Baton Rouge’s new norm: Working from home while schooling the kids

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For many local businesspeople, working from home while schooling the kids has become the new normal, particularly in recent days amid statewide efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, as Louisiana enters its first full day of shelter-in-place mode, tapping grandparents and others to babysit isn’t exactly an option. That leaves it up to working parents to ensure their children—whose schools are temporarily closed amid the outbreak—are tackling class assignments and keeping busy while also managing their own daily workloads, hoping the two can be achieved harmoniously.

“I researched a number of different schedules, and I made mine to where it fits for our household,” says Camille Manning-Broome, president and CEO of the Center for Planning Excellence, whose two sons also had an input in their schedule. “You end up working more because your home is now your office.”

Manning-Broome wakes up at 5 a.m. every morning so that she can write, review and edit content before 8 a.m., when she makes breakfast for her sons as they wake up. For 45 minutes, she takes a break as her sons (ages 6 and 8) make their beds, get dressed and brush their teeth, and then has them read for an hour as she hops on her first daily conference call from 9-10 a.m.

From 10 a.m. until noon, her children complete school assignments via Google Classroom while she conducts Zoom meetings and conference calls—which she tries to wrap up by 3 p.m. so she can spend the rest of the day with her sons outside. But then she’s back to working later at night.

Still, Manning-Broome recognizes she’s privileged. She says she’s fortunate to be able to run an organization with a flexible culture—which, in turn, allows her to make her sons’ schedules extremely structured. She’s also had a babysitter to help look after her kids, but the sitter moved out today; now, Manning-Broome and her husband plan to split their homeschooling and working duties in half.

Divvying up these responsibilities is becoming increasingly commonplace, though 50/50 arrangements aren’t always easy to come by. During hard economic times, most of the duties tend to disproportionately fall on women, as decisions must be made and men are typically the higher wage-earners.

“It’s probably 90/10 for us, to be perfectly honest,” says Emergent Method founder and president Nick Speyrer, adding his wife, Abbie, takes on the lion’s share of overseeing homeschooling for his two daughters, ages 8 and 10. “But we try to make sure we know what each other’s schedules are. Sometimes, we tag team it—we want at least one of us to be with them.”

Regardless, Speyrer says everything ends up on their Outlook calendars, noting that maintaining structure and setting expectations is key. He and Abbie, who works for Fig & Dove in a job that allows her to be flexible, essentially re-created their daughters’ school schedules, which begins with a roughly 30-minute morning prayer and includes meals, classwork at the dining room table, arts and crafts, some screen time and outdoor activities. Speyrer usually joins them for the morning prayer and meals, sometimes trading off the afternoon activities with Abbie.

Like Manning-Broome, he realizes he’s lucky to run a company where flexibility and family are ingrained in the organizational culture; last Friday, for instance, Speyrer held a virtual happy hour with his staff and invited employees’ children to join in the video chat. Having a dedicated home office space is also a perk, he says.

Setting work-life boundaries is especially important now, agrees Cody Coumes, a strategist with ThreeSixtyEight, whose nearly 2-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter know not to knock on his door until he’s finished with phone calls and video chats around noon.

“I started waking up earlier so that I get more family time,” Coumes says. “The kids know as soon as 5 p.m. rolls around, I’m ‘home.’”

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