How I'm Maintaining My Work-life Balance In Quarantine

5 Min Read

The day I started writing this essay, I got in a spat with my husband while I was baking brownies with the kids. He didn't understand why I had doubled the recipe. Despite the fact that I announced this fact multiple times, because I wanted to make them thick like I did as a child. As soon as I poured the batter into the pan, he came in and said, "Oooh, that's going to be so thick! Shouldn't we split the batter into two pans?" I saw red; I lashed out on him telling him how dare he question my nostalgia brownies and why not just say, "Thank you for doing this with the kids and I can't wait to eat them"? He looked at me like I was crazy.

Total transparency, I rarely bake so this was a big deal. On top of that fact, because of my upbringing I am hypersensitive to negative feedback when I think I am doing my best. Minutes later, I went to apologize with a spatula full of yummy raw brownie mix to make amends, but he asked me to leave him alone. We were both having a rough day. Within an hour, we were saying sorry and laughing at the stupid fight. By night time, we were pigging out my dessert and my husband acknowledged that double thick brownies are heaven. Moral of the story? This pandemic is bringing the worst and best out of us.

This pandemic is bringing the worst and best out of us.

Lately, my frustration and pent up anger has come from observing that this lockdown has brought working mothers — who normally had outside help — back ten steps with respect to work-life balance, domestic tasks, and what is expected of us when we are married with children. I can't do it all. I won't do it all. So what does that look like in my house right now?

Here's how we are trying to figure this crazy $h&% out!

Look At The Big Picture

Life is rough right now. Emotions and anxieties are sky high and it is easy to get upset over trivial things. The things that were already annoying you about your partner (big and small) are now amplified. What is a trapped couple to do? Communicate! I've been in therapy since 2015 for PTSD, which has taught me the language and given me the courage to voice my needs appropriatly, prior to that I didn't think I knew how to do so without yelling. It has taken many years to know how to feel my complex emotions, recognize where they are coming from, and then open up to my husband about what I need from him and why. We aren't perfect. Sometimes a voice will be raised here or there when we disagree or get frustrated, but the two of us know that communication will always be a work in progress. At the end of the day, we want to maintain a loving, healthy relationship — that is priority.

Let Your Inner Voice Be Heard

"Why didn't he pick up the laundry basket I left by the steps to go upstairs?" "Why did he leave his dirty dishes in the sink when the dishwasher was empty?" Sometimes you have to take that inner dialogue in your head with all those complaints about your partner "not doing enough" and say it out loud productively and with respect. Instead of yelling at your partner about why they left dirty dishes in the sink, say, "I am frustrated today because I am feeling overwhelmed with my homeschooling duties while trying to accomplish my work. Can we talk about how you can help me during the day?" Your partner is just as stressed as you are, just about different things probably. Sitting down and problem solving together will make you feel supported and part of a team versus it being about "him vs. me."

Plan Ahead

Okay, I am going to say it, men don't exactly plan in advance as well as women do. My husband admits this fact all the time! Instead of forcing him to figure it out on his own, I turn it into a team effort.

Okay, I am going to say it, men don't exactly plan in advance as well as women do.

On Sunday, we ask each other what our week looks like, pointing out meeting-heavy days or stressful deadlines. Each night we review our schedules again, so we can cover one another, which prevents only one person becoming responsible for watching over the kids all the time. We switch tag team who is responsible for being the "teacher" each day of the week. Sometimes we put Google Calendar invites on our work calenders as reminders for things like when one of us needs to be on a Zoom call and the kids can't be using up our bandwidth. Our short-term memory isn't the best these days, so constant check-ins are saving us.

What Can Each Of You Own?

My husband always says how happy he is that I can "keep so many things straight," so he doesn't have to. But even I have a breaking point, and the onus can't always be on one person to remember everything. That's the mental load we all know about as mothers. What household or homeschooling to-dos can you two split up and each be accountable for? There are things your partner can manage, such as being in charge of a certain subject for homeschooling, planning the week of meals, or disinfecting/quarantining mail and packages before touching them (my husband leads the charge on this because I will touch everything and forget to wash my hands).

Sometimes, I ask my husband to handle things that aren't on his radar. I may not have the time, but it will drive me crazy if it isn't done. For example, my son's school asked for a photo of him for the yearbook (they never got to take school pics) and they wanted us to decorate a page for him. While I was catching up on my work at 9PM after the kids went to bed, my husband worked on the yearbook stuff. Although not a huge priority, in the end, we wanted our son to be included in this memory book and it was worth the few minutes spent for a lifetime of memories.

Read more from Nubia DuVall Wilson on her Thrive Blog at nubiaduvall.com and follow her on Instagram and on Facebook @EncounterswithNubia
5 Min Read

Judge Tanya Acker On Overcoming Racial Barriers And Her Rise To The Top

You may recognize Judge, Tanya Acker, from her political and legal commentary on different networks and shows like Good Morning America, The Talk, Wendy Williams, CNN Reports or The Insider. Acker is more than an experienced commentator. She is also a Judge on the fifth season of Emmy nominated CBS show, Hot Bench.

The show, created by Judge Judy, is a new take on the court genre. Alongside Acker, are two other judges: Patricia DiMango and Michael Corriero. Together the three-panel judges take viewers inside the courtroom and into their chambers. “I feel like my responsibility on the show is, to be honest, fair, [and] to try and give people a just and equitable result," Acker says. She is accomplished, honest and especially passionate about her career. In fact, Acker likes the fact that she is able to help people solve problems. “I think that efficient ways of solving disputes are really at the core of modern life.

“We are a very diverse community [with] different values, backgrounds [and] beliefs. It's inevitable that we're going to find ourselves in some conflicts. I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

Acker's career has been built around key moments and professional experiences in her life. Particularly, her time working right after college impacted the type of legal work she takes on now.

Shaping Her Career

Acker didn't foresee doing this kind of work on television when she was in college at either Howard University or Yale Law. “I was really open in college about what would happen next," Acker comments. “In fact, I deliberately chose a major (English) that wouldn't lock me into anything [because] I wanted to keep all of my options open." Her inevitable success on the show and throughout her career is an example of that. In fact, after graduating from Yale, Acker served as a judicial law clerk to Judge Dorothy Nelson who sits on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

It was not only her first job out of law school but also one of the formative experiences of her professional life. “[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law," she exclaims. “She delivers it all with a lot of love." Judge Nelson is still on the bench and is continuing to work through her Foundation: The Western Justice Center in Pasadena, California, where Acker serves on the board. The foundation helps people seeking alternative ways of resolving their disputes instead of going to court.

"I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

“It was important to her to try and create platforms for people to resolve conflict outside of court because court takes a long time," Acker explains. “I'm proud to be a part of that work and to sit on that board."

After her clerkship, she was awarded a Bristow Fellowship and continued building her career. Outside of the fellowship, Acker's legal work incorporated a broad variety of matters from civil litigation, constitutional cases, business counseling, and advising. One of her most memorable moments was representing a group of homeless people against the city. “They were being fought for vagrancy and our defense was, they had no place to go," she shares.

As part of her pro bono work, Acker was awarded the ACLU's First Amendment Award for her success with the case. Though, she has a hard time choosing from one of many memorable moments on Hot Bench. Acker does share a few of the things that matter to her. “Our show is really drawn from a cross-section of courtrooms across America and the chance to engage with such a diverse group of people really means a lot to me," she discusses.

How Did Acker Become A Judge?

In addition to Judge Nelson, Judge Judy is certainly among her top professional influences. “I think it's incredible [and] I feel very lucky that my professional career has been bookended by these incredible judges," she acclaims. “I've really learned a lot from Judy about this job, doing this kind of job on television." Before Acker was selected for Hot Bench, she hadn't been a judge. It was Judge Judy who recommended that she get some experience. Acker briefly comments on her first experience as a temporary judge on a volunteer basis in traffic court. “I was happy to be able to have the chance to kind of get a feel for it before we started doing the show," she comments. “Judy is a wonderful, kind, generous person [and] she's taught me quite a lot. I feel lucky."

Judge Acker in white pantsuit with her dog. Photo Courtesy of Annie Shak.

Acker's Time Away From Home

Outside of Hot Bench, Acker took recent trips to Haiti and Alabama. They were memorable and meaningful.

Haiti, in particular, was the first trip she excitedly talks about. She did some work there in an orphanage as part of LOVE Takes Root, an organization that is driven to help children around the world whether it's basic aid or education. “Haiti has a special place in my heart," she began. “As a person who's descended from enslaved people, I have a lot of honor and reverence for a country that threw off the shackles of slavery."

She was intrigued by the history of Haiti. Especially regarding the communities, corrupt government and natural disasters. “They really had to endure a lot, but I tell you this when I was there, I saw people who were more elegant, dignified, gracious and generous as any group of people I've ever met anywhere in the world," she goes on. “I think it left me with was a strong sense of how you can be graceful and elegant under fire." Acker is optimistic about the country's overall growth and success.

“[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law."

“There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," Acker says. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving."

Her other trip was different in more ways than one. She traveled there for the first time with her mother as part of a get out to vote effort, that Alabama's First black House Minority Leader, Anthony Daniels was organizing. “It was incredible to take that trip with her [and] I've got to tell you, the South of today is not the South of my mother's upbringing," she explains. Originally from Mississippi, Acker's mother hasn't been back in the South since 1952. “Every place has a ways to go, but it was a really exciting trip [and] it was nice for me to connect with that part of the country and that part of my history."

Overcoming Racial Barriers

As a black woman, Acker has certainly faced challenges based on her race and gender. But it doesn't define who she is or what she can accomplish. “There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," she says. “There's no sort of barrier that someone would attempt to impose upon me that they didn't attempt to impose on my mother, grandmother or great-grandmother." In a space where disparity is sometimes apparent, she recognizes that there is no barrier someone would try to impose on her that they didn't attempt to impose on her mother or grandmothers. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving," Acker states. The conversation continues truthfully and seriously. Acker shares what it can be like for black women, specifically. “I think we're underestimated and we can be disrespected, whereas other folks are allowed the freedom to enjoy a full range of emotions and feelings," she articulates.

At times black women are often restricted from expressing themselves. “If someone wants to make an assumption or jump to a conclusion about me because of my race or gender, that's on them, but their assumptions aren't going to define me," Acker declares. “If something makes me angry or happy I will express that and if someone wants to caricature me, that's their pigeonholing; that's not my problem." A lifelong lesson she learned and shared is to not let other people define who you are. It is one of three bits of wisdom.

Three Pieces Of Advice From Judge Acker

The Power Of Self-awareness

“It's really important that you have a really firm sense of what you want to do and be, and how you're moving in the world because when people try to sway you, judge you or steer you off course you've got to have some basis for getting back on track."

Know Your Support System

“Have a strong community of people who you trust, love and who love you," she advises. “But also learn to love and trust yourself because sometimes it's your own voice that can provide you the most comfort or solace in something."

Learn From Your Experiences

“Trust yourself. Take care of yourself. Don't be too hard on yourself. Be honest with yourself.

“There are times when it's not enough to say this is who I am. Take it or leave it. Sometimes we've got things that we need to work on, change or improve upon," she concludes.

Acker stands out not only because of her accomplishments, but the way she views certain aspects of her life. These days, she's comfortable accepting what makes her different. “I think there's a time when you're younger when conformity feels comfortable, [but] I'm comfortable these days not conforming," she laughs. She enjoys being a decision maker and helping people work through it on Hot Bench.

This article was originally published May 15, 2019.