Tales, tantrums & tears from the kitchen table…
Week 1 and there is a husband in my workspace. He has taken residence in my spot. What to do? Bold as you like, he’s spread all his books across the table and has buried his head in his laptop. Being the gracious soul that I am, I shuffle to the other side of the now pretty cramped kitchen table and start to ponder what the week ahead will bring. Many murderous thoughts, as it turns out. I was “ssshed” as I made my morning coffee. I was told off for playing music. I think at one point I may have breathed too loudly. He earned a glare in response. It’s going to be a long lockdown.
Week 2. I should have a PHD in patience by now. I’ve climbed down from the metaphorical ledge and I’m no longer contemplating harm to my husband of seven years, but I have concluded that our one-bedroom apartment is far too small for two people to reside in 24/7. Life is ticking by at an alarmingly slow pace and my concentration lags, hazily listening to lessons on quadratics and calculus, whilst staring blankly at my screen trying to get the words to come. Boredom sets in. The husband is rattling around frantically, and I start to wish there were more articles on how to cope with these office invaders at home. I really miss my spot.
Week 3 and I think he’s starting to get it. “Wait, so you work here ALL day?” Yes dear. This was my life long before lockdown. He starts to make me a cup of tea for elevenses. I put my headphones in, so he doesn’t have to listen to 90s pop on repeat. Compromise. He asks me if it’s OK to do live lessons and I assent, moving to a different place for 40 minutes. I’m allowed to make coffee. To be fair, it IS a noisy machine. Maybe I’m mellowing? Maybe this is ‘the new normal’? Screw that, nothing about this situation is normal!
As we enter Week 4, we have reached something of an understanding. He’s a lot quieter. I don’t nag as much. That’s probably the best we can hope for. It’s been a transition for me; I’ve always had my own routine, my own way of doing things. I’ve gone from feeling displaced and annoyed, to tolerating, and for the most part, accepting over the last few weeks. It’s still a work in progress.
With that in mind, here’s some tips from the frontline for anyone still in the ‘murderous thoughts’ phase of working at home with their partner…
- Respect each other’s work schedule: You will work at a different pace and at different times, but where possible, try to schedule comfort breaks together. We didn’t have this in place until week 4 and there were times when I physically wanted to shake him to elicit a response. Now, we’ve actually scheduled time to talk, we are a lot politer to one another. Read: we scream at each other less.
- Create boundaries: We have now divided up the workplace equally between us. Seriously, we used a ruler and everything, so neither of us dominates the space. If you have a bigger house, this will be much easier to achieve. Just go in separate rooms. Shut the door. And enjoy. I’m not jealous at all…
- Be more aware: I’d like to say that I was much more tolerant than my partner in the beginning, but I doubt he would agree. Whilst I was grappling with an invader to my working world, he was under an enormous amount of pressure to deliver an exceptional online learning experience. I’ll admit, I sulked. It took him working 15-hour days for me to become more aware of his challenges and to ease up a bit. He’s human too, I suppose.
By Laura Roberts
To find out more, follow Laura on Instagram @whatserenasaw