Lifelines and Advice from WFH Moms for WFH Moms

Lindsay Atkinson

Small Business,
Millennial Moms

Work from home (WFH) moms are managing their careers, facilitating virtual learning and some days, choosing to put on jeans (or "hard pants") to get themselves ready for another fun day of adventures around their homes.

Milwaukee-area moms share the best and worst aspects of the new realities and their "lifelines" and self-care strategies for staying healthy and sane.

Jamie Andrzejewski
Founder & Owner of Nourish Natural Products
Mom of Emma (8)

What are the best aspects of working from home with children? 
My daughter used to be a devoted "Daddy's Girl." She's still incredibly close with Scott, but Emma and I have significantly deepened our relationship over the past few months because we're spending so much more time together. Emma is eight and is really curious about developing as a woman. She's excited about the changes that are coming and has total body confidence. I suffered from an eating disorder and had body image issues growing up, and let's be honest, I still struggle with some of those same issues today. Emma's self-love is infectious and inspiring! She's teaching me that you really, truly don't have to have a perfect body to love it!

What are the worst or most stressful aspects? 
My husband and I are both working full-time (thankfully), and our daughter is an only child. She has definitely experienced her fair share of boredom. I keep reminding myself that boredom boosts creativity and imagination. My family had a talk with me about my tendency to "over-promise and under-deliver" because I want to help do all things for all people. My daughter shared that I've been disappointing her with my lack of follow-through. Ouch!

I'm so grateful they brought this to my attention because the number of things I was committing myself to was overwhelming. I'm slowly learning how to say "no," and reminding myself that my value does not come from the number of things I do for others. #RecoveringPeoplePleaser

What resources (online or offline) have been helpful or saving graces?

  • Milwaukee With Kids (@mkewithkids) - Calie (Milwaukee with Kids Founder) is doing an amazing job compiling weekly comprehensive listings of Local & National Virtual Events that are both educational and fun!
  • YouTube - Emma has learned how to make a dozen different types of slime. Although VERY messy, Emma experiments with how different substrates cause different reactions. She's truly a Slime Scientist!
  • Makeup - We don't allow Emma to wear makeup to school, but she's having so much fun experimenting with it at home. (Clean & natural makeup, of course!) She's an artist to the core, and is loving this new creative expression!
  • Shark Tank - Emma is a young entrepreneur. She loves learning about business principles and talking through how to apply them to her aspiring business.

What little luxuries are you loving (inexpensive or free things that bring you joy)? 

  • Virtual Yoga Classes with Empower Yoga Milwaukee and Abliss Yoga
  • Meals from Simple Eats MKE (meal delivery service) - vegan, gluten-free deliciousness!
  • Audible
  • Insight Timer Guided Meditations
  • Working from my deck under blue skies and sunshine!
  • Walking and rollerblading over the lunch hour with my family!

What helpful hacks (changes to routine, phrases, tools) are helping you manage to parent and working from home?

  • We are realistic in managing our virtual learning expectations.
  • I love the quote, "You find what you're looking for, so look for the good."
  • I'm not an overly-structured person, which in times like this, has worked to my advantage. I'm highly adaptable and fluid. I've been able to successfully pivot because I'm not tied to a certain way of doing things.

Melissa Hoppe
Executive Assistant at Brainchild Studios
Mom of Brooklyn (6), Lucy (4), and Theo (2)

What are the best aspects of working from home with children?
The best aspects of working from home with the kids have been the extra time together. Eliminating the usual morning rush to get out the door has allowed us all to ease into the morning organically and lazily if we want. We always talked about slowing down and being more present with our children and quarantine has absolutely helped with that. I also love being able to have a flexible schedule! We are more regimented in the morning with school but in the afternoons we go with the flow.

What are the worst or most stressful aspects?
How long do you have? I kid! (But not really.) I’ll just mention my top three.

  1. Balancing work time, personal time, parenting time, teacher time. Yes, I know I was just singing the praises of our extra time together, but sometimes that time looks differently than I wish it did! Occupying the kids is pretty much a full-time job and alone time has gone out the window. Usually, when I finally sit down to myself I’m just exhausted!
  2. Homeschooling. Thank you to all the teachers out there! You are amazing and really special people. I, on the other hand, am not cut out to be a teacher. We are doing it and I do feel like they are learning, so that’s great. But, that doesn’t mean it’s been easy.
  3. Feeding the herd. I feel better when my kids eat well-balanced meals, but those take some time to plan and execute. Oh and I forgot to mention the biggest stressor of all: having a two-year-old running around like a crazy person.

What resources have been helpful or saving graces?
Kahn Academy Kids, Epicbooks, All Day Primary, typing.com, Dreambox, and of course Zoom calls with friends have all been incredible!

Also, having the girls prep food. We love these knives and they have been prepping fruit and vegetables every week.

What little luxuries are you loving (inexpensive or free things that bring you joy)? 

OREOS! They helping me through the days. To help combat the Oreos, I’m also loving the free Instagram workouts provided by Phil Fit and The Quarantine Crew. Check them out!

What helpful hacks (changes to routine, phrases, tools) are helping you manage to parent and working from home?

Having a ton of workbooks on hand for the girls to choose from. Taking breaks from schoolwork so they can have some free time and I can have time to myself. After they play for a while, it's easier for them to focus on a school activity. Legos have also been awesome and take up a lot of their time. I’ve also found it extremely helpful to involve them in my chores/schedule. This includes laundry, trash, dishes, yard work, and working out. Sometimes they’ll even join my workout!

Theresa Nemetz
Founder & Chief Experience Officer,
Milwaukee Food & City Tours
Mom of Enzo (6) and Rose (3) (aka, Directors of Work/Life Balance) 

What are the best aspects of working from home with children?
My mom used to say that she wished she could be a "fly on the wall" and see what I was doing at school all day. With my children at home, I get exactly that view on a daily basis. Shared lunches and random hugs are a benefit of working from home with children.

What are the worst or most stressful aspects?
When I left my traditional office job, I left to work from home on my business while my child would be watched by an in-home nanny, I recall a colleague telling me on my last day, "Just remember this - locking yourself in the bedroom closet is the quietest place in the house when you need to take a conference call." You know what? She was right!

What resources have been helpful or saving graces? 
Online Facebook groups for moms such as KidsCycle, Social Distancing with Kiddos, and Quarantine Moms. Also, Muzzy BBC, OutSchool and Khan Academy which are tools that we plan to use even post-pandemic and during the summertime.

What little luxuries are you loving (inexpensive or free things that bring you joy)?
Sleep!

What helpful hacks (changes to routine, phrases, tools) are helping you manage to parent and working from home?
As soon as my children are asleep at 8:00 p.m., I myself go to sleep. I still get in a solid night of rest and then wake up at dawn to get in a few hours of quiet emails before they wake up. I've found it is far better to have a solid night of sleep than to stay up late trying to do emails.

Emily Strozinksy
Art Director & Lead Designer at Brainchild Studios
Mom of Henry (2) 

What are the best aspects of working from home with children?
I love being there for the little moments that I'd normally miss throughout the day (like getting him after naps, which is his most adorable chatty time of the day), or taking him on a quick walk around the neighborhood when I need a break from work. Spending time with a toddler is sure to clear your head of work thoughts, which is sometimes a wonderful distraction.

What are the worst or most stressful aspects? 

"Needy" days, or days when nothing will keep them occupied other than your attention, are rough. Having him not understand why mom can't close her computer is tricky to explain, and brings on serious parent guilt.

What resources have been helpful or saving graces?
Being able to go outside has saved our routine the past few weeks. The backyard has introduced so many new activities! The sandbox, sprinkler, chalk, hide and seek, etc. Screen time has definitely gone up indoors, but he's into Planet Earth so I'm not melting his brain too much, right?!
What little luxuries are you loving (inexpensive or free things that bring you joy)?
We've entered a Play-Doh phase, and also a baking-with-mom phase, both of which have been inexpensive new experiences for him.
What helpful hacks (changes to routine, phrases, tools) are helping you manage to parent and working from home?
Realizing that he can be involved in the activities I thought needed to be done while he was at daycare, like working out. He gets excited to put on a sweat headband and sit on the couch and watch me exercise, ha!

Maggie Joos
Owner of The Real Good Life 
Mom of Malorie (6) and Charlotte (4) 

What are the best aspects of working from home with children?
I love that I can/need to work outside and watch my girls play. What a luxury! Also, it’s fun taking a mid-day break to go for a walk. I often work from home normally and tell myself I should do that. I never have made that a habit before they were here to entertain.

What are the worst or most stressful aspects?
No alone time! It’s so hard to do tasks that need real focus when I have everyone here. Even if they are napping or playing outside, somehow their presence makes it impossible to write or do strategic thinking.

What resources (online or offline) have been helpful or saving graces?
I can’t lie - YouTube has probably been the most helpful resource! Somehow my girls got down a rabbit hole where all the cartoons are in Japanese. They don’t seem to mind, so I’m trying to tell myself it’s a learning activity if My Little Ponies is in another language.

We fight over who gets the Spotify account. They love all the kid music. I love classical or coffee house playlists to pretend I’m still a grown-up doing grown-up things. 

What little luxuries are you loving (inexpensive or free things that bring you joy)?
Most recently the Zyn Curcumin-Infused drinks are giving me life! They taste amazing, have minimal sugar, and give you a healthy dose of curcumin, the medicinally magical part of turmeric. Even better, they are owned by two local gentlemen! It’s the perfect warm-weather afternoon pick me up.

I’ve found doing some sort of exercise for 30 minutes each day is the best thing I can do for my mental health so I’ve jumped aboard the Peloton train. When my gym closed at the start of COVID, I did a tour of all of the online options and found Peleton to be the best. Even though I don’t do spin, there are a  biggilion-and-one classes I can take. In addition to making me sweat, they have such a positive message that comes through all of their instructors. My husband used the stay at home order to turn part of our basement into a gym, so we were able to cancel our gym memberships. Woo!

What helpful hacks (changes to routine, phrases, tools) are helping you manage to parent and working from home?
As with everyone else, our schedule really didn’t have that much to change once school let out. It was relatively loose as it was. That said, we are keeping whatever kind of routine we can. Snacks at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. lunch at 11:30 a.m. nap/rest from 2-4 p.m. This gives us milestones throughout the day to work towards (slash threaten against as needed).

Lindsay Atkinson
Account and Business Development Director
Mom of Ingrid (8) and Louie (4) 

What are the best aspects of working from home with children?
Prior to working from home with my children around, I missed a lot of everyday moments with my kids. From walking to and from school to packing lunches, most of this responsibility fell to my husband who has always worked from home. When we were all forced to be at home together, several of my wishes came true - all at once. We now have time together as a family unit, our mornings are not rushed and midday school pickup no longer disrupts the flow of our afternoons. I love witnessing my son absorbing information and seeing my daughter find new ways to manage her time. We like to start and end the work/school day with family walks. These have been a nice way to purposefully connect.

What are the worst or most stressful aspects? 
The best aspect is also the worst - we're together all of the time. Days and weeks blend together and it's hard for me to blend the two worlds of motherhood and career all under one roof.

What resources (online or offline) have been helpful or saving graces?
Bike rides with the kids have been a lifesaver. My son is four and loves riding behind us on his tagalong bike. My kids love KiwiCo (STEM, STEAM and science kits), playing with sidewalk chalk, and helping to water the plants. I love that these simple household chores are now (semi) exciting activities in our day.

What little luxuries are you loving (inexpensive or free things that bring you joy)? 
I've loved ordering treats from Rocket Baby Bakery and Cranky Als. I've tried to stay active through Barre Milwaukee offers free classes and love supporting Tosa Yoga. Requesting books from our library has been very easy and again, another "exciting" errand!

What helpful hacks (changes to routine, phrases, tools) are helping you manage to parent and working from home?
I'm now working, working out, and sleeping in my bedroom. So investing in a real desk, decor and furniture have been helpful to ensure my space reflects my style and fits the growing needs of this multi-purpose room. I've created creating transitions throughout the day to help to create space between work, working out, and sleeping. Using my calendar to block my time has been very helpful. This has helped me to stay accountable!

We'd love to hear from you! How are you managing to work from home with children? What little luxuries are you loving? 

Lindsay Account and Business Development Director

Lindsay is the Account and Business Development Director for Brainchild Studios, a boutique digital content marketing and website creation agency. Brainchild Studios primarily serving brands targeting millennial moms and nonprofits supporting women and children. Lindsay has been a champion for brands and businesses for over 14 years with experience in marketing, brand strategy and account management. She is a member of TEMPO Emerging Women Leaders, a group of community-minded, change-makers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She's also a mom of two and yoga teacher. With her experience in marketing, motherhood and yoga, Lindsay brings a balanced approach to support clients and projects.

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