second class starts. I usually take my lunch back to my office.

2:00pm: Officially school is over at this time, but there is still a lot to do depending on the day. My older son has piano class once a week, a school tutor once a week, and a private tutor twice a week. My younger son has both a school tutor and a private tutor twice a week. Once I get them settled, I’ll try to step away for a short walk with the dog. Then, back to work.

5:00pm: Work is over! I am fortunate to work for a place that allows me to take breaks as needed, but at the end of the day I am very happy to forget work and take a long walk with the dog. Sometimes, people will come with me, but I don’t mind either way.

6:00pm: Back home and dinner for the animals, and then I prepare dinner for the humans. We are usually done with dinner by 7.

7:00pm: If there is no homework to do and it’s nice, we all might go for another walk, especially if, for some reason, I’ve had to skip the earlier one. If not, we all might watch TV together or play a game. I have a low level of patience for TV, so I can only do this for about an hour before I switch to something else, like reading or artwork. The kids can play video games with their friends at this time, so they usually do this, either by zoom meeting or facetime. This has been their primary means of socialization for some time, and I’m glad they do get to talk to other kids apart from zoom school.

A walk at the local reservoir.

9:30pm: Bedtime for kids. They take showers, youngest first. When he’s done, we read a physical book while the older is showering. Then they both listen to an audio book while I shower and get ready for bed.

10:30pm: I let the dog out one last time and then retrieve my phone from the kids room and say goodnight (even though they are asleep). Our cat, Oz, sleeps with the boys. He takes turns which bed he sleeps in. Then I go to bed. Ziggy runs upstairs after her last potty break and passes out immediately on my bed, so I usually have to ask her to roll over. I may read or meditate, or just pass out immediately as well.

Exciting, no?!? Well, boring or not, I have been having a great time with more relaxing days at home with my kids than I ever thought possible. While I am looking forward to them being back in school, I know I will miss this time!

A Week of Kid Lunches

When my kids used to go to an actual in-person school, they ate school lunch every day and appeared to like it. Since they ate cereal bars on the walk to school most days, I only had to worry about feeding them dinner, and to be fair, this was more like five times a week because of take-out and actually eating out. Then, more than a year ago now, I suddenly started having to feed them every single meal at home.

My younger son in the PB&J days.

At first, last March, I made the same lunches for everyone, every day. That lunch was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with raw veggies, fresh fruit, and a handful of chips. It soon because apparent that I’m the only one who actually enjoys that lunch (go figure! PB&Js are great!). One year later and I seem to have figured it out somewhat. I give my kids basically the same lunches every week, but in random order. Those lunches are mac and cheese, ramen, egg and cheese sandwiches, pizza rolls, and cheese and crackers and hummus. Lunches are still served with raw veggies (so glad they like raw veggies). And then they eat fruit and chips in the afternoon when zoom school is out at 2pm. Dinner is still a work in progress!

I will still happily eat PB&J but limit myself to once a week!

The most anxiety I have felt about 2 paragraphs

The other day, my child, who is in the second grade, came home with an essay assignment. Basically, he has to write two paragraphs and draw one picture about a holiday that we celebrate as a family, one associated tradition, and a food consumed during said holiday. Of course, this has spiraled into a massive amount of anxiety for me.

We are atheists, so I would rather not mention any specific religion’s holiday. Granted, I know that 95% of the kids, at least, will be writing about Christmas or Hanukah. I looked through a list of non-denominational winter holidays, and some of the possibilities I came up with were Festivus and Decemberween. And who could forget Boxing Day? But I realized that we don’t actually celebrate those holidays, so back to the drawing board.

Then, I thought about the Winter Solstice. After all, that’s what our kids think they are celebrating when they celebrate Christmas. But I got stuck in the facts of this astronomical yearly occurrence, and had my son draw something like this. Then, I remembered this was a writing assignment, and not a science project, so most of that was scrapped.

It’s important to remember that this assignment is of writing TWO PARAGRAPHS, and this entry is already twice that. Finally, I realized I was thinking too much about it, and I think I will encourage him to write about Yule, which is the name I grew up calling the winter solstice. He can write about the days growing longer, and how we like to bake cookies, and then we will bake and bring in cookies. And on the plus side, I already know what we can do for science project this year!

xmas

Happy whatever you celebrate! (photo from 2014)

A past problem that haunts me still

While I may not be vocal about this, I spend a bunch of time thinking about a problem that is not currently a problem of mine. That problem is food insecurity, and if you don’t know what that is, you can read about it here: Understanding Hunger and Food Insecurity.

While I say this thankfully is not currently a problem of mine, it certainly has been a problem of mine in the past. Long ago, way before I had a well-paying job in a lucrative industry and was married to a person in the same position, I lived in the basement apartment of my father’s house, and did not have much of a salary. At 27 years old and with a recently deceased mother, I was going through somewhat of an emotional and lifestyle crisis. My dad had threatened to kill himself after my mother’s death, and asked me, his only daughter, to move in with him. I had a respectable job in publishing in New York City, but telecommuting was not done back then, so I quit and moved three hours north to one of the poorest counties in the state.

dad

My dad and me, a couple of months after my mother’s death. The door seen on the left leads to my apartment.

The house and property were large but extremely run-down. The main house itself had a living room, dining room, kitchen, one bathroom, and three bedrooms. It also smelled horribly of smoke, as both my parents smoked three packs of cigarettes a day. At first, I slept in the bedroom I had stayed in when I visited, but the daily smell of smoke was getting to me, and I asked to move into the basement apartment.

That apartment was not unknown to me, as I had lived there a brief period when I was 18-20 and going to junior college. It had a large living room, a very small bedroom, and an even smaller kitchen and bathroom. And I use the term “kitchen” loosely. When I was younger, the kitchen had a sink and a refrigerator. Moving back there, both of these items were gone.

Trying to make money in a poor, rural community is difficult. As a student at the local massage school, I got a student job in the bursar’s office. I was allowed to work a maximum of 10 hours a week, and I made $9 an hour. After taxes, that was about $300 a month. I had to pay for my classes, of course, and also gas for my car. My father allowed me to live in the apartment rent-free, since it would otherwise just stand empty.

Sometimes I try to think back on what I would eat on a day-to-day basis. When I first moved in with him, my dad provided me with every meal. But as I moved to the apartment and started school, I saw him less. In those days, I would have a granola bar for breakfast, a cup of free coffee at the bursar’s office sometime during the day, and whatever he made for dinner. I was hungry from skipping lunch every weekday, but there was no real suffering.

Eventually, we grew further apart as our lives went on. My dad met a woman and spent a lot of time with her, so there were no more prepared dinners most nights. I had a microwave in my apartment, so I started having microwaved popcorn almost every night. Remember, I had no sink, so I didn’t want anything that required dishes or utensils. Also, I had nowhere to store food that needed to be cold. So, I largely lived on granola bars and microwaved popcorn for two years of my life, and it wasn’t the worst that could have happened.

I remember being hungry all the time. A bag of microwaved popcorn is about 300 calories and a granola bar is about 150, so with the coffee, I was having about 500 calories a day, most days. As a comparison, I now eat about 1,100 calories a day, most days, and the average adult woman eats about twice that (2,000 according to Google). Of course, some happy days I did get other food. Sometimes my dad brought home a bucket of KFC. Sometimes I went to a friend’s house for dinner. Sometimes, when it was payday, I treated myself to a sandwich from the gas station when I filled up my car.

Let me be clear in saying that I did not have it all that bad. But what I do want to emphasize is that it is now many years later, and I still look back on that time of my life often and with a feeling of existential dread. I wanted to write about some things I do that help the situation and also alleviate my anxiety, but this post has gotten pretty long, so I’ll save that for next time.

Missing both my computer and imaginary friends

If you’re the type of person who likes unfocused, general blog posts, then you will love this one!

So, what’s going on with me? First, I don’t have a computer! That sucks for anyone in general, but if you are struggling to put out the last book in an urban fantasy series, it perhaps really sucks. It’s been over a month now, and I miss having a computer a great deal. However, I just started a new job after being home with the kids all summer (read: not making money), so while I’ll hopefully have one soon, it hasn’t been able to happen yet.

Another thing: I was in two regular RPGs, and now both are on hiatus. I know this shouldn’t seem like that jarring an occurrence, but these were two people who I was very close to, and I do miss them. This happened at around the same time when I finished writing the first draft of Fresh Blood, so I also had to say goodbye to my protagonist. And for those who weren’t clear from reading above, the people I am missing are the characters I played in the games.

Thing of change the third: My older son started attending kindergarten in a public school this fall. He had previously only attended a private pre-k at his daycare. For those who don’t have kids, daycare hardly ever closes. Public school is closed all the time, for holidays I would never have off from work. In addition, daycare gets out at 6pm. Public school gets out at 2:20pm. So it was a bit of an adjustment, to say the least, with a ton of scrambling for childcare. When both parents work outside the home (and in different boroughs) and both kids attending different schools, commuting can be very difficult.

IMG_0958

My son on the first day of kindergarten!

So in conclusion, there have been a lot of changes lately, and I am looking forward to having things calm down a bit, if that ever really happens.

First day of school blues

11149584_10207514855295196_4356469989593861709_n
All ready for school!
Today is my older son’s first day of kindergarten. When he was born almost five years ago, this day seemed so far away, but now, with seemingly no warning, it’s here. This day, and these last few months in general, have been somewhat of emotional roller coaster for me.
To make a long story into a somewhat shorter story, I was a stay-at-home mom for a few weeks this summer. Summer is usually a slow time for the work I do, and it seemed like a good time to try out my ideas of working less and being with family more. Did I enjoy it? Almost all of it, except for one big part. I worry about money all the time. It’s just my nature to do so. And that I wasn’t contributing to the household very much did upset me. So one day, I asked my older son if he wanted to go back to camp for the rest of the summer, and he said, “Yes, I really want to!”

Most kids like being around other kids. And while I took him to the playground every day, it obviously was not enough for him. Not everyone is like me and just wants to be left alone in the dark to read a book, after all (yes, this is something I enjoyed at age five). At that point, I realized it would probably better for both of us if I went back to work full time. I did feel some guilt with my just-turned-a-year-old son, who is going through horrible separation anxiety, and just wants to be with me all day. But I know that in a few weeks or months, he too will start playing with his daycare friends, and look forward to school.

And as for me, I’ve been at work for about three weeks now. I do genuinely enjoy editing, so that’s always a plus, to like what you do. The coworkers and boss are all as sane as you can get in the world of advertising, and as usual, the Diet Coke is free, so I can’t complain. The fact that I can go to the bathroom without anyone screaming for me and opening the door and place a hot cup of coffee on a table without worrying that someone will knock it over is just a bonus.

But today is my son’s first day of kindergarten and my first day off work, and as school gets out at the crazy time of 11:10, I am looking forward to taking my son out for a quality afternoon of movies and ice cream.

Doing less is sometimes more

Like many people who have their first child, I was in a hurry to sign mine up for a lot of classes. Even though he was in full-time daycare, he had to have soccer, music, or something else on the weekends. And even that wasn’t enough, because then we would also try to fit in plays, museums, and whatever else we felt was lacking. When I became pregnant with my second child, I was forced to slow down a bit. At the time, my older son was in a soccer class on Saturday mornings, but that was it. I was so pregnant and uncomfortable toward the end, that I maybe made it to every other class, if that.

soccer

My older son kicks a ball at soccer class while I have to stand in a field for an hour very uncomfortable during my eighth month of pregnancy. 

Now that my second child is almost a year old (where did the time go?), I realize that that soccer class last summer was the last one that my older son was in. We have been relatively busy, and with the getting ready and the travel, an hour-long soccer class could easily eat up three hours of time. And time is one commodity that is non-renewable.

The other thing is that there are weekends when I spend a lot of time and money running around to try to do everything, and in the process, feel like I’ve done nothing. Then, when I ask my son what about the weekend he enjoyed the most, he will almost always say, “Going to the park.” This is somewhat annoying to me because the park is free, you don’t really need advanced planning to go there, and it’s only three blocks away.

Generally I think I could have saved a bunch of time and money, and been more relaxed in general, had we actually planned to do less on the weekends and instead spent time just sitting around in the park. (That would be me and the baby sitting around, while the older one goes off and plays.) So this summer I am resolved to relax more and plan less! This is our last summer before the older child goes to school, and I want it to go by as slowly as possible please!

My actual dream is to open the very first sock puppet school

Supposedly, we learn from our mistakes. It just takes some of us a little longer than others. One of my (many) mistakes that I have done over (and over) again is go back to school. In (some year, a long time ago) I graduated Pace University with a Bachelor degree in literature and communications. Never being one to leave well enough alone, I decided only a few years later to go back to school for something else. After all, if one degree is good, two are better, right?

What did I go to school for? I don’t exactly remember. I did take a bunch of anatomy classes, which I enjoyed. I also took pottery, which I enjoyed somewhat less. There may have been business, which I didn’t enjoy at all. At one point, when my mom had just died, and I was not exactly in my right mind, I even quit my job to go to massage therapy school. Where did rational thinking come into play during this decision? It did not. How much, in general, do I enjoy touching people? I do not. It has been pointed out to me that when a person tries to hug me, I will pat their back once and then pull away. The only good thing about massage therapy school was that I was able to give all non-massage presentations by sock puppet theater.

Nevertheless, I went to massage therapy school for almost two years. Please take note that I said “almost two years.” How long is massage therapy school in New York? Two years. That’s right, I dropped out with about a month to go. I developed painful bursitis in my hands, and also was offered a job as managing editor of a medical journal. After that epic fail, I stopped thinking about school for a few years. I would like to say more than three, but in reality it was exactly three. This time, I applied to acupuncture school. Although that sounds like it’s really out there, it did use a lot of the classes and credits from massage school, so theoretically that time and money would not be totally lost.

I am happy to report, however, that even though I applied, interviewed, and was accepted into acupuncture school, I did not go. It was around that time that I decided, after not wanting anything to do with children the first 34 years of my life, that I did want a kid. So at that point I concentrated on getting pregnant and having my first son, and temporarily gave up on the idea of school.

A few years later, after my son was born and my first book was published, I realized I no longer had the desire to go back to school. It took me a bit to think about how these things are related, but they very much are. My job did not fulfill me as a person, and I was looking for something that did. For whatever reason, my thoughts always lay in academia rather than, say, world travel or volunteer work. But by publishing my first book, something I had wanted to do since I was in elementary school, I fulfilled my inner need to express myself and do something I love, and thus did not need to go back to school.

q229
My elementary school, PS 229 in Woodside, Queens. It was there that I first said I wanted to be a writer. And made sock puppets.