5 Things I've Learned From My Daughter While Working at Home

In many ways, I've changed for the better

There's nothing easy about this pandemic for anyone. So let me start by saying that my circumstances, while challenging for my wife and me, hardly compare to the plight of those on the frontlines fighting the good fight, from truck drivers to nurses to doctors to the folks working the checkout. We're also lucky our daughter, Edie, is too young to be studying complicated subjects. From what I've heard, being a stay-at-home teacher is especially hard. Apparently math changed? I always thought it was a constant.

That said, balancing being a dad, a husband and the CEO of a small, independent business has created something of a recurring epiphany for me, one I think many parents are having. So allow me to focus on the positive things Edie has taught me during this strange, strange time—things I hope I adapt to my work habits permanently.

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.

It's incredibly grounding to see how simple things can be so delightful to a child. My daughter has two primary breakfast options (by popular demand of her): Option 1 is a yogurt pouch. Pretty self-contained. Option 2 is either scrambled eggs or a cheese omelette, so I suppose that's 2a and 2b. When I cook, she watches with fascination and gets visibly excited. I used to head to the office on coffee and a prayer, blood pressure rising on approach. Now I take the time to have a bite with my wife and little lady. It sets the tone for a calmer, more empathetic day. Maybe I've been hangry all along?

It's OK to take a break.

If you had asked me the percentage likelihood that I'd be interspersing video conferences with my team, chatting with bankers to make sure we maintain a solid foundation, and calling up clients with ... building blocks and coloring, I would have said 0 percent. But here we are. While I don't think I'll carry these exact practices with me when we do return to our offices, I can say that injecting important and high-pressure meetings with doses of levity makes it hard not to take an optimistic tone to your next "professional" conversation.

Get some fresh air.

At first we tried to get out with the stroller, but we quickly remembered babies love to touch everything. Luckily we have access to the roof of our building. This has become our go-to safe space to take in the outdoors without the germs. We even bought two bird feeders for our fire escape, so we have new and very musical neighbors. Before this WFH lifestyle, my time walking outside at work was utilitarian: get food, get more coffee, walk and talk West Wing style to have a meeting between meetings. Now I literally listen to the birds sing.

Take time to get dressed at least 50 percent.

It's important to have routine. Every "How to work from home effectively" article prior to that being our collective new normal told us so. But watch a baby get bathed and put on an outfit. It's grounding. I've taken to wearing semi-formal top and casual pants. It allows more fluid movement between watching a little TV, stopping my daughter from touching the single cactus we have in our home, and getting on a call to discuss a particular P&L. Formal pants ARE required for running errands.

Good work takes good play.

I would say I'm a relatively serious person at work. I always have been. I'm conscious of my time, and I try to use it efficiently. As little waste as possible. To some, that has made me a serious-seeming CEO and co-founder. Rightfully. I've reserved my more playful side for friends and family. After hours. But now that I have to break up my work schedule with a play schedule, it's hard not to feel a lightness of being, even in these very heavy times. In fact, I think this whole experience, being closer to family while thinking about the safety of my work family, has made me a more open and accessible leader. Why do meetings have to be so serious anyway?

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David Eisenman
David Eisman is co-founder and CEO of Madwell.

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