Thirty Five.

School’s out for… erm, not sure.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from Detective Dwayne Carver AKA Anonymous. They say:

“Dear Steve and Frankie,

I know that’s the wrong way round, but everything seems weird and topsy-turvy at the moment.

Here’s the long version of my question:

How can we best brace ourselves and our businesses for potentially having our kids off school for weeks on end?

Not in a summer holidays kind of way where we’ve maybe wound down our work and booked in a few summer camps or stays with family. But in a snow-day kind of way — abrupt, sudden — but without the fun of being able to go outside and build a snowman and knowing both the kids AND the other half will be returned back to normal tomorrow when it’s all gone to slush. This time I don’t know when normal is coming back.

Or you can read the short version of my question which is simply…


Thanks so much,

Detective Dwayne Carver”

• • • • •

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Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:01:26] – Frankie
You’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:01:35] – Steve
Hello! Yes, each week we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community. Do our best to answer it, but also we ask for your comments because they’re awesome. And at the start of each episode, we go back to last week’s episode and read out your thoughts. Last week’s episode was-,

[00:01:47] – Frankie
It was about us co-mentoring each other.!

[00:01:53] – Steve
Oh, yeah. Well, Ross Wintle got in touch.

Ross said,

“I’m in a co-mentoring/mastermind type group. I found the people organically through other networks. They were folk that I already know. I took the initiative and invited them to gather with me and each other on video calls every few weeks. I felt kind of selfish assembling this team of awesome people to be accountable, to learn from and bounce ideas off. But we’re all helping each other and I’m so glad I got the courage up to start it. It’s brilliant! I’d echo most of what you’ve said.”

Only most? Did you notice that? ‘Most’ of it.

Ross continues,

“Regular meetings are good, but there’s also banter between meetings that is incredibly valuable. And we do a tonne of cheerleading each other on, both in private and in public. I thought it would be mostly goal setting and accountability, but it’s so much more than that.”

[00:02:43] – Frankie
Most of the other comments were from people saying that they were doing it or just starting it, which is really nice. Or there were a couple of people who were tagging other people, going, “oh yeah, we were going to do that and never did!” And then starting that conversation again.

[00:02:56] – Steve

[00:02:58] – Frankie
Yes, let us know how you get on.

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:04:37] – Frankie
This week’s question is anonymous.

[00:04:40] – Steve
Do we need a fantasy name generator? Detective names… Rick Fox. Dwayne Carver.

[00:04:49] – Frankie
Dwayne Cava? Like the sparkling wine? That might be the most middle-class thing I’ve ever said.

[00:04:56] – Steve
No, Carver is spelled differently, as in carving up meat.

Do you want to go with Dwayne? You seem to have an affinity.

[00:05:16] – Frankie
Yeah, I like Dwayne.

[00:05:17] – Steve
Okay. Detective Dwayne Carver.

[00:05:19] – Frankie
This week’s question is anonymous. Detective Dwayne Carver.

He says,

“Dear Steve and Frankie.

Yes, I know that’s the wrong way round, but everything seems weird and topsy-turvy at the moment.

Here’s the long version of my question:

How can we best brace ourselves and our businesses for potentially having our kids off school for weeks on end? Not in a summer holidays kind of way, where we’ve maybe wound down our work and booked in a few summer camps or stays with family, but in a ‘snow day’ kind of way. Abrupt, sudden, but without the fun of being able to go outside and build a snowman and knowing both the kids and our other half will be returned back to normal tomorrow when it’s all gone to slush. This time, I don’t know when normal is coming back.

Or of course, you can read the short version of my question, which is simply: what the fuck?

Thanks so much.

You can say my real name, but to be honest, I’ve always wanted to sound mysterious. So please give me a detective name. Being a detective would also make my mum proud of me.


Detective Dwayne Carver.”

[00:06:15] – Steve
Oh, well, you’re right, it feels like the summer holidays, but the summer holidays that we can’t quite plan for yet. We can plan a bit though, because we know it’s coming, right?

[00:06:25] – Frankie
So that’s the first thing I was going to say, is we know it’s coming! As with the summer holidays.

Yeah, we know this is occurring, so there are things we can do now to prepare. So, like… you’ve already jumped the gun, you’ve bought loads of supplies and already used up all your ideas, but for most of us, we’ve still got a bit of time to prep.

So, at some point today — if my children will allow me to do that — I’m going to order loads of stuff. I don’t know what it is yet. Stickers, paper, card, hit up Amazon?

[00:07:06] – Steve
Or of course, from our friendly DIFTK suppliers of similar things!

[00:07:11] – Frankie
Yeah, it’s a really good point. There’s loads of people in the group that have resources for exactly this, either paid for or for free.

[00:07:16] – Steve
Yeah, in fact, I have been looking, I think they’re called KiwiCo?

[00:07:20] – Frankie
Oh yeah.

[00:07:23] – Steve
Do you see them on Instagram?

[00:07:23] – Frankie
I know who they are, yeah.

[00:07:23] – Steve
So they’re like STEM projects, science projects, but I got an email from them yesterday saying we’ve also created a load of free resources, like ideas of stuff you could do without needing their kits. And then their website crashed as everybody went, “give me the stuff, give it to me!”

Go in the Doing It For The Kids community and look for the thread rather than us mentioning everything. But the fact is — there’s loads of stuff. We can stockpile ideas and then maybe a good thing to do is to get into the habit of working to the… is it the Pomodoro technique? You know, like the 20 minutes burst? Maybe even buy a tomato timer and let the kids be in charge of it!

[00:08:05] – Frankie
Oh, that’s a nice idea.

[00:08:06] – Steve
So, for 20 minutes mummy or daddy is going to do <this>, you’re going to do <that>. And when the timer’s up, we’re going to hang out for a little bit. Ready? Set the timer!

Everybody is in the same boat. Here’s what we should cling to. Like everybody, literally everyone in every country, wherever your clients might be, your customers might be — they all know what’s going on. I think on the plus side, that’s better than a snow day.

[00:08:31] – Frankie
Yeah. The likelihood is the people that you’re working for are also going to have their schools closed and are also going to have their kids around. We’re just going to be living that meme? That BBC News guy meme with the kids in the background breaking in on his meeting? Like, that is just life now. That is not reserved for people like us. Yeah, I’d take some comfort in that! We no longer have to hide the fact that we might have children at home. Like, we can shout about that as much as we want now.

We’re specifically talking here about preparing for school closures, right? Because I feel like we need a separate episode on how to prepare our businesses for what’s going on generally.

More likely than not, if we have a partner, they’re also going to be at home at this point. So that’s something we don’t normally have the luxury of when, say, the kids are sick and we need to work and have them at home. Now, this is a team effort. Obviously, if you’re a single parent — virtual hugs, because that’s fucking hard.

But yeah, you may well have your partner around and that brings a whole heap of politics with it. And there will be teething problems with that. But we’ll all find a new routine and we will have two hands on deck. This isn’t just on us for once.

[00:09:44] – Steve
But I would say — if you find that your other half is presuming that it’s still on you…

[00:09:52] – Frankie
That is a conversation you need to have early!

[00:09:54] – Steve
Nip it in the bud. Yeah.

[00:09:55] – Frankie

[00:09:56] – Steve
Their boss also needs to have understanding.

[00:09:58] – Frankie
Yes, that’s a really good point. If you’re in a position where you can stop working and you can afford to do that and you want to be the person that takes that on, that’s completely different. There are a lot of couples in the group who both are self-employed and often have to work at home together with the kids. So if that’s you, please comment on this episode because you might have some amazing nuggets of gold about sharing the load, basically, and how you do that.

[00:10:24] – Steve
I’m thinking that when it comes to it… One good way — for us anyway — might be that you split up the day. So in the morning, this person is doing it and in the afternoon, that person is doing it.

I don’t know, it might not work. But it’s one thing that I’ve been thinking about.

[00:10:39] – Frankie
Yeah, well, my plan at the moment…

So basically I’ve got an 18 month old and a nearly five year old. With the nearly five year old — I can basically give him stuff to do and he will actually do it. But he does get frustrated and he’s going to struggle with understanding why he can’t go and do the things he wants to do. But ultimately I can give him things and he’ll kind of get on with it independently now, thank God.

But at the other end of the spectrum, I have an 18 month old and I cannot stress enough how hard I think that age is. I think it’s one of the most challenging ages when you have children because they’re completely mobile. They can get everywhere, do everything, shove everything in their mouth, but they are just a walking accident area. You need to be two steps behind them the entire time. They don’t want to do anything for more than 2 seconds. They want to be physically on you the majority of the time. Like, it’s such a difficult age.

So the only way I currently survive is by having childcare! And if I’m not going to have anybody else to look after her for long periods of time, I’m essentially a bit fucked. So my current plan is… And I would never normally say this to people! I would always usually say nap times are for recharging. They’re a bonus part of your day. Don’t assume that’s for work. But right now, that is my one guaranteed slot in the day where I can get anything done.

So, my plan is — during nap times I’ll go straight to my desk. I need to be eating either before or after that period. I need to be going straight to work and just work solidly during that time. Currently, she’ll sleep for about an hour and a half.

[00:12:10] – Steve
I guess that’s when it’s important to have, like, a definite task that you’re going to work on so that you know…

[00:12:15] – Frankie
Totally. You need to know what you’re going to be doing. You don’t want to sit down and feel overwhelmed about starting. You need to know what that task is for that day.

So, my plan is to use that time and then because my other half is also going to be at home — he has said that he’ll do the dinner-bath-bed bit of that day. So I will work 5 to 8 or 8.30. Then we’ll eat together later in the evening. Basically, I don’t want to be depending on 9pm to midnight every night for work!

[00:12:45] – Steve
No way.

[00:12:46] – Frankie
Because I’m going to burn out. And then, you know, if I’m at risk of getting sick already, that’s not a means of boosting my immune system is it? I guess there’s also like… we need to prepare the kids for what’s about to occur. We had a bit of a chat this morning that was like, “when mummy and daddy say they need to work, you need to respect that and go and do your own thing, but when Mummy and Daddy say, let’s play, that’s dedicated time for you and we will do whatever you want to do”. And thankfully, we have children that already are very familiar with that concept. This isn’t like a new thing for them. They have seen us working at home, maybe not all the time, but they will have come across that phenomenon.

There might be a part of your house that is like, you know, mummy or daddy’s workspace — that is not an alien concept to them. So in terms of adjusting to all of that happening in one place, that is going to be a lot easier for us than it is going to be for a lot of other families.

I’m also afraid that people are going to feel… Again, it depends massively on the ages of your children and like what’s going on. If they’re about to do their GCSEs, then obviously there are responsibilities to maintain a proper education at that point. But these are unprecedented times. Don’t beat yourself up about having to create an entire home education system overnight. That’s just not going to happen. There are amazing resources around teaching your kids at home, and now we can draw on those if we haven’t looked at those before and that’s amazing. And there are people that have been doing that for years already — fantastic! But like, don’t beat yourself up about having every single part of the day being, you know, wholesome and educational, because it’s not going to happen. It’s just not going to happen.

And as we’ve said a million times… You have to be realistic, otherwise you’ll just destroy yourself because you won’t feel like you’re doing a good enough job. And when you’re all isolated, you’re going to argue, you’re gonna… it’s just… accept that TV is fine, some shitty Brio video on YouTube is fine. We all need those down points in the day anyway. Don’t fight that stuff. Cut yourself some slack basically.

[00:14:54] – Steve
It’s going to be tempting for me to work later in the evening, but I know I’m better off going to bed at, say, 10, half 10, and getting a decent night’s sleep. I’m much better at dealing with the kids when I’ve had a proper night’s sleep.

[00:15:11] – Frankie
Yes, definitely.

[00:15:11] – Steve
Just better at dealing with everyone and also not trying to let myself get too stressed out by the work side of things. Just being a little bit more ‘meh’ about that. Because, again, if I’m trying to focus on something on my laptop and they’re bugging me… See, even the fact that I use the word ‘bugging’…

[00:15:29] – Frankie
Yeah, it’s telling.

[00:15:32] – Steve
Yeah, it’s wrong because it means you end up getting annoyed with them or whatever. But I just want to be aware of that, so that I’m like, “okay, do you know what? I’m going to put this down”.

[00:15:48] – Frankie
I read it somewhere. I’m really sorry. I’ve been so overwhelmed with stuff this week that I can’t credit all these sources, but I read another thing that was exactly that. It was like… “make sure multiple times a day — even if it’s just like 30 seconds — you give your child not just attention, but eye contact. Look at them. And make sure what you are doing is entirely about them and what they want to tell you, whatever that is. You are making a connection with them, like a real connection. And make sure you check in to do that multiple times a day rather than looking at your phone, looking at your laptop.” You don’t want your kids to feel secondary. I mean, this is rule for life anyway, but it’s going to be harder to do that.

This is day three for us, and my son this morning was like, “oh, I want to go to blah blah’s house”. They’re going to really miss seeing their friends. So I’m definitely going to start doing… We talked a lot in the community about Zoom calls for our businesses, but I’m definitely going to start doing that sort of thing for him! Not just with my mum and dad, family members, but I want him to be able to chat to his friends as well. And again, so age dependent, because if you’ve got a teenager, they’re probably doing that on their phone all the time anyway, but he doesn’t have the means to do that himself. So I’m going to set up some Skype chats with his cousin and maybe some friends from school. Like virtual playdates?

[00:17:13] – Steve
Sorry, I’m distracted because we’ve been joined by…

[00:17:15] – Frankie
… a small person.

[00:17:17] – Steve
Frankie now has a co-host on her lap. A semi naked co host.

[00:17:23] – Frankie
Say hi, Steve.

[00:17:24] – Frankie’s Son
Hi, Steve.

[00:17:26] – Steve
How are you doing?

[00:17:27] – Frankie’s Son

[00:17:28] – Steve
Yeah, how’s the trains today?

[00:17:29] – Frankie’s Son
I was finding out in the blankets, to see where the tunnels went. Well, some of them are blocked.

[00:17:38] – Steve
Some of your tunnels are blocked?

[00:17:40] – Frankie’s Son

[00:17:41] – Steve
I think that’ll happen to us all. It’s the way our diet is going to change, living at home.

[00:17:45] – Frankie’s Son
Yeah. And sometimes some corners are blocked.

[00:17:48] – Steve
Oh no.

[00:17:49] – Frankie’s Son

[00:17:49] – Steve
So how are you going to deal with that? Is that this afternoon’s task, to unblock the tunnels?

[00:17:54] – Frankie’s Son

[00:17:55] – Steve
Why are you not going to school?

[00:17:57] – Frankie’s Son
Because mummy and daddy need to make sure I’m not sick.

[00:18:03] – Steve
Are you missing school or are you liking being at home?

[00:18:06] – Frankie’s Son
Like being at home.

[00:18:07] – Frankie
Do you? Okay, we’re going to finish our podcast now.

Do you want to go back to the other room or do you want to stay with us?

[00:18:13] – Frankie’s Son
Stay with us.

[00:18:14] – Frankie
Okay. Can you be quiet for a minute?

[00:18:16] – Frankie’s Son

[00:18:17] – Steve
Depending on your relationship with your other half or if there’s another adult in the house — remember to make time to maybe do a Facetime chat, Skype chat, whatever it is, with an actual adult. Maybe in the evening? Because while it’s nice having a bit of banter in people’s DMs or whatever, actually, to talk to a human, to an adult… that’s so nice. And the other adult in your house might not get what it is that you’re going through with your business, but also, you’ve been in the house talking to each other for three weeks by this point.

[00:18:51] – Frankie
As difficult as it might seem when you’re facing indefinite period of having school closures, I think we really have to try to approach it positively, because — and I know I’m so guilty of this — if I know something’s going to be a bit shit, I will approach it thinking this is going to be a bit shit. And then it inevitably is! So I’m trying really hard to let go of that and look for the good stuff. For example, we’ve been eating our dinner together as a family at 6 o clock. We never, ever, ever do that. We sat down to do that last night and Rob was like, “oh, wow, this is nice!” You know, there are good things that will come out of it.

[00:19:31] – Steve
I reckon, and I’m clinging to this now… In years to come, years and years to come, our kids will go back and they’ll think, “do you remember that time when all the schools got closed in 2020 and we had to spend weeks at home?”

[00:19:47] – Frankie
Living the dream!

[00:19:48] – Steve
Do you want to help us end our podcast that we’re recording?

[00:19:52] – Frankie’s Son
If you’ve got a question, let my mummy know at

[00:20:01] – Frankie
Good job.

[00:20:02] – Steve
See, you don’t need me. He’s a natural. Yes, let us know your questions. Also, let us know your comments about this topic. How are you coping? Be it in the community or on Instagram or Twitter.

What would your advice be?

Let us know your thoughts using #DIFTKpodcast on Twitter and Instagram, and join in the conversation via the DIFTK Community on Facebook.