How We Work: Vienna
What takes our trips from really long vacations (yea, that would be nice) to working sabbaticals is the work part. We take one week off at the end but the four weeks spent in one city are spent juggling work and relationships and parenting, just like home.
It's impossible to split them all up. To write about how we work is to talk about parenting and to address the work we do as a couple to keep things functioning and fun.
But still, I get that the curiosity is generally about maintaining a full work load while Instagram story-ing equally full days at parks and at the tops of churches.
How does it work?
Well, it changes each trip as Loie changes and our careers change. In France? I was writing dollar-a-piece digital trading cards and thrilled if I made 50$ a day. Now? I'm balancing a full time thang, as is Brett, but the kid is proving pretty easy.
I wrote about work in Iceland (pre-kid, pre-me writing) and again in San Francisco (napping kid). In DC, we had all-day summer camp which opened up so many work hours but, ultimately, I like trying to make it work without full time care because maybe I am a glutton for packing too much in or maybe those daylight hours together with the kid matter as much as them being in a new place.
Figuring out a workable work schedule is priority #1, beyond food and dark rooms for sleep (Lo and I are strident about that). It takes an ongoing and really open conversation about what's going on. A week in to our time here and we have discussed and tried out and disagreed and empathized and reworked and landed in a good place, so far.
So, then, here's how it looks:
Lo typically gets up between 7 and 8. We're pretty lucky in that she's not a crazy early riser, I know. Most things we want to do open around 10 so I have 10ish as a get-out-the-door goal.
Depending on who was up later working or who has something pressing that day or desperately wants to shower off the Vienna heat, the other takes lead on coffee and breakfast and managing the explosive ball of chatting we co-parent.
The hours in between waking and leaving are filled for Lo with breakfast, journaling, some reading or math or iPad. I'm trying to both encourage and not force the journaling thing but, damn, it's awesome. She got a journal for selling Girl Scout cookies that has lined and gridded side on each page which makes writing and drawing each day easy.
I pretend it looks like that most days. In reality, it looks more like this.
I can fit in some light administrative or communications kinda work that can be easily interrupted to help with spelling or crayon organization requests. Or I can write this post, for example.
After bedtime at 7:30 or 8, it's second shift. Simply put, putting in extra hours at night opens up more hours during the day. More on that, both how it works and why we're ok with it, in a bit.
These are the days that may and can be the most flexible by design. Mondays are perhaps a tad lazy after a long, full weekend. Mondays are notorious for things-being-closed here. Two of the Mondays we'll be driving in really early from other cities so I imagine those will be less-full too. I'm generally the primary parent on Monday and it's generally a mellow day. I think mellow days also lend themselves to unexpected wonder that a first here, then there, then there structured day can lose.
Last Monday I was aiming for a playground. That in and of itself was awesome as some local tweens taught Lo a modified Austrian hide-and-go seek.
I knew there was a church nearby. We popped in, quite casually, to Karlskirche, not realizing we were popping into one of the famous-est.
And we went alllll the way up to the top, which was something I'd read about being able to do at a church in Vienna, I just hadn't fully put together that it was this church in Vienna.
So a massive adventure may unfold.
Or not. Today, for example, Lo and I had a mission to find the Mexican grocery store (we did!) and maybe hit a new playground (Siebenstern, we did!).
We'll do some more playground time after work with dad and there are some cool stairs I read about that we can go see. (Magically our neighborhood Alsergrund, the 9th district, is one of two already live on On the Grid!)
Lo asked what the big adventure was going to be today and it feels important to be open that not everyday is wild from dawn till dusk. And that you sometimes need to trust the process of the unexpected. And it might be kind of chill but surprisingly pretty.
Most Tuesdays & Thursdays
Brett has a standing call at 4 pm our time. Those are the days where I work a bit in the morning (in the abstract, waking up early) and then spend the day on some kind of delightful adventure with the kid.
These days are my magic days. Sure, by the end I am exhausted and done talking about anything, at all, ever. But I know these are days that count. We see and do things we don't normally. We talk about things big and small. We matter to one another.
I know I will never be someone she calls a perfect mom. But I know there are days that make me a mom who tried. Many of them are days at home, on her bed talking about friendships or walking to school talking about gravity. I love those days too. But traveling made me me and I hope she's a grown woman with an expansive view of the world and her own potential in part because of the days we got lost and found together.
I'm lucky in that often times my work requires less all-day blocks of full focus. Still, to give me some time not-parenting and all-working and to give Brett and Loie time to have adventures and moments like I described for her & me, and time to whistle loudly in public if we're being really honest, we look to Wednesdays.
Wednesdays are my work day. When you are told you have six hours to crank, you crank. Last week I wrote all the blog posts and made all the client phone calls. I also got domestic work done along with project work. It just made sense to do laundry on Wednesdays when I could hang it mid-day. It was awesome.
Fridays are for herky-jerky days. In the abstract, the idea is that Brett gets up early so he can wrap early and meet us out. Lo and I bebop around, doing something that ends around 3 with the understanding that Friday night will most likely have some work involved.
On Friday last, that meant meeting at the Belvedere for some art action.
Our first Friday was our first day here, two of our Fridays we'll be heading to Budapest and Prague. The last one we'll be leaving. So we herk and jerk and make it work.
So that's a week. Wash and repeat four times and you have a month.
On paper, man it looks so good! Well done, us. In praxis there are accidental late nights watching Austrian game shows or unintentional early mornings where I've yet to map out a day. All in all, all is well.
I know, though, that there are broader questions beyond logistics of a day.
Here are three we've been asked the most.
How do you work with the kid in the room/apartment/same city?
Since she was born, Lo's had parents who work from home. Through modeling and conversation, she knows that if Brett's in his office or I'm in mine that we're working and that we all need to respect one another. She has grown up in a house with people who work in the house. It's how things have been so she's good about knocking or not careening down the upstairs hall if I say a phone call is happening.
We've talked with her about the fact that these trips are partially possible because we work for ourselves, in the same way we can volunteer at her school or host talent show rehearsals during work hours. She gets it now and whether she's just parroting it back, can reiterate that we're really lucky but that it takes work on all our parts.
Does she interrupt sometimes? Yes. She's six. But right now she's got a bag of Barbies dumped on the carpet and is content.
Isn't it hard to be productive after a long day?
Sure, kinda sorta. I worked at night when I was teaching. In the early days of our businesses there were many late nights. And even now, working for ourselves can mean the sometimes silly late night.
Knowing that these trips are only possible with us working is a pretty good motivator. And we pack so much in on weekends, y'all, we Tetris the hell out of our weekends.
It doesn't hurt that we opted to pay a bit more for rooms with a view.
Beyond the terrace, the apartment is full of nooks and inspiring spots.
Aren't you sad to be missing out on the night culture?
Sure, kinda sorta. I have friends who believe as strongly in bar culture as a sign of a local identity as I believe in playground culture. Both are equally illuminating in totally different ways.
I had many years to dance on tables and stay out till dawn. I was never very good at it even when I had the chance. Turns out I'm way better at sitting on a park bench than a barstool. Parents strike up conversations as best they can, awkwardly and interrupted by booboos and requests for push-mes, at parks around the world. The recommendations and laughs we've gotten at those are as good as the random waiter in Montreal who tried to convince us to come home with him and his friends. The stories may be less salacious, but they're as great.
And the real truth? Even if we weren't working, we have a kid. Unless we could shell out for a regular babysitter, we'd be home most nights. In France we each took an evening out for ourselves. We both fully support time out and away here and home.
Working at night is one of the not-quite compromises we make. We'd most likely be home most nights on a vacation with a kid. Now we're just getting paid to do it.
What about dates or time together in a cool place as a couple?
Iceland, kiddo was in utero. So, all good on the date front, though I wasn't guzzling Brennivín or eating fermented shark (totally ok with both of those restrictions).
In France, my sister and her family or my mom took Lo so we could go on two day trips. One was to the Route de Cidre, still one of my favorite days. We ate and sipped ourselves silly.
San Francisco we knew we'd be back to at least twice in the following year for weddings, so we didn't sweat it too much. New Zealand? All family, all the time. We booked a babysitter in DC. And Lo popped a fever.
This trip? We have one week with camp the third week at Emma's Art Room, an English speaking art camp that'll run 9-3. If it goes like I hope, it'll be awesome. Play time with kids for Lo. And we plan to pack things in Lo wouldn't want or be able to go to. The trade off? We need to do as much as we can at night and before hand so that week can be about places Lo wouldn't want or be able to go.
So the interwoven work/life integration is sometimes a balancing act. It's sometimes a big mess. With planning and assessment and recalibration and a respect for the awesome of the trips and the limits of the trips, it just works.