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The Break Room: Tips For Parents Working From Home

A few helpful tips for parents pulling double duty

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This satirical column is part of our series The Break Room. Each column takes a humorous look at an aspect of the workplace. All the characters and scenes are fictional.

Well, it’s been at least a couple of weeks of being home for most of us, and if you haven’t made a note to hug every teacher you know as soon as this quarantine thing is over, go ahead and do that right now.

Because being home with kids is like having a couple of tiny, terrible roommates, but ones that you also have to feed 3 times a day (at least). They make messes, they get into stupid arguments, they’re always hogging the TV, and they have zero respect for when you need to get some actual work done.

If it’s any consolation, parents, we’re all in this thing together. And we’ve put together a few helpful tips that can prove useful as you work from home in the coming weeks.

Angle your webcam up. This way your coworkers will see your face, the tasteful artwork adorning your walls, and your nice, clean ceiling rather than the hellscape of blankets, toys, stuffed animals, couch cushions, snack wrappers, abandoned food items, and discarded clothing that covers your floor.

What’s that? There’s still a spaghetti stain on your ceiling from that “incident” a year ago? In that case either move to another location or try to angle it out of the frame of your camera. In the worst case scenario, you’ll have to make the judgment call as to whether your floor or your ceiling is less embarrassing.

Relax about screen time. When you’re cooped up, monitoring your kids’ screen time can feel like a constant struggle. But look, when you’ve been ordered to stay home, the rules have changed.

A few minutes (or hours) of extra screen time may be necessary to maintain you and your kids’ sanity. Besides, if you raise a healthy, successful kid, they’re going to end up spending 8-10 hours a day in front of a screen anyway. If you raise a really successful kid, it’ll probably be more like 14.

Tomorrow is another day. And it’s going to be nearly indistinguishable from this one.

Take advantage of the opportunity to show younger coworkers that you’re still cool. Got some really funky paintings? An amazing collection of vintage toys? A really sweet stereo system (kids love stereo systems)? Position your workstation so you have the chance to show them off to your coworkers, and potentially spark a conversation about your passions.

How about those electric guitars you have? Those are pretty cool. Make sure those youngsters know that’s a real Gibson, not some wannabe Epiphone Les Paul. Try not to think about the fact that the last time you picked it up was to play a Hendrix-esque rendition of Happy Birthday for your 8-year-old, or that your wife asked you to turn it down less than halfway through.

Also try not to get sad thinking about the fact that by the time you (and most people) could afford a nice guitar, you were too old to put it to any real use.

Cut yourself some slack. If you find yourself glancing at the liquor cabinet at 11 am, don’t beat yourself up. We’re living in a new bizarro reality where days of the week and hours of the day all seem to blend together. Is it morning? Night? Time to work? Time to drink? Who knows?

If around 3 pm you realize you haven’t showered today, and you don’t really see the point of showering this late in the day because, really, where are you going — don’t worry about it. Tomorrow is another day. And it’s going to be nearly indistinguishable from this one.

Remember to get plenty of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise. This can help alleviate stress and boost your overall mood. Since your local gym isn’t an option, try doing squats in your living room as you pick up the toys and clothes and snack wrappers. You can also try hurling trash cans from your yard into the street, punching a sheet of discarded plywood behind your garage, or raising your arms to the sky and screaming, “When will this end!? Wheeeeennnnn!!!????”

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