Eight months. That is how long it has been already since I started working at home because of the pandemic. Days had gone by rather quickly. It has been eight months as well since being with my family every day. Three months ago, I wrote about how we can be better at working from home when our family is also there. One of the things I mentioned was to give as much respect, patience and understanding to those who are living with us since they are essentially our current “officemates.”
However, over the past weeks, my patience towards my kids has been running thin. I glare at them whenever my video calls are being invaded; I nudge them out of my personal space whenever they try to climb all over me while I am working; and I am sometimes dismissive of their questions and concerns whenever they bring them up during my “work hours.” Every time I do that, their hearts break, and so does mine.
One of the reasons why an office can be a conducive place to work is that all the people there are there to work. At home, people are working on different levels of intensity, frequency and demand. There are different deadlines as well. This kind of situation will surely create misunderstandings, frustrations and annoyance.
I remember some 17 years ago, right after we passed our board exams, my then girlfriend had already started working while I was still a couple of weeks away from my first day at work. I had so much free time that I would call her once in the morning, another in the afternoon, then another at night. After doing this for a couple of days, I remembered how she would sound really annoyed in most of those calls. A few months ago, days before celebrating our 13th year of being married, she confessed that she was so annoyed at me during those days that she thought of calling it quits (we were just dating for two months then). She was annoyed that while she was very busy, I was not doing anything and worse, I was bothering her with my calls.
The same can be true with the people we are living with while we are currently working from home. The workload of my second daughter is much lighter as compared to her older sister. Our youngest daughter seldom has any schoolwork once her class ends. This creates a situation wherein those with much less work requirement will look for other things to do with whomever they see at home. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me, I am the most accessible to the two young girls based on my physical workspace at home. Maybe, it is because of the piling pressure from work or my patience running thin for the past several weeks, but recently I am easily annoyed whenever they will “bother” me. I see that as a problem I need to resolve.
I have read several tips for working parents on how to deal with kids at home. There are tips such as setting boundaries and rules with the kids, separating your professional from your parental role, be out of their sight to be out of their mind, and others. However, life at home, especially with kids, is fluid. Besides, like many others, our home is not big enough for a daily game of hide and seek.
In case you do set up those rules and boundaries, there will be everyday conditions and circumstances that will test the limits that you established. What if one of them is hiding underneath the table because they do not want to participate in their class; shall I not intervene because it is during my work hours? What if one of them needs my emotional support because they are frustrated with their groupmates in school, shall I ignore them until after my work is done? What if one needs my help with her homework, shall we wait for the weekend? What if I need a hug from them but they will not give me one because it is during my work hours, shall I make exceptions for me?
“But these things had been happening before when you were working in the office”, you might ask. Though that is true, the circumstances are different now: I am at home. I am at home with them while these things are happening. Shall I stick to the rules and pretend that I am not physically able to attend to their needs? I wonder how this set-up of being physically at home but not entirely available to your kids will affect them.
Setting up rules and separating your roles while working from home may have its merits. It will provide us with the space and time to accomplish our work responsibilities. Communicate these to your kids or to other housemates as often and as patiently as possible. However, you will most likely have several exceptions regarding this general rule and that should be fine. It will surely be hard and frustrating at times. At the end of the day, the people you are with daily are most likely the people that matter to you the most. Let us treat them as such.
Anton Ng is a partner of the Audit and Assurance Division of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory and outsourcing firms in the Philippines with 24 partners and more than 900 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @GrantThorntonPH, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit our website: www.grantthornton.com.ph
As published in The Manila Times, dated 11 November 2020