Long ago, back when N*Sync was still a thing, I left southern Maine to attend college for a major in Communications in Washington, DC. It was exciting, especially when I started to see how many work-from-home and telecommute positions were available as I interned and worked around the city. I graduated in 2005 and got married in 2006. In between 2008 and 2016, we lived in Hawaii and northern England and had three daughters. I stayed home with them, and we saw all the sights of the islands and Europe together.
We also found out that our oldest daughter is Autistic, which set me on a direct path to virtual assisting.
Disabled, But Not Disabled Enough
After a very long time trying to figure out what would help our daughter be happy and successful at school in England, we got the official word from the local education council: There was no money to help support our daughter, who is disabled but was not a disciplinary concern, at school.
Their solutions for accommodating her with the resources they had available were unacceptable. They admitted as much, but their hands were tied by budgets. So we made the decision to homeschool her, and I decided to pursue work that I could do exclusively from home.
Every Day Is a Whirlwind
That was four years ago, and though we live in suburban Maryland now (which has lovely schools and teachers), it didn’t make sense to give up this lifestyle that we love with schooling and working at home. It also gives us a lot more flexibility for any appointments that come up.
However, being the primary educator for all three of your children all day long? It’s a lot.
A good kind of a lot. The BEST kind. But it’s a lot. Being a VA with Don’t Panic lets me work the non-mom parts of my brain while I teach the kids, which is the brain break I desperately need. So a day like today, which was typical, goes something like this:
5:45 a.m.: I offer the devil an increased interest rate on my soul if my two-year-old will just take this sippy cup of milk and go back to sleep. She does, but I’m up for the day and double-checking tasks for today’s client call.
7 a.m.: My toddler and kindergartener come barrelling down the stairs in tandem, knocking each other over to get to the yogurt. The kindergartener sees the day’s math work on the counter next to my work computer and undergoes a physical transformation into Paul Rudd.
9:30 a.m.: The nine-year-old saunters downstairs and asks why I am insisting that we read a section of a book about puberty today. I don’t know, kid . . . [looks at the surly tween scowl burning a hole in my face] . . . reasons?
9:30 to 11:15 a.m.: Everyone grab your pencils! We have math, reading, French, science lab sheets, and health today! Wait! Where are you all going?
11:25 a.m.: I reward those who have completed their lessons (and the toddler who didn’t bother them too much) with a show on Netflix and a living room picnic. I would have done this anyway because of the client call starting in five minutes, but they don’t need to know that. Let them have their dreams.
12:15 p.m.: Burn with mortification as I have to excuse myself from a call with my amazing and inspiring client who is doing work that I just adore to restart My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
1:00 p.m.: The call is done, and we’re off to the playground to meet up with other homeschoolers. I eat my snack quietly so no one will ask me to share. My kindergartener has brought her favorite journal and practices spelling by copying song titles from the info screen in the van, which is really cute until I have to start skipping inappropriate titles.
While our kids play for hours, my best friends and I chat about a range of topics from math to tantrum management to the best way to grow out my pixie hair (which is somewhere between Dawson and Dharma on the scale of 1990s long pixies). We make summer plans and try to keep everyone’s snack demands met, with some success.
5:00 p.m. to bedtime: After we get home a few hours later, we stuff grilled cheese into everyone. One goes to soccer, one goes to work on her comic book, and one goes into the tub because even though she is “NOT TIRED, MOMMY,” she is totally tired and also filthy. After the big girls get their bedtime books, I curate a few articles for a client before I too find that I am “NOT TIRED, MOMMY” and watch baseball with my husband.
We learned about multiplication, we learned about elements, we made Alexa repeat “Bad Blood” five or six times, I gave out nine fruit snack packets and about 90 hugs, we learned interesting things, and I got to do work I love while spending time with the people I love most. Being a VA has allowed me to be so much more than a VA, and I love it.