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A new kind of discovery: Working while parenting

Jermaine Haughton

Jermaine Haughton

The coronavirus has shaken the world in so many ways. Thousands of lives lost. Millions unemployed. Millions mandated to stay home except under exigent circumstances. There are few words left unused to describe the global pandemic we are experiencing. I will not pretend to have the answer. But I can only think about how strikingly different life was just a month ago!

When you get embedded into a routine, it’s almost as if you are blinded to the many other ways the world could be. There could actually be a time when all “nonessential” Americans are mandated to stay home for weeks at a time? There could actually be a time when working from home is the norm? There could actually be a time when all schools are shut down — and it’s not snowing outside? I personally didn’t see this coming, but obviously that time is now. And it feels bizarre.

To start things off, a month ago my 2-year-old was still in school, where he was under the care of teachers who appear specifically designed to handle tiny humans’ issues while their parents work. Those issues are now squarely on my wife’s and my shoulders as we try to remain focused, have conference calls between the screams, and get work done efficiently while issuing untold admonitions to behave (“stop” and “no” the most frequent). After all, for a toddler, throwing a football in the house or jumping all over daddy seems most appealing when daddy is in the middle of a call with an expert or responding to interrogatories. If you have ever had to explain to your small child that you can’t pick him up because you are drafting discovery responses, you can relate.

Work itself is not a problem. I have found a few things to be effective:

  • Waking up and going through the same routine each morning as I used to, so my body feels like that embedded routine is still in full swing.
  • Working from the same spot on the couch every day.
  • Having lunch at my “usual” time.
  • Sourcing ideas from many people on how to keep our toddler occupied while we work.
  • Working as if my boss is watching.

Even writing this post is surreal. I was in Georgia for a deposition when news broke about the first confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. If nothing else, this period will likely give me a new appreciation for “everyday life,” because a month ago these thoughts didn’t exist.

Jermaine Haughton, a medical malpractice attorney at Wais Vogelstein Forman & Offutt LLC, is a 2015 graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law. He can be reached at