Jen Huish is a NC Certified Public Accountant working for a company in California from her home office in Arizona. Jen is also mother to two amazing children, ages six and nine, which makes work-life balance a very high priority for her! Jen and April got to know each other in person through a string of birthday parties and parking lot encounters through their local school and discuss in this episode about how their friendship was accelerated as they discovered they both were juggling their work-from-home demands with their family life. She reveals how the remote-school journey of her kids has impacted her ability to focus and how that situation has evolved over the past six months of the pandemic.
Jen has many years’ experience working in corporate accounting and indirect taxes, as well as individual income tax planning and preparation. She has worked for her current employer for over a decade and was asked to work from home in 2017. She does travel to the home office about six times a year, for one or two nights at a time, to manage the quarterly closing process and her four direct reports. Jen discusses her multipurpose office space and shares some of the tips and tricks that she found have helped her to focus on work as well as her kids as she's made the transition from the office building to working from home.
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April Malone 0:07
Hello, hello, my name is April Malone, and I'm with Yes, I Work From Home, and this is the podcast. Today, I have Jen Huish, my dear friend, with me today. She's a certified public accountant; but we have lots of other things to talk about as well, we're going to talk about both of our journeys, raising kids, and working from home, and let's go! Jen, are you ready?
Jen Huish 0:29
I'm ready. Let's do it.
April Malone 0:31
Thank you. Thank you so much for coming today.
Jen Huish 0:33
April Malone 0:34
I wanted to kind of break up these, you know, these episodes. I've been interviewing people--some people that I know and some people they don't know, and I noticed that I have interviewed quite a few male entrepreneurs. I needed to bring in--and people I didn't know personally, a few in a row; and so it's really nice to have a familiar face back in here with me again, and we have a lot of history, so...
Jen Huish 0:56
We do. I think we've known each other... Three, four years now, since our oldest, yeah first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade. Our oldest kids are in fourth grade together.
April Malone 1:09
Yes, yes. So, Jen brought her kids to a birthday party that I hosted for our daughter when she was turning seven. And I'll tell my part of the story. And I had just decided to interview with VIPKID that week, and I was working really, really, really, really, really, really hard on preparing myself for this kind of intense interview. It's really kind of high stakes, you know as far as that job is concerned, trying something that I had never done before. English as a second language online just requires a lot of different techniques than you would use, like, in the classroom. So I had spent basically all of my time that week preparing for this interview and not for my daughter's birthday.
Jen Huish 1:52
And you had a lot planned for your daughter's birthday as I remember, games and crafts.
April Malone 1:58
Yeah, so we thought, "Oh, it'll be easy, we'll just have it at the park just a few houses away from our house, you know, it's just like seven houses away." Well, I had never hosted a park birthday party before, and I didn't realize how big of a distance that is when you have to like run back home to grab something that you forgot like the lighter. for the birthday candles or something like that? And I think my husband had overslept, and he ended up going to Costco while the birthday party had already started to go get the rest of the groceries and to pick up the cake. And, yeah, I guess I did have crafts, and I mean it was a simple game. It was like pin the tail on all of the animals from like a calendar. And yeah, it was fun. But, Jen texted me later that day; and she's like "Hey, I had some pictures from the party, and I had literally no idea who she was."
Jen Huish 2:53
Yes. And in fact, she was like, "Oh, I have some pictures too of your kid!" and she sent me pictures of someone else's kid. And I said "These are fantastic, you could--you should send them to his mom, I think her name is--"
April Malone 3:07
Yep, yeah. I felt like--we had just moved. We we had already lived in Arizona, but we had just changed cities; so, we went from Chandler to Gilbert. And we had changed schools right at the same time. And, so, basically we were building a completely new community with our neighbors and the school. And just, you know, I'm not from here; so, I don't have a big collection of friends and family to do things. So, when we had a birthday party, we literally invited people that we didn't know, like every single person. Like, basically, we didn't know anybody; and I just felt like this hot mess spazzy mom who was just running around like a chicken with her head cut off. And all the moms were so gracious, and they were like helping open the packages of food and setting things out and being reassuring. But I was like 99% embarrassed. And so I think it was like a week or so later that you were like yeah I'm Jen I'm the one who sent you the picture, and I think we started to become parking lot friends at that point, right.
Jen Huish 4:07
That's right. I was talking to a different friend today, and I said, you know, April and I clicked right away. But we were lucky because you know they talk about making adult friends, and you have to have however many positive interactions, like 50, right? You have to have like 50 positive interactions with somebody to become friends or to decide that you want to be friends with them. It's much easier when you're, say, in college and you see people every few days, or you're an elementary school and you see them every day. When you're an adult, unless you work with them, you don't see them every day. And, so, if you're in, you know, a weekly aerobics class or you're in a monthly book club or a monthly bunco group, it takes a long time to get to know people. And so yeah, we became parking lot friends and pick up and drop off as we were walking kids into the school. There were many, many mornings where there were screaming children--all of our children, all five of them at one time or another. And, you know, it was just, again really nice to have another mom to be gracious and say "It's not you, it's the kids."
April Malone 5:21
And I think it really helps the bonding process, like, accelerate.
Jen Huish 5:24
Yes. When you have something that near and dear to your heart as your kids and somebody who just instantly gets it like, "Oh yeah, my kid does that too. Oh, no, it's not just you, we fight over breakfast every morning."
April Malone 5:38
Or "Oh, it was socks this morning. How about you?" "It was shoes" "Oh, we were fine with shoes, but the socks." Yeah. And then our two oldest were in the same grade, and then our youngest--so I have three children, so my youngest and then your second child, they were in--I don't know if they were in preschool together at that point, but the next year they were. And I think that we had that double--and then you joined the book club.
Jen Huish 6:06
April Malone 6:07
I don't remember if I invited you or if someone else in our community did, but...
Jen Huish 6:10
No, you did; and it was because we went to a different birthday party. We went to another kid's birthday party at BounceU. I don't remember who it was, but we were there, and I was like, "Hey, I know you." And being a working mom, in a lot of ways, it was hard for me to sort of break into the mom community; because I was always having to dash off. "No, oh, well, no I can't I can't go have coffee at noon on Wednesdays" or "No, I don't need a babysitting trade group, because all my kids are in daycare, because, you know..." It was just a different situation from a lot of the parents, not just moms, but a lot of the parents that were in that first grade class that were there was our oldest.
April Malone 7:07
Me too, me too.
Jen Huish 7:08
And, so, a lot of times, I would go to these parties and be like, "Okay, I don't know anybody," and you can make small talk; but then I was like, "Oh, no, I remember April," and I had pulled up I think my facebook profile, and my profile picture was a knitted heart.
April Malone 7:31
Jen Huish 7:31
Do you remember?
April Malone 7:32
And you showed us dragons.
Jen Huish 7:32
And you were like, yeah, you said "Oh my gosh, do you knit?" And I was like, "Oh, that's nothing. You know, it's like this big. It's tiny. It took me half an hour. Look at this! This took me a month!" So, yeah, I do knit. I like to make, I guess the official term in the community is "softies," so like stuffed animals. I made a caterpillar as a baby gift, I made a bumblebee as a baby gift. I have made little stuffed horses, like for my nieces; and the dragons are not really cuddly, they've got a lot of pipe cleaners in them; but they're very impressive. And so when you're showing off--
April Malone 8:08
Jen Huish 8:12
For a new friend you're like, oh, look what I can do. Here's my dragon.
April Malone 8:16
Here's my talent. Yeah, so my mom is learning how to knit. It's actually kind of not anything that she ever wanted to do before, but as she's been recovering from the after effects of the chemotherapy that she went through when I was pregnant with my daughter and after, five years ago, I guess, she had neuropathy so bad that she couldn't feel anything. And she still can't. She can only feel the chunkier yarn, she can't feel the fine yarn, and she chose to learn how to knit. And now she's getting pretty creative, like she's learning how to do new patterns and like kind of a waffle weave and just different things that look really cool. You can see she's really, like, improving, you know, her techniques and things like that. And, so, she came home with us one time from Minnesota to Arizona. It was when I think my brother got married, I think? She rode in the car home. My husband had to fly home, and I still had to drive, you know, three kids across the country. And we flew her home when she got here, but she taught my daughter how to knit in the backseat. And, so, it's been really nice knowing that I have a few friends here that do know how to knit, because when she has--when my daughter has questions, I literally don't know how to help her.
Jen Huish 9:21
Right. So, it's tricky I learned to knit from a book. And, so, when things go wrong, you just have to sort of brute force it; and I was too stubborn to look on YouTube. Like, you know, when people say, if you can go back and talk to your younger self, like, my younger self was too stupid to take any advice from me. But I would go back to, you know, to when I was learning to knit and be like "Jen, check YouTube. It's full of people doing exactly that. You can watch them," because it would have made things much easier.
April Malone 10:00
My daughter and my mom got together on Zoom the other day, and they just knitted together; and I look forward to maybe us doing this, you and a few other friends who knit, maybe kind of have an online knitting club for those of us who are home all the time. I do know something about your home office, and I know that is also your yarn room.
Jen Huish 10:20
It is also my yarn room. The yarn is in the closet, and I have a cat--and I look this way, because he's sitting in the chair right next to me. I have a cat who likes to eat yarn, like he likes to chew on it and actually ingest it; and that's not good. And, so, yeah, I have had to keep the closet door closed. But my home office is also my craft room. And it's the repository for all things that have no other home in our house, which--
April Malone 10:51
It's just Jen's room, like if it belongs to Jen, it just goes in there.
Jen Huish 10:55
Yeah, and because of because of the coronavirus and the delays in shipping that we've been having. I started doing my Christmas shopping early this year. And, so, as I've seen things, I'm like, "Oh, that's perfect for..." anybody, my sister or a niece, or whatever. Yeah, I'm just buying things and kind of stashing them in the corner. So, yeah, one of these days, I'll be ready for Christmas, hopefully it's before Christmas, so. My office is much more cluttered than I would like it to be. I would like it to be more peaceful, but--
April Malone 11:34
A work in progress?
Jen Huish 11:36
It's a work in progress, and this is--you know, you had asked me at one point for any kind of tips and tricks for people who do work at home; and one of the things I always tell people is it's really nice to have a separate space and, of course, it's do as I say, not as I do. My space is just a collage of all kinds of different things that I'm working on.
April Malone 12:01
I know you've got your guitar in there and you have a comfy chair and then your yarn closet and then your work desk. But, when you look at your work desk, you only see your work desk; and when you sit in your chair, you don't see your work desk, right?
Jen Huish 12:14
I can see it if I look for it, but when I sit in my comfy chair, I can see the TV. So, I have a little TV in here so that if, you know, if my boyfriend is watching football on the big TV, I can be watching the World Series here on my little TV. We don't have to fight over the remote or if, you know, if there's something going on and I can just kind of listen to it in the background as I'm, you know, doing less demanding tasks at work. And I try really hard not to not to comingle my work and my personal; but it's just so hard, it really is. It would be nice to have that line, and I haven't figured out a way to make it happen. It's another work in progress.
April Malone 13:00
Jen Huish 13:01
Yeah, I need a bigger house; and this one's already pretty big, so.
April Malone 13:05
So, let's talk about your work a little bit. Like I said, I just interviewed a whole bunch of people who are entrepreneurs; and I know that you are a CPA.
Jen Huish 13:13
I am a CPA. I got my license in North Carolina in 2012. My tip and trick for people who want to get CPA licensed, don't do it while you're pregnant with your first child. Don't do it when you have a newborn, unless you have a really really amazing partner who will jump in and take care of that stuff. So, I got three quarters of the way through my testing requirements before my son was born, my older child; and, then--yeah, and then he came along, and I still had that last quarter to do. And maybe the hardest thing that I've ever done, including giving birth to that little sucker, after 28 hours of labor with him, studying for the CPA exam with a newborn was was very, very tough. But I'm proud to say I got through it. I was licensed in February of 2012. I have been working for the same employer since 2009. It seems almost unbelievable though, that that was 11 years ago, but I've been with the same company for 11 years, I've kind of worked my way up,
April Malone 14:29
So, you didn't have your CPA when you started?
Jen Huish 14:32
I did not. And, in fact, I had thought, "You know i don't really need it. I'm not planning on practicing, as a tax preparer or an auditor. And it's kind of a nice to have, but I have a master's degree in accountancy. So, it's just gravy. Oh, my boyfriend just came home, he rode his bike to work today; and, so, I didn't hear the garage door; but, yeah, and he does not work from home, so that's kind of nice and kind of not something.
April Malone 15:24
But your boyfriend friend did work from home for some time right?
Jen Huish 15:27
He did. When the virus was was pretty rampant, his company closed their doors and got everybody working from home. And then, unfortunately, he was laid off from that company. And luckily was able, through his contacts, to get a job pretty much right away. But his new company wants him in the office, so he he mostly works in the office now; but he does take-- His company is owned by an Australian company; and, since they're 15 hours ahead, he winds up taking their early morning meetings that happen at 5pm or 6pm here at home, and so he he has a setup in his home office as well.
April Malone 16:14
So you guys have like his and her offices. Can you actually see each other when the doors are open or not.
Jen Huish 16:21
My back is to my door. So, not really. If I'm standing in my doorway, I can see into his office; but we don't usually chit chat when we're both working. So, it's--Yeah, you know, we we both try to stay focused on work.
April Malone 16:48
So tell us what you do now?
Jen Huish 16:50
Okay. So, right now, I work as the accounting manager for my company. We have about 2000 employees in the United States; and I do all of their financial statement reporting and their indirect taxes. That would be everything besides income tax, the sales tax, property tax. Those are the two biggies. Somehow or another, I have become a sales tax expert at my company which was not something I ever planned for; but I try to keep learning, and it was something that needed to be done. So I just--sort of the same way I learned how to knit, I just started doing it. And now people say "Well you're our tax expert," and I'm like "Who?" Like, "Oh, oh, oh yeah, right, me."
April Malone 17:46
No you didn't start off as a manager, how did you climb that ladder? And you weren't working from home at the beginning either, right?
Jen Huish 17:53
No, I was working in North Carolina, I got-- They had hired a string of people who hadn't really worked out, and they were looking for a temp. And I had just relocated across the country and was looking for anything that would give me more hours than H&R block was giving me at that time. So, I took--it was a temp-to-hire job. I took it. I worked for them for six months as a temp. As a senior level accountant, which I had been doing prior. With my master's degree, I had the experience to do that. And, then, they promoted me to a team supervisor after a few years. And then when my boss, who was the accounting manager, left, they gave me that position. So I've been doing that since my daughter was born in 2014,
April Malone 18:45
And that was all in North Carolina,
Jen Huish 18:47
All in North Carolina. When they promoted me to accounting manager, it was part of a relocation to California. That's where our home office is. And then, after I was there a couple of years, I came home to Arizona for personal reasons. My boss and our CFO were gracious enough to let me work from--Well, we had a site here in Arizona, and they were gracious enough to let me work remotely, but not from home.
April Malone 19:17
So you had an office here.
Jen Huish 19:19
I had an office here in Chandler, where, you know, I would drop the kids off at school; and then I would drive into the office every day. And none of the people that I work with on a daily basis were in that office, but they liked to have me onsite. Then they sold that building. And my boss said, "Well--is it possible? Could you work out of your home? Do you have an extra office or something?" And I said "Yeah, I can make that work." So, for a while, I worked in my living room. I just had like a front room and then a family room. You know, I had two rooms in my house; and I turned that front room into an office with no doors. So, I set up my desk and a chair and a printer, and I worked just kind of out in the open, and then
April Malone 20:15
With two little kids running around.
Jen Huish 20:17
With two tiny kids running around. Yeah, but, you know, you look back on a lot of parenthood and think "I don't know how I did that" and the answer is you just do. There's no other alternative, you just do it. And then, yeah, I moved into a new house that was bigger, had a fourth bedroom, and was able to actually set up an office. You know, the living situation has kind of evolved, and the job situation has kind of evolved, and the only thing that's constant is change, right?
April Malone 20:50
So you were working remotely, but the rest of your team was all working onsite in California.
Jen Huish 20:55
That's right. So I have four direct reports.
April Malone 20:58
Do you feel like having had this experience, before they all had to come home, has really helped you lead them?
Jen Huish 21:04
I think it has. There have been a number of things, right when this pandemic first started and they were starting to work from home; and I was able to say, "No, no, no, just get a headset," because I fought through not having a headset for maybe a year. And then--and I had a desk phone; but, you know, I was doing a lot of this. And as things have gone more and more, I've said "No, no, no. This is--yeah, this is silly. You need monitors at home. You need a headset at home." I've been able to tell them stuff about logging in through a virtual private network, a VPN connection; issues that I have had or the ways that I've gotten around them. And so, yeah. I mean, it's not something that you wish on people, to have that like "Okay, we're going to have a global pandemic. I really really hope we have this global--" No, no, no. Obviously not. But yeah, you know, it was sort of lucky that I had already done this, and that I was already familiar with running team meetings from 400 miles away. "Okay, we're gonna have this, you know, we're gonna have a conference call." And so, back to evolution, I've started saying, "Okay, so, you know like, the last Friday of every month, we'll do something fun. We'll do Hawaiian shirt day." And, like, you know, "Plan to be on camera. We'll have pajama day--"
April Malone 22:37
Once a week?
Jen Huish 22:38
Just once a month.
April Malone 22:40
Oh, once a month.
Jen Huish 22:41
So I meet with my--one thing that I did have to do when they all moved to their homes with the pandemic; and they're still there. My company hasn't reopened yet. I mean, my company is open, but for not for administrative office staff.
April Malone 23:00
Jen Huish 23:01
I used to have a once-a-week kind of touch base meeting to say, "Okay, what's going on? What issues are you having?" And when everybody was in the office together, they were able to work out a lot of their things. They all sit in kind of an open bullpen style cubicle area. And, so, they're able to look at each other's screens and kind of talk to each other as they need to. Well, now that we're all in our own homes, I moved on meeting to three times a week.
April Malone 23:29
Jen Huish 23:30
Yeah, just to say, "Okay, what kind of issues are we having?" And a lot of times you find out it's "Oh, I can't get logged in to the network." "Oh, I already had that problem, because I came into my office at 7am; and, now it's, you know, 10 we're having this meeting. Here's what I did. Here's who I talked to, let me forward you an email." And we can solve everybody's problems at once. And I try to keep them to just half an hour. I don't want to really hammer everybody with "This is what you should be working on," when I want them to be working on it instead. You know, I try to keep it real quick. We just kind of go around the circle and say, "All right, what are we working on? Anybody have any issues? Anybody have anything they want to bring up? A lot of times, I make announcements, you know that my boss is going to be out of the office, so if you need a check signed, you need to get them in. Or I'm looking for a piece of mail, has anybody seen it? And a lot of times, we just sort of commiserate about, you know, "Oh, there's COVID cases at the school, or my son is--" I have two employees that have college age kids and trying to navigate, okay, how do you handle being a college freshman and not know if you're going to be on campus or remote. And do you commit to moving into the dorm and being socially isolated in the dorm, or do you stay at home with your family and socially isolate with them, and so they're able to kind of commiserate and talk about those things. Even though the rest of us don't necessarily have the same problems, we, at least, you know it's made us a little bit more of a family.
April Malone 25:33
So, when I first started working from home in 2008, I had some people that I very much loved onsite. There were a few people that I probably wasn't going to keep in touch with ever again. But I didn't--I'm social, but I can use things like the chat features, you know, that they have, the instant messaging on the computer, you know, to communicate. I'm pretty social in that way, too. I didn't realize how much I was gonna miss that chit chat, like it was actually--it took me about a month before I put my finger on what felt weird and I realized I can't just turn around and tell--it was Denise, I can't just tell Denise what happened to me, you know. Or this little thing, like you just would think about; and you would just want to tell someone and blurt it out; and there just wasn't someone to say that to you anymore. And so, I wonder how, I mean, have they told you how they received these meetings and like the increase of meanings, or is it good?
Jen Huish 26:28
They haven't said anything to me. I've asked them about, if the opportunity came about for them to go back into the office as a choice, would they want to go? And they've basically all told me that they prefer being home. I think accountants, in general, tend to be a little more--a little less social. Let's say that. You know, they tend to be a little quieter. I'm the exception that proves the rule. And I think they enjoy being home. I had--When we do quarter-end closings, we typically work very late hours. And, so, when we're there in the office, I make sure to order in food for them. Well, they told me this last quarter, it was so nice to just be able to, you know, go have dinner with their family. And then, you know, so, okay "You know, my husband or my wife is home; and we sat down and we had dinner, and we watched the news, or we watched our sitcom, and then I came back to work."
April Malone 27:38
Jen Huish 27:38
I came back to, you know like from the kitchen to the office. And, so, then working so late doesn't feel like such a hardship, because you're not missing your family.
April Malone 27:49
Jen Huish 27:50
But I had the same experience. I really missed having lunch with coworkers. I really missed, you know, going, just to have a break, a cup of coffee or something. Yeah, I can see my little co-worker friend. He's sitting on my desk now.
April Malone 28:08
Is that your cat?
Jen Huish 28:09
Yes, that's my cat, Juno. He's a good boy. When he's not eating my yarn, he's a very good boy. So, yeah, he keeps me company. He sits in the cozy chair, and he snores, so that I don't feel alone at my home office.
April Malone 28:26
A warm body.
Jen Huish 28:27
And he eats lunch with me; so, you know, I can tell him my things. Like "Juno, can you believe this? Can you believe what--can you believe what they're asking me today?" And he just purrs. He's a very understanding soul.
April Malone 28:40
So, during the pandemic, our school sent all the kids home for remote learning; and so we did that the second half of March, April and May, and then back again in July and August; and then they give the option to come onsite--some of the students came on site in September. Do you want to tell everyone what your solution to that issue was, like how did it go for you last spring?
Jen Huish 29:04
Oh my goodness. So last--So basically our kids never went back to school after spring break. So, you know, I had planned, like I had activities for them over spring break, which then were canceled
April Malone 29:18
Yep. You had them all booked for all these camps and all these things, really prepared.
Jen Huish 29:24
Yeah, I did. I was ready for them to have so much fun. And then everything was closed and canceled. So it was really hard. Very stressful for me to just have the kids home. And when they're just sort of home, like on weekends. They're usually fine. They will play with their toys or color or read or watch television. But after 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 days... And then I'm thinking, "Oh, I'm a terrible person. I need to get that you know they need to be learning they can't just rot their brains on TV for however long this epidemic lasts. But then to try to balance, oh my goodness. You know, getting online for a morning meeting, getting them going. My eight year old at the time was having none of it. I had to fight for every minute of school with him, and almost every single day wound up with one of us in tears.
April Malone 30:32
Yes. Let me just say, our children are very intense children, all of them, all 5 of them. So I understand, because I know your children very well.
Jen Huish 30:42
That's a good way to put it. They're really fantastic kids.
April Malone 30:44
Right before the pandemic, our families were spending a lot of time together. I started picking up your kids and bringing them back to your house sometimes and vice versa, and we did the Super Bowl party together.
Jen Huish 30:55
April Malone 30:55
Hanging out at like food trucks and everything.
Jen Huish 30:57
That's right, going to parks.
April Malone 30:58
And it was really nice, because we were kind of sharing, like, you know--our school is a charter school, so we don't have busing services; so, we have to go pick them up. And it was kind of fun for my kids to, like, let their friends come in the van; and we drove them up. It's about 20 minutes or so, you know, and they're all like brothers and sisters.
Jen Huish 31:17
April Malone 31:19
And then just everything stopped.
Jen Huish 31:20
April Malone 31:21
So it's like they had so much community. And we're taking this--you know, I like to say that we're doing the "Extreme Edition" of social distancing, and I know your family was too.
Jen Huish 31:32
We were too. And my daughter was just, she was in kindergarten last spring; and she just--she didn't want to, and she would just close the laptop on her teacher, just like hang up on her.
April Malone 31:46
We've seen that here too.
Jen Huish 31:48
Very difficult, and I really had to sort of lower my standards and lower my expectations. I made sure very early on to communicate with my boss that, like "Hey, I don't have any childcare. The kids cannot go anywhere else. There is no one else to do school with them, so I will get my 40 hours in, but it will not always be in a very orderly or methodical fashion." And, luckily, I feel like, you know, having been with the company for so long, he trusts. That okay, you know, I had started working on site, I'm a good producer I'm, you know, I have high work ethic. Then, when I went remote, the production didn't go down when I went and started working at home. My production didn't go down, in fact it probably went up; because nobody was walking into my office to chit chat. And so, you know, he can trust that, yes, I will get my work done. It's just, you know, I'm a mom, too. And he's a single dad of older children, but he remembers what it was like when his boys were nine and seven. So that was all very lucky. Then once the summer came and went, I thought there's no way we can do that again.
April Malone 33:14
It's not sustainable.
Jen Huish 33:15
It's not sustainable. I was burning the candle at both ends, and I don't feel like I was doing a--you know, I don't think, I mean, I'm not a teacher; and I feel like it was damaging my relationship with my son to, to try to be his teacher and fight that fight and die on that hill of battle. I wanted to save my battles for other things.
April Malone 33:40
Jen Huish 33:40
And so, yeah. So, starting in the fall, I found--I guess the trendy thing that they are called now is micro schools or pods. So, I basically partnered with a another mom, who was planning on staying home and schooling her own kids.
April Malone 34:04
Through the school, like through the online programs with the teachers at school.
Jen Huish 34:09
Yeah. Yes, so, you know, she had basically cut her hours at her job and committed that she was going to be the proctor, is sort of what I say.
April Malone 34:21
Which is a full-time job, I have learned with three kids. That's a big deal,
Jen Huish 34:24
It is, and, so, you know, it's not that she's not teaching--she's not preparing the curriculum, but she's implementing the curriculum right?
April Malone 34:32
And supplementing, too.
Jen Huish 34:34
And she, I mean--so, our plan was that she would basically be the stay-at-home parent, but for my kids too. And, so, we had a lot of stuff going for us. We knew that they had maintained the same level of social distancing that we had, for the most part. Our children are in the same classes, not only the same grades.
April Malone 34:57
Which is a miracle.
Jen Huish 34:59
So she has two children, I have two children. Our older two are in the same class, and our younger two are in the same class. So it wasn't that she needed to maintain four separate, you know, stations. She needed to maintain two. And she had offered. I mean, she is an angel straight from heaven. She had offered, and I had kind of been like, "Oh, that's so nice of you." And, then, the more I thought about it, the more I was like, I should I should just beg her, I should just beg her to do this. So, we went for a coffee and ironed out the details. I made sure my ex-husband, the kids' dad, was on board. We worked out a payment plan. We worked out what the schedule would be, what the expectations were, any--just like you would at a school, right? Where they send out a list of things and say, "The front gates open at this time, and you need to pick your kids up by this time" You know, just so we had clear expectations about when drop off was going to happen, what the custody schedule was. You know, all of these sort of logistics things, which you don't even think about until you start explaining them to somebody. Allergies, dietary restrictions, you know, anything like that. And then, even the first couple of weeks, we're working on that; and she says "I just need to check in." She says "I need to talk to you for a minute. I just need to check in with you. It seems like your daughter likes to say "I can't.'" I was like, "Oh yeah, like she wants to see what she can get away with. She'll tell you she can't. And you'll catch her doing it." So, our friend who's running this, the circus says, "Well, I'm going to I'm going to try to push her. I'm gonna, you know, like, and I just want to make sure that that's okay; because I think she can do these things, but she's telling me she can't. I'm like, "Oh no no no, she can. She just she's trying to get you to do them for her, and she goes "Yeah, that's sort of what I was thinking. I just wanted to check in." So, we have a lot of check in, we have a lot of. She texts me almost every day she sends pictures of what they're working on when she can. It's, I mean really--
April Malone 37:33
She sends me the pictures too.
Jen Huish 37:34
Oh, that's fantastic. And I'm just so grateful that she is really enhancing their educational experience and allowing them to kind of pursue things they're interested in, and making it sneaky learning. She keeps telling me "Don't tell them that." But she, you know, she will say, "Okay, let's make cupcakes." You know, and then it's, there's all of this sneaky math of measuring, and she had them make a list. Like how do you make cupcakes? Step one. And, you know, and they--the two six year old are sitting there and writing down, "Step one, gather the ingredients." Maybe they didn't write ingredients, but you know. "Step two, get a bowl and mix them," you know, and they're writing this, And they're so excited because they're making a list, and they're going to make hundred cupcakes for Halloween.
April Malone 38:37
Jen Huish 38:37
Yeah, and they're practicing their handwriting, and they're using critical thinking of "first I do this, and then I do this" and introducing the words first, next, then, finally. So, yes, I'm so so grateful. It's been a really fantastic experience, not only for me, for all four of our children. All four of them are happy to have that community that socialization that--
April Malone 39:04
They're like siblings now, they have that like sibling camaraderie and--
Jen Huish 39:08
--and battles. Yes. Yes, I have personally witnessed our two older kids like nose to nose, just really upset; and, then, the next day all was forgiven. It was, you know, they were very passionate. They were each convinced that they were right. And, then, the next day, it was--they had talked it out, and they were back to "Hey, you know, don't you have your small group at this time" and "Hey, don't forget--" they're working on a Google Doc together, I guess. My nine year old has been emailing me links to view this Google Doc that he and his classmate have been working on about something about Pokemon evolutions and something, but he's very proud. He's figured out how to email this past week and so--
April Malone 40:04
We called that house one time with all the kids there while you were working one day, 'cause my five year old needed to conduct a poll and ask some people some questions; and I'm like, "Hmmm, how can I quickly--"
Jen Huish 40:16
Right? Gather all the people?
April Malone 40:17
"--find four kids?" Yeah, we just Zoomed with them. And, so, even though we haven't been able to be in the same like pod, we kind of are like the cousins who are like a little bit on the fringes, but, close by.
Jen Huish 40:29
It's been really good. It's really hard. I mean, you have to be committed to continuing your communities. You have to be committed to "Okay, we're going to Zoom. We're going to FaceTime. We're going to--" One of the things that this friend has introduced my children to is dingdong ditch. You know, where you you run up to somebody's house--
April Malone 40:30
You did that to me!
Jen Huish 40:36
Yeah, and put a, you know, a bag on their porch; and, when I was a kid, it was a bag full of something not very nice. But, you know, like dog doo doo. But, but our friend is much nicer than.
April Malone 40:51
You brought me chocolate!
Jen Huish 40:30
Yeah, so, you know, she does like little goodie bags for Halloween, and then she sent all of our kids to go ring the doorbell and then run, you know be socially distant. So she said "I could hear them screaming, all the way down the street." She says, "I know our neighbors knew as soon as it happened, because they started screaming as they ran all the way down the street.
April Malone 41:34
Not discreet at all. So, talking about mental health during the pandemic. I think that you and I have had a once-a-month socially distanced coffee date since May. And I think that's been basically the best thing that's happened to me. We didn't start doing--well, we did it in May and then I think maybe like July.
Jen Huish 41:54
April Malone 41:55
I know we did it--they got progressively longer, like it was four hours. It was 107 degrees Fahrenheit, and we were sitting outside, thankfully, like under a pavilion with some shade; but we were just drenched with sweat.
Jen Huish 42:09
Oh yeah, very sweaty; but it's worth it for your friend.
April Malone 42:13
Yeah, but it was worth it.
Jen Huish 42:14
And drinking hot coffee, right? I was drinking hot coffee.
April Malone 42:17
So smart. It was good.
Jen Huish 42:21
No, it is, to find those ways to be able to see people and talk to people and find a human connection and get--you know, there's a lot of technology. I'm quite grateful for the technology that's out there to do these FaceTimes and Zooms and--
April Malone 42:40
And you are the one that introduced us to Marco Polo!
Jen Huish 42:43
I love Marco Polo.
April Malone 42:45
Marco Polo--we haven't done it recently, but I think we had a lot of like 40-minute conversations back and forth--
Jen Huish 42:50
April Malone 42:50
--for several weeks before we probably before we did our once-a-month coffee date.
Jen Huish 42:55
Yeah. I Marco Polo with several friends regularly. One in particular, my best friend works nights. So, she works from 11pm to 7am in Utah; and, so it's it's even a different timezone most of the year, all summer. And, so, when she gets off work at 6am. I don't really do 6am unless it's Christmas morning; and, so, you know. But, when she goes into work, however, early she gets to work, if she's five minutes early I get a five-minute Polo, if she's 10 minutes early, I get a 10-minute Polo. She just sits in her car and chats, because she doesn't want to call me at 11 o'clock at night, she doesn't want to call me at 6 o'clock in the morning,
April Malone 43:41
And you've got your phone like on mute or something like that.
Jen Huish 43:44
Yeah, on a Do Not Disturb; and so, then, when I see it in the morning; and, a lot of times, as I'm brushing my teeth and making breakfast or coffee, I'll send her a quick Polo back to just say, "Oh that's great about your husband's promotion," you know, or whatever. If she said "Hey, I'm sending a package, let me know when you get it" or anything like that. It's been really good. We've been able to stay more in touch than just email or phone calls or even text. So that's been good.
April Malone 44:17
Did you have that going even before the pandemic?
Jen Huish 44:19
Marco Polo? Yeah.
April Malone 44:21
Jen Huish 44:22
With her. Yes, because of our schedules. But now, I have a friend who lives in Tucson, so a little bit south of here; and then I have another friend who's on the other side of the country that I Marco Polo with at least a couple of times a week to just say hi and hope you're well. And, you know, my friend across the country is a big baseball fan. I'm a big baseball fan, and so we've had a lot to talk about with the World Series and the shortened season. And, then, my friend that's down in Tucson just got married. outside on a mountain top and, you know, with the bare minimum of people; but, you know, so then I'm really happy and to get to talk to him and try to find a time when we can go visit and I can meet his new wife. Yeah, Not yet.
April Malone 45:17
So, Marco Polo is kind of like leaving voice messages for each other, but they're video. I think there's another program that's similar, Voxer, but that's just the voice; and this is voice and video.
Jen Huish 45:31
Right, so it's--
April Malone 45:32
And I'm using the free version, I don't know about you.
Jen Huish 45:34
I am as well. The paid version is something like $5 a month, I think. There's some advanced emojis, and you can play back at double speed instead of singles speed.
April Malone 45:47
Which I did like doing, because, like, sometimes, if I could see that you were recording live, I could like do the double time and catch up so that I was watching you, like, in real time; so I felt like I was actually right there, but I'm not willing to pay $5 for that.
Jen Huish 46:00
April Malone 46:01
Jen Huish 46:02
My friend on the other side of the country does pay for it; and, so, I get some fun emojis, you know--
April Malone 46:08
Jen Huish 46:09
Yeah, I get fancier emojis instead of just, I think you get a heart, a smiley face, and a thumbs up.
April Malone 46:16
Yeah, it doesn't give you like a sad or a mad face when you got the free version; and, so like if you're telling me a sad story I'm like wait. All of these are like positive affirmation.
Jen Huish 46:28
Yeah, I send a lot of hearts like, "Oh, I'm so sorry, I love you." You know,
April Malone 46:33
"I'm here for you."
Jen Huish 46:34
Exactly. "I'm so happy for you. I love you. I'm so--Oh, that sucks. You know--I mean heart, heart, heart. Yeah. So." I really like it for the asynchronous bit, where, yeah, like leaving a voicemail that I can leave a little video for my friend who is sleeping, or she can leave a little video for me that I'll see when I wake up; and I can still see her face, and we can still almost have a conversation, if I keep it short enough.
April Malone 47:08
When you told me that I wasn't waking you up, that made me feel more free to actually--because I was getting off of my, you know, teaching gig at like six in the morning; and I'm like "Oooh, I don't want to like ping her and like ding and, you know, make all the alarms go off on your phone." But, yeah, it's really nice for the asynchronous. Sometimes that's--for busy moms, like, even if I can see that you're talking to me, I'm like, "That's so nice that she's talking to me, I have zero ability to catch up with her right now; but I will look forward to catching that later."
Jen Huish 47:36
Yes, exactly. That's the other thing with mom friends is, okay, well if my kids go to bed at a certain time; but your kids go to bed at a different time or what if--I have a really hard time, unless we have a coffee date set or something like that, of just like "Hey, I just wanted to call and catch up, like you can't do it. There's too many variables, my two kids and your three kids and your husband and my boyfriend and my work and your work and--
April Malone 48:06
Jen Huish 48:07
So, technology, it's a good thing.
April Malone 48:10
It can really help. Even though we're not quite neighbors, but we're in the same vicinity, I think we've seen each other more through things like Marco Polo then we had, you know. Like we had done some coffee dates and things like that like the, I think you sometimes on your Monday mornings would sneak out for a little bit, and we'd do a quick coffee, but I miss those times.
Jen Huish 48:30
April Malone 48:30
Looking forward to that coming back again.
Jen Huish 48:32
April Malone 48:34
To wrap up, do you have anything that you want to share that has been helpful? I know we didn't talk about your desk. Do you want to just say a couple words about your desk? I remember you were so excited when you bought it.
Jen Huish 48:48
Yeah, so I bought a hydraulic standing desk. So it has a little switch, and it will go up and down so that I can stand or I can sit; and, full honesty, I have mostly been sitting lately. Before, when I first bought it before the pandemic, before all the craziness of trying to try to teach my kids and work at the same time, I was standing probably two hours every morning and two hours every evening. It is made out of bamboo, so it's sustainable which I love. And it's got a monitor--I'm not sure what you call it--arms. So there's like, it attaches. It screws onto the bottom of the desk, and I have two monitor arms; so, I can move my monitors up and down or side to side or rotate them as I need to. If I need to push them out of the way, or if, you know, I want to, move them to different positions. It's really easy to do, and it clears up more real estate on the desk; because I don't have a monitor sitting on the desk, it's mounted on an arm.
April Malone 50:03
Jen Huish 50:04
It's very nice. I really really love having the monitors up and movable. So, it's kind of like, you know, if you've ever been at the dentist, and they've got that lamp above your head; but they can move it, like, almost, it articulates almost any direction. They can really like get it in your face and blind you. So, yeah, that's kind of how my monitors are set up.
April Malone 50:30
What is the name of the company that makes this desk?
Jen Huish 50:35
I want to say the manufacturer is Jarvis. It's a Jarvis bamboo desk; but I bought it from, the company name is I want to say it's Fully.com.
April Malone 50:53
Okay, we can look it up and make sure to put the proper names and maybe even links into the show notes.
Jen Huish 51:00
Yeah, it's--and they have amazing customer service. You know, like, this isn't a paid promotion or anything. I was just really happy with them. I also bought a filing cabinet from them. And you can get one with like a little cushion on the top of it so you can use it as seating, you know, if you had a--I say a real office--I do have a real office. But if you had a--if you were in an office setting, and you needed, you know, a seat for when people come in to chit chat with you, you can get a pad for it so it doubles as kind of a bench. I didn't buy the pad I just needed the filing cabinet, but it was damaged in the shipment. And I sent them an email and sent them some pictures the bottom drawer is a little instead of being straight up and down it's just tilted a little bit. He has not changed any of the functionality. TΩhey said you can send it back, we'll send you a new one or we'll give you a $75 credit, like we'll refund the $75.
April Malone 51:57
Jen Huish 51:58
So, really fantastic customer service. They really want you to be satisfied and really good quality. The desk is is amazing. I do love it. You can hear the cat is rustling around, I apologize.
April Malone 52:12
Oh, that's the cat.
Jen Huish 52:13
Yeah, he's climbing on some tissue paper and--
April Malone 52:17
Is your cat still a kitty?
Jen Huish 52:20
So he is 18 months? Yeah, he's not that old. He's just over a year old. And, so, he's still very curious; and he has a lot of energy, and he--
April Malone 52:37
Bites in your face in the night?
Jen Huish 52:39
He doesn't bite my face, but he bites my feet.
April Malone 52:42
Jen Huish 52:43
He chews on my toes; and, lately, he started hearding us into bed. So, if he decides it's time for bed, but I am like walking around in our living room, he'll like start batting, claws in; but he'll be batting at my calves to try to get me to go back to bed.
April Malone 53:01
Jen Huish 53:02
So he can cuddle up.
April Malone 53:05
A little turkey.
Jen Huish 53:06
He is. I was kind of laughing. I was like "Everybody in this house is bossy, even the cat."
April Malone 53:15
So, for our friends who are maybe at home unexpectedly working from home during this time or maybe just trying to look for work-from-home positions, do you have any things that you'd like to share just to encourage them or extra tips that you haven't mentioned already?
Jen Huish 53:33
So, I mean, like anything, I think there's a lot of upside to being at home; and there's some downside. One upside that I love is that, you know, if I have a little downtime between meetings, I can go run and put a little laundry. And then the washing machine does its thing while I'm still working. You know, I love that kind of thing. I love that I don't have to go out to get food, and I don't eat as much garbage food. I know other people have had the opposite experience where, because the kitchen is open 24/7, they snack 24/7. I haven't, you know, I'm bad about getting up in the morning and making a lunch; and, so, to be able to go in there and make a turkey sandwich and eat it, is much better for my health than running down to the Burger King and getting a quarter pounder.
April Malone 54:37
Jen Huish 54:38
I think I've mixed those up, but--
April Malone 54:40
I think you got it right.
Jen Huish 54:42
At any rate, I think the hardest part about working from home is keeping the motivation to be working, that if I walk into the kitchen and I see "Oh, there's dishes in the sink." They just have to wait and giving myself that permission of, like, "That can wait. You're at work right now. You're on the work clock." I used to be much better about it. I've i've slacked off during pandemic, but I used to be really good about--I would get up and get dressed as if I were going to drive into the office every day.
April Malone 55:20
Jen Huish 55:23
As a reminder to myself that I was on my employer's clock and not my clock. So, you know, when I'm wearing my work clothes, I don't do dishes.
April Malone 55:38
Jen Huish 55:40
And, when my kids were younger, it was also a good signal for them, that they knew that if I was wearing work clothes, they needed to wait, they needed to be patient. But if I was wearing pajamas or yoga pants that they could come and talk to me.
April Malone 55:58
It was like mom time.
Jen Huish 55:59
April Malone 56:00
So, I did like the opposite. When I started working from home, I think I got rid of 90% of my work clothes, and I only kept like my one favorite skirt that was extra stretchy; and, so, it got me through three pregnancies. I could wear it pregnant or not pregnant, you know, I'd just wear the same skirt if I had to go onsite--
Jen Huish 56:18
Like with the kitchen, I think working from home is very personal; and I guess my advice is that, if it's not working, keep trying things until you find something that works. If, you know, if it's just too tempting to--I don't know what, you know that you walk by and your knitting bag is right there, you know, you close the closet door. Or, one thing that worked really well when my kids were home over the summer was they wanted to play with me, because they kind of got tired of the TV and the Nintendo's and things; and, so, they'd be like "Mom, when can when can we play the Game of Life?" Or "When can we read this audiobook together on your phone?" And, so, I would set a meeting on my work calendar for them. So, they knew that, you know, they would have my undivided attention for an hour, you know, like my lunch breaks.
April Malone 57:19
But it was blocked on your calendar?
Jen Huish 57:21
It was blocked on my calendar, and I would tell them. You know, and my daughter would come in and say, "Are you still working?" And I would say "Yes, yeah, but I'll, you know, but I have a meeting with you at noon. So, you know; and it's 11:20; so, you just need to be patient for 40 more minutes." And having that time blocked off that they knew that they were going to get my time made them a lot less likely to interrupt. They still would occasionally, like, "I can't get, you know, I can't get this package of goldfish crackers open, can you help?" kind of thing, but not wanting attention.
April Malone 58:02
Not needing the full shebang right now.
Jen Huish 58:04
Yeah, and then just being committed to kind of clocking out from work at, say, 5 o'clock; and, then, if I needed to go back after they went to bed, I could still do that; but I tried really hard so that they knew that, at 5 o'clock, they could come in; and we would have family time.
April Malone 58:21
Jen Huish 58:24
Because I want them to know that they're important, even though work is here in the same house as them, like another sibling, they have to share. "Why do you have to work?"
April Malone 58:37
We don't have time to get into it all right now, but Jen actually has tons and tons of tons of great parenting ideas; and, I think, to the point where I don't know if it was your idea or someone encouraged you to to start thinking about maybe writing a book?
Jen Huish 58:52
Yeah, so a friend of mine, who was a counselor, like a, you know, a marriage and a child trauma counselor, had told me one time--we were talking about my kids, and she said "You know, if everybody parented like you did, I wouldn't have any clients." And I said, "You know, that's a really nice compliment, thank you; and, especially, because parenting is so hard and so demanding and you feel like you're doing it wrong so much of the time." And she says, "No, I'm serious. I was talking to my partner in my practice and, and we think you need to write a book, so that all of these parents that are, you know, ruining their children would figure out how to do it right." And, you know, and it was kind of like a ha ha ha over a glass of wine. However, it really appealed to me. And I like to write, and I like to share my stories and my insights, especially when I think that they're helpful for other people. I would never tell anybody "Your parenting wrong." Because, again, it's very individual to both the parent and the child, but to be able to say you know what works for me is if I put a meeting on my calendar, then my kids are not so antsy; because I'm validating that they're important, but work is still important." You know it's--or I ask them what would help.
April Malone 1:00:19
Do you have a working title for this book?
Jen Huish 1:00:21
So the working title for the book is The Owner's Manual for Kids. Because, when I brought my first child home from the hospital, I thought, like, I don't think I'm qualified for this. And my mom told me "Yeah, they don't come with an owner's manual, they really should." That's always kind of stuck with me, that young children really need an owner's manual. So, that's the working title. As I think of little things, I'm writing them down; and, someday, someday I'll publish a book about parenting.
April Malone 1:01:01
I love it. Well, we'll put some of your links into the show notes, but I think we're gonna call it. I think we went way past the time that we talked about.
Jen Huish 1:01:09
April Malone 1:01:11
But, Jen, I love you. Thank you for coming on today.
Jen Huish 1:01:13
April Malone 1:01:13
And I appreciate it. It's just good to see you, and we also got to record something out of it. so it's kind of fun.
Jen Huish 1:01:19
Excellent. Yes, excellent.
April Malone 1:01:21
All right. Well, this has been April Malone with Yes, I Work From Home, and I'm with Jen Huish today; and I will see you next time. Thank you.
Jen Huish 1:01:28