From our founder and mama of three, Nicole Centeno:

In mid-March my husband, Henry, and I decided to leave our two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn and take our newborn and two boys to my parents’ house in Massachusetts. We would ride out COVID-19 with the help of my parents and a backyard (serious luxuries coming from NYC living!).

I was conflicted about leaving my city and a number of Splendid Spoon team members, but knew it was the right move for my family; and the big things that motivated us to leave are still what keep us grounded now. Amidst the masked grocery runs, rotating shower schedules, rambunctious homeschool sessions, and 2 AM feedings, I also have an adult for each child during the day, a backyard with trees, and a family that cares. I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful.

As is the case with all change though, it’s been a transition, and the devil is in the details. Below is an overview of my shelter-in experience so far.

The scene:

The house I grew up in with my parents and sister is a cozy 3-bedroom in suburban Massachusetts. It was just-right for a family of four, and it’s been a great weekend getaway from the city over the years. The quarantine headcount in the Centeno household is now seven, so the first detail we considered was physical space. Henry and I wanted to have a separate work area so we made my sister’s old room our ‘office’ and chose to sleep with the kids in my old room. Henry, newborn Charlotte and I in the big bed, and Grover and Caleb a stone’s throw away in twin beds. As I said to Henry on our drive up to MA (with whom I eloped back in December), “This will be the first real test of our marriage.”

The rules:

Quarantine rules, that is. Henry and I were coming from one of the epicenters of the virus in NYC, and I was worried about my dad getting sick as he is on several prescription medications for asthma. We followed the 14 day suggestion: keeping distance from each other (or as best you can in a six-room house with seven people), and over-washed dishes, hands, towels, and clothes.

The social distancing rules have been trickier to navigate. My parents, and my mom especially, are incredibly social. She has daily walks with various friends and does not care for online shopping (preferring in-person interactions at local shops where she’s bound to bump into someone and befriend the sales clerk). I found myself spying on my mom through the window as she continued her walks, neighborly chats, and greetings to the mail service at a distance. Could the friendliest woman on the block really stay 6 feet away from her many buddies?

When our neighbor dropped off a beautiful homemade cake, I secretly googled whether Coronavirus could survive on buttercream frosting (only if inhaled, which didn’t seem totally out of the realm of possibility). Grocery shopping went almost entirely to Insta Cart (and Splendid Spoon), and essential runs to the store have been delegated to the lowest risk person in the house: Henry.

We had to have a family meeting after a miscommunication about a trip to a Wendy’s drive thru (mom loves their chili), and she still bemoans her lack of control when it comes to the best grapes, tomatoes and roasting chickens, but we’ve largely maintained quarantine law and order.

WFH Phase 1: Fail Fast

Working from home, which quickly became working-and-schooling-from-home, has been...stressful. Pre-Corona, I had just given birth to my third child and the business was in the midst of a capital raise: my goal was to work about an hour a day on an adjusted maternity schedule. Post-Corona, that schedule became obsolete: I had a newborn on my boob every hour, I overcommitted to work responsibilities as I scrambled to understand the changing market, and there was a different remote classroom to log into every few hours, plus new material piling up for my 5 and 6 year old boys.

My mom is a retired school teacher (a huge win), but she needed guidance and it wasn’t possible for her to teach two kids at different levels at the same time. I couldn’t get more than 45 min of uninterrupted work time to save my life. I struggled to keep up with communications from the school, I struggled to give my mom the direction she needed, I struggled to give attention to the boys while settling into newborn feeding and sleeping routines (aka newborn chaos) and I struggled with my self-esteem. When I tried to focus on one realm, another one seemed to suffer. In a conversation with my COO I explained, “I feel like a loser.”

WFH Phase 2: SOS

After a week of this I realized that trying to respond in real time to everyone’s needs was definitely not working. Instead, I took advantage of our nightly dinners to discuss what could go better each day. Then I made schedules for the most dependent members of the household: me, Grover, Caleb and Charlotte, I rounded up the people we depended on: Mom, Dad and Henry, and made sure they all knew what was needed from them to get the dependents across the line each day. I want to emphasize how important it was for me to acknowledge my dependence on this system to actually get some work done.

I bow down to all the working parents out there right now, most of whom do not have the same support system that I do. And I bow down to all the educators out there -- I’ve always valued the importance of education but I certainly took for granted just how much I depend on these talented teachers and administrators for my own time management and productivity.

WFH Phase 3: Lowering the Bar

The other critical piece of the WFH puzzle has been adjusting my own expectations. I may want to spend 4 uninterrupted hours on a work project each day and be the mom who checks off every assignment on time for two kids while simultaneously lulling a cranky newborn to sleep and being a cheerful, well-rested mate to my partner and maintaining inbox zero...but that is not who I am in this quarantine world, or any world for that matter. I’d need a 72 hour day to be that person. For now, I spend half the day helping with home school with short breaks to feed Charlotte. I take 1-2 meetings in the afternoon and spend a few hours on project-work, and then I shut down for probably the most valuable 90 minutes of the entire day: family dinner.

You know what else has helped? Ending most days with a glorious beer in a frosty mug or a cup of steaming tea and a piece of whatever sweet treat our neighbor has left on the front step.

Looking for more tips to stay on track while in quarantine? Check out our blog on Navigating Our New Normal and our Keep Calm Guide.

Questions? Send us an email at [email protected].