Lawrence Smith takes us through how life as the VP of Smart Break has been going while working from home with his 3 young children and a wife who's an essential worker.
By: Lawrence Smith
Me: Alright kids, I have a meeting in 15 minutes! That means I want the boys to go and play cars or Legos, or anything that will keep you in your room.
Me: Aksu, my princess, you are the oldest and I trust you will stay put in your room and also keep an eye on the other two wildcards and make sure they do not break anything?
Aksu: Ugh, fine.
Me: Yes, thank you!
If I only knew that would never work.
This was the first meeting I had in the COVID-19 era. Luckily, everyone was in the same boat. Turning either their living room, kitchen table, guest bedroom, or in my case a sauna room or takkahuone into their new home office set up. I have turned my tranquil space into a modern and cool little home office. I felt like after setting up and getting all my essential things from work, that I could hunker down and get stuff done! Easier said than done. As the first meeting was approaching, I felt I could handle this responsibility of being a homeschool teacher or daycare worker and also continue being a Smart Break Vice President and all the duties that follow. I was determined to make daddy daycare work while jumping on and off calls.
How did that first call go? It started great. Jumped on a conference/demo call to a new prospect that was curious about how Smart Break works and how it could work in the current climate. I have been pitching Smart Break for the last 3 years and I felt like this is going to be great. Soon after the call had started my oldest comes in and asks if they can watch something? Of course, she whispered because she is respectful and knew I was in a meeting. I told her in a gentle whisper “not now, go read.” At that moment, she looked like she turned 14, she is only 6. But she vanished, and I thought this was going to be a breeze.
Until not too much longer after that interaction I heard the boys yelling about something. The noise is very similar to being at a big sports event and you can hear yelling, but you can’t quite make out what words are being said, while also struggling to determine the tone. Are they yelling out of anger or happiness?
That is what I was now hearing in the hallway. Uh oh, it’s happening. All 3 entered into the takkahuone where I was conducting a beautiful pitch that was successfully painting a picture for the attendees of this Introduction to Smart Break. Then they proceeded to all yell and talk about what he or she did and who was slighted the most. Very embarrassing and the result was an awkward laugh to the web guests. I then proceeded to quietly scream in a whisper to these wild animals that took shape in the form of my children. After they were quieted down by Ms. Frizzle and her amazing magical school bus, I continued with my call and apologized for the interruption. Naturally they were understanding as they were dealing with the same situation at their home office.
After the conference call I took a minute to think about how I can make this situation better for the future. It wasn’t going to be easy. All across the globe companies were taking hits and people were finding themselves having to fill in for teachers and jobs that they are not usually being asked to do. Was this the new norm? And when this started, what were the thoughts for these kids? They were taken out of school and constantly being told to not touch this and wash that and no you cannot go see your friends. It was a shock for my kids to not being able to go out and about as we did regularly. We did have a talk with them about COVID and how dangerous it is for the people that get this, and we talked about the importance of washing hands and telling them about what we can or cannot do.
Over time, it felt like this was exhausting and there was no way I could do my duties for Smart Break in the same capacity as before. I could not do anything during the day, or at least when these kids were awake. So, I adapted along with the rest of the workers who's family is home. I decided that when these kids were awake, I would be present, but the moment their heads touched the pillow I would be off and running, getting things done before I fell asleep. Day after day this process became the routine. Zoom and teams’ meetings were being conducted on the phone so that I could be in a meeting and also on a bike ride with the kids. I was embracing this quality time with the kids, even if they were driving me mad.
We are now two months out from when the lockdown started, and things are slowly beginning to open back up. The kids are back in school. And throughout this whole process, my wife has been a trooper. She works in healthcare and has been working shift after shift. Her summer vacation was canceled, and she didn’t complain. She knew it was an unusual event and that she just put her head down and worked hard. I watch her and know that I can take care of the kids and tough it out for the next few months.
Fortunately, I can come out of this hectic two months with my job and my wife is still working and healthy so I can’t complain. But I have a new outlook on working from home. It is best when there are no kids around. Even though technology has been incredible, and we can teach the kids with programs and have these meetings with connections worldwide that would otherwise be a tough process.
The fact is that kids are selfish. They want attention all the time. One of those times was when I had a call with the board of a company and my son decides to be captain underpants on one of my conference calls. Funny for him and maybe for the onlookers to the show he was putting on fighting bad guys in his car’s underwear. Yes, he will regret these moments when he gets older and I can hold this over his head. Also, just to let all you at-home workers who are trying to potty train your 2-year-old, make sure he tries to potty before you start your meeting, so he doesn’t interrupt your call with a “daddy I peed myself again”. Funny but not a great look.
All of these moments have been the crux of many conversations in the last month and I just wanted to let everyone know that we are all in the same situation. At the end of the day at least we will have some good stories to tell.