The week that various states, including mine, started to go into their respective versions of Safer at Home, a lot of my friends started posting links to Canva templates for beautiful, organized, color-coded daily schedules to help them organize their days with work and chores and homeschooling.
This is a textbook case of "it takes all kinds," because personally, I looked at those schedules and thought of myself and laughed and LAUGHED and laughed and kept a-swipin'.
As a person who works from home all the time and not just during Armageddon, I knew right away that a super-structured daily routine would only create stress for me and my family. Still, over the past ten weeks, we've managed to settle into a sort-of routine that almost kind of works for us.
Between 5:30 and 6 a.m. each day, we are gently awakened by the dulcet tones of our three-year-old standing at the crack of his bedroom door and shouting "MAMA. MAMA. MAMA" in a steady and unrelenting rhythm. This charming, musical alarm can be slightly dampened by one of the many pillows on our bed, but only for so long.
Sometime around 7 a.m., his sister takes pity on him and climbs on a chair to release the Door Monkey that keeps him safely contained in his pen — I'm sorry, bedroom — during the night. If we've remembered to clear off the dining room table and get it set up the night before, they pour themselves bowls of Cheerios and do some kind of activity until we emerge. In reality, most mornings they scavenge something from the kitchen — yesterday it was a bag of shredded cheese — and find a tablet to do "educational" activities on until we've made coffee.
Next comes the fun part of the day: Trying to do work and manage kids at the same time. This is such a fantastic cakewalk that we're considering homeschooling forever just because.
Our mornings are basically a patchwork quilt of Whose Turn Is It To Manage The Children. Neither of us is doing much videoconferencing (the benefits of already being full-time work-from-homers), but my work frequently requires interviewing people over the phone, and Seth records a bunch of podcasts every week, so we do a lot of tagging in and out until after lunch, when we send the little one to take a "nap" that is often just him rolling around his bedroom throwing books on the floor while his sister is parented by her real mother, the television.
OK, that's an exaggeration. They play outside a lot, and we go for walks around the neighborhood, and we've got all the toys and Play-Doh and puzzles and art supplies and kinetic sand in the entire world. And at 11 a.m. every weekday, we have a ukulele lesson (or rather, Reilly has a ukulele lesson while her brother runs around trying to tell stories to my mom, who joins our lessons via Houseparty).
I can't tell you the number of times we've congratulated ourselves on picking a Waldorf school for Reilly's kindergarten. Her take-home curriculum has consisted of a handful of craft projects, some stories and songs, recipes for wholesome snacks, and a checklist for reporting how much time she spends every day doing things like "cleaning up," "running, jumping and skipping," and "digging." If we had to fit in virtual class sessions and actual homework on top of everything else, this newsletter would have a lot more crying in it.
Late afternoons are the hardest, because that's usually when I'm trying to finish whatever work I was too distracted to get done in the morning, while the kids watch "Moana" for the third time and Seth starts the three-hour process of talking about thinking about wondering about making dinner. He's been making a lot of the meals lately, which is fine with me because I'm still recovering from the time he moved to Milwaukee and left me at home with a preschooler and a newborn (and a full-time job and a cobbled-together childcare arrangement) for weeks at a time.
We usually eat dinner about 6 p.m., somehow, unless it's later or we're really giving up and it's earlier (not gonna lie, sometimes breakfast is snacks and lunch is breakfast and dinner is at 4 p.m.), and then it's time for the kids to get ready for bed, before which they have theoretically cleaned up the playroom. Have they? Maybe. Maybe they didn't get that many things out. Maybe it's easier to just do it myself. Maybe it gets left for tomorrow.
"My workday ends at dinnertime" is a lie I tell myself to get through the day, because as soon as the kids are in bed I usually have two or twelve things to finish up that I was too scattered to complete during normal working hours (which don't really exist for me, anyway; it's a hazard of working for yourself and having clients in three different time zones). At 8:30 p.m. I begin getting ready for bed, a two-to-four-hour process that involves watching old episodes of "Below Deck," eating the dinner that I didn't finish at dinnertime because Bruce was too crazy and had to go to bed midway through the meal, thinking about washing my face, looking for clean pajamas, and worrying about how tired I'm going to be tomorrow because I didn't get to bed on time.
The rest of the day we fill in with all the other things that need to get done: Ordering groceries online, farming Animal Crossing flowers (I have some nice hybrids popping up), trying to remember to exercise, hand lettering practice, reading the news while chewing Tums, popping Excedrin, playing guitar, forgetting to shower, sweeping, and tripping over toys.
I suppose I could come up with a color-coded schedule to structure all of this, but truth be told, it'd look something like this:
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm running late for my regularly scheduled seltzer-and-existential-dread break.