#WFH Diaries: Tara Robinson of The Richards Group
As quarantines continue across much of the world, we're checking in with creative people to see how they're handling the ongoing WFH situation. Below, we chat with Tara Robinson, copywriter at The Richards Group in Dallas.
Give us a one-line bio of yourself.
Richards Group copywriter. Wife and mother of two kids under 2. I am a very imperfect follower of Christ and an equally imperfect seamstress in my spare time. Back when I had spare time. Sorry, that's more than one line. I guess I'm also a rule-breaker.
Where are you living right now, and who's with you?
We (my husband, our 19-month-old son, our 4-month-old son, and our 13-year-old cat) have hunkered down in our two-bedroom house in East Dallas. Luckily, we've managed to almost double the square footage of our living space by spending several hours each day in our front and backyards. If you have to endure a pandemic with two infants, you couldn't ask for a better climate than Texas in the spring.
What's your work situation like at the moment, and how is it evolving?
My second son was born Dec. 26, 2019, so I spent the first 12 weeks of 2020 on parental leave. My scheduled return-to-agency date fell on the day our office closed due to Covid-19. I'm still processing the bizarre reality of rejoining the workforce virtually. Mostly, life is moving too quickly for me to notice how weird it is to be writing full-time while parenting two kids full-time alongside my husband, who is also a full-time WFH'er now, as well as full-time parent.
Agency wise, every day feels like a game of pinball because we are working against so many hypotheticals in terms of staffing, fees, production budgets, media buys and shelter-in-place regulations. The upside is that there's a lot of white space in this new world of uncertain-everything because there are so many new consumer challenges to be met.
Describe your socializing strategy.
This bubble machine. The neighbor kids flock to pop the bubbles from a socially responsible distance as my 1-year-old yells incoherent greetings (invitations? exhortations?) their way.
Daily family walks. We've met lots of new people during this 1950s-esque existence where everybody is out jumping rope, playing sidewalk chalk hopscotch, riding bikes, and front-porch sitting. We even have a neighborhood art wall. Very East Dallas.
Car parades. So far, the kids and I have participated in cheer-filled caravans at nursing homes, for a 2-year-old's birthday party, and for a socially distanced baby shower. I'm getting really good at decorating my car. The bubble machine comes in handy for this.
How are you dealing with childcare?
My husband and I developed a work custody schedule.
Me: 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Him: 9 a.m. to noon
Both: Noon to 2:30 p.m. (during naptime—when/if it happens)
Both: 8 p.m. to 1 or 2 a.m.-ish.
We have a rule that if one of us has a call or immovable meeting during the other's scheduled work time, we have to barter some of our allocated work hours in exchange. This arrangement works pretty well. But both children still manage to sneak onto our Zoom calls with shrieks and shenanigans at least once a week.
What are you reading?
You mean in addition to Goodnight Moon, Little Blue Truck, and The Pout Pout Fish? I just finished my sixth Liane Moriarty novel and am now in the beginning pages of The Dutch House by Anne Patchett. I read every night to put myself to sleep. You'd think it would be easy to pass out after such long days with so much going on, but it takes a good bit for me to turn off my work brain.
What are you watching?
I only watch TV if I'm folding laundry, but my current go-tos are Never Have I Ever (Mindy Kaling's new Netflix show) and My Brilliant Friend on HBO. It's taking forever to get through My Brilliant Friend because it's all subtitled, and it's surprisingly hard to read subtitles while folding baby onesies.
What are you listening to?
Lots of streaming home concerts in lieu of the actual shows we'd booked tickets to attend.
How are you staying fit?
I tried to do an Exhale on Demand workout about a month ago, but only made it five minutes in before my older son rendered it impossible because he assumed my jumping and reaching were intended as a silly game for him. Later that day, my muscles were so sore, I seriously thought I had contracted coronavirus. Since then, I've returned to simply lifting 12- and 25-pound weights (my kids) throughout the day.
Have you taken up a hobby?
I now clean the house as thoroughly as possible once the boys go to bed on Friday evenings. They can still sleep through the vacuum cleaner. Does that count?
Any tips for getting necessities?
Costco Business has had an impressively steady amount of toilet paper and paper towels. Also, it's hard to beat Target's car side drop-off. That was the source of our miracle bubble machine.
An awkward moment since all this started.
My husband forgot to mute himself on a conference call. He didn't realize he was audible until someone asked him if that was his wife loudly singing "The Wheels on the Bus" in the background. It was.
Best work email you got since all this started.
To help keep everyone at The Richards Group connected while we're apart, I've been spearheading an internal "good news" series called The Weekly Buzz. I have loved receiving emails from around the agency about TikTok vids, socially distanced baking challenges, and plenty (but never too many!) reports on dog and cat co-workers.
An aha! moment since all this started.
The Peace Corps no longer reigns as the "toughest job you'll ever love." I am co-opting that title for motherhood. The past two months have been one of the absolute hardest, yet happiest, times of my life. I've had the rare blessing of experiencing the role of stay-at-home mom concurrently with working mom. I'd always assumed the two were mutually exclusive.
What's your theory on how this is going to play out?
I think all this quaran-time will ultimately yield a historic amount of brilliant new songs, movies, books, plays, poetry, art and ads. Creativity thrives under oppression, and while this is a brutally difficult season for pretty much everyone, it's also a fertile time for brains to cultivate lots of new ideas. Ideas that will hopefully make us better and stronger in the long run. And—fingers crossed—maybe even in the short run.