Over the past couple of weeks, many of us have felt the tension of doing our jobs well at home while having your child, a spouse, or even roommates barge into the new “office.” My husband and I have been navigating the awkwardness of both working from home in our one-bedroom apartment. We are constantly dodging one another’s video meetings as we try to continue with our own productivity. This is the new normal for many families around the world. And while a home office and educating kids brings countless distractions, what would it look like to consider this as a time of opportunity?
Families are finding themselves freed of after school activities, commutes of driving everyone around, and planning for how to squeeze in a quick family dinner in the midst of countless evening activities. With the sudden openness of schedules, I’ve been trying to intentionally reframe this time and redirect our felt (and real) inconveniences into new opportunities.
Here are six ways I'm working on being intentional with my family during this stay-at-home season.
The act of sitting down as a family and sharing a meal together isn’t nearly as common as it once was. Sixty years ago, the average family dinner lasted 90 minutes. Today, families spend less than 12 minutes together each evening. Before COVID-19, families were eating fewer meals at home in light of countless other activities. But studies show that families who share dinner together at least three times each week have better emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health.
While at the dinner table, have intentional conversation as a family. Check in with one another, and see how everyone is doing. Here are a few questions you could engage with:
Make family dinner a fun, bonding activity. Even if you have young children, invite them to help you in the kitchen. I remember baking cookies with my great-grandmother when I was younger. She would make the dough and I would roll it out, spilling flour all over the kitchen floor. I didn’t know what was going on in her life or the concerns on her mind; we were simply enjoying time together. She made my contribution feel important, and baking with her is a memory I will cherish forever.
In the U.S., the average one-way commute time is just over 27 minutes. With commuting no longer an option for many people, what can you do with that extra time? There may be a temptation to squeeze in a business meeting, or complete a lingering task. But what if you re-purposed that time toward your family? Think of this as an extra hour to give your spouse or your children.
Consider reading or praying together at the start and end of each day. Remember that while it may not feel "productive," your presence in your spouse or child’s life is invaluable. We are not designed to be productive all the time; God asks us to be with him, not do things for him. In the same way that God is present with us, be present with your family.
Without having commutes, my husband and I have found it difficult to know when to quit working for the day. When work is at home and home is where you work, the lines are easily blurred. We’ve found it helpful to “leave work” and go for a long walk, coming back “home” knowing that work is finished for the day. This physical practice helps us mentally make divisions between work and home.
If you’re finding it difficult to balance working and being home, try engaging a physical practice to rewire your brain at the end of a work day. If possible, close your office door or set a routine with your family to welcome you back “home.”
If there was ever a situation that needed a focus on prayer, now is that time. Pray for families who are experiencing deep emotional hurt during this time; pray for children who may be neglected at home; and pray that God would bring comfort and have mercy.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask for help for you or your family. No one is prepared to deal with the global crisis we are facing, and we all need help. Engage your community and ask for support where you need it
There are many families during this time where home is not a safe and easy place to live. People have high stress and unfortunately, these stressors can lead to abuse. Maintaining personal connection during this time is vital. Reach out to your neighbors and friends, asking how they are doing and how you can support them during this time. It may be a simple phone call, but sharing that you’re thinking of someone and are here for them might make all the difference.
You may be feeling the pressure to earn the “Best Parent/Spouse Ever” award, make nutritious meals that look like pictures from Pinterest, and teach your 5-year-old Mandarin.
Give yourself grace.
While this is a time we can be extra intentional with our families, don’t plan for perfection. Enjoy this journey of walking alongside your family in prayer, learning a new skill together, or simply asking intentional questions with one another. We are living in an unprecedented time and your children are looking to you for guidance and emotional support. Rest in God, direct yourself toward Truth, and be gentle with yourself, as Christ is gentle with you.
I’m still trying to put many of these ideas into practice, but I don’t want to miss the opportunity to build intentional practices that continue even after the COVID-19 craziness is over.
Olivia serves as Denver Institute’s development associate and 5280 Fellowship coordinator. Prior to joining DIFW, Olivia worked in technology sales, event planning, and nonprofit ministry. After living abroad in Italy, Olivia has a deep appreciation for a large scoop of gelato, a nice glass of Chianti, and experiencing other cultures. She graduated summa cum laude from Texas Christian University, holding a BBA in Marketing from the Neeley School of Business, and is pursuing her MA in Christian Formation & Soul Care from Denver Seminary.