My coworker refuses to wear pants: working from home with a toddler

I have (thankfully, gratefully) been able to work from home since the middle of March due to COVID-19. My toddler, who was 17 months old when this started, has been with me every one of those days.

Working full time from home with a toddler has been a lot of things. It has been silly, like the other day when I tried to do a Zoom meeting from the front porch and had to chase my daughter down the sidewalk with my laptop in my arms. It has been sad, on days when I have felt like I’m letting down my kid and my job at the same time. But it has also been sweet, like watching her splash in the kiddie pool while I finish up newsletters on a sunny Friday afternoon.

I thought I would share some things I have learned from this silly, sad, sweet time of working from home with a toddler, in the hopes it may connect with or encourage or you, or even help you better understand your parent coworkers right now.

Silly
Normally I would dress up for work, grab Starbucks with my coworkers at breaks, and have conversations about adult things like immigration policy or reality TV.

These days I mostly wear clothes that can get peanut butter on them, and I have to code switch constantly from work mode to Mom mode and back again, often in a matter of seconds, all while remembering to put my microphone on mute.

I have learned to find humor in the interruptions, the squeals and fart noises my daughter contributes to conference calls. And I smile when I open my planner to find an abundance of scribbles across every spread from now until Christmas. What we’re doing is weird, and it’s okay to feel that.

Sad
There have been hard moments during this time. I have had deadlines I had to meet, and a screaming toddler I have ignored in the name of getting things done. I have let her watch longer episodes of TV than I would like, and gotten frustrated with her more than once.

For a long time I would apologize when my daughter would interrupt a conference call, or scramble and say “I’m so sorry” when she would scream over my contribution to a planning meeting. I felt unprofessional and embarrassed. But then I read articles like this one from Fatherly and felt empowered.

I am not embarrassed or sorry that I have a kid, and I am not embarrassed or sorry that I have a job. The two happen to be more intertwined than ever right now, and that’s okay. Since this realization, I have stopped apologizing, which has really helped my confidence. Plus, Rosie has gotten really good at Zoom.

Sweet
With all the strangeness of this COVID-19 season, we have appreciated the extra time at home and have seen how we can come together and help each other. We have received help from both of our parents, siblings, and others who have stepped in with childcare, plumbing assistance, and food deliveries to help us get through important meetings, a kitchen renovation and more. I have grown in my ability to ask for help when I need it, and to see strength in that rather than weakness.

I get to share a leisurely breakfast with my kid every morning before I open my laptop. Rosie creates homemade birthday cards as a conference call distraction and we mail them to friends. My coffee budget is almost down to zero. There is a lot to be thankful for.

I don’t know how much longer we will keep working like this. And it is still hard on some days. But when my daughter recognizes my coworkers’ faces on Zoom tomorrow morning and cheerfully greets them as part of the team, I’ll remember that she is part of the team — even if she doesn’t follow the dress code.