- Since March 16, therapist Mark Loewen has been working from home with his husband Leo and daughter Zoe.
- Loewen has been the owner and manager of LaunchPad Counseling, a counseling practice in Richmond, Virginia, for six years, where he specialises in parenting, relationships, and LQBTQIA+ issues.
- Loewen is also a children’s book author and conducts live readings from his daughter’s bedroom.
- Here’s how Loewen balances his work and home life amid the pandemic, with bike rides, yoga, and a sock on his bedroom door.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
One of the first things Mark Loewen thinks about when he wakes up at 8 a.m. is what he’s going to wear.
What Mark Loewen decides to wear each morning is dependent on how he begins his day. Loewen’s workdays can begin three different ways – with a therapy session, a bike ride, or administrative work.
If it starts with a therapy session, he wears a button-down shirt. If it starts with a bike ride, he wears bicycle shorts.
On days when he begins with administrative work, his choice of outfit is more flexible.
If Loewen starts the day with administrative work, which includes billing and other paperwork, he’ll go with something more casual.
Then, it’s time for breakfast. Loewen and his husband Leo each have two eggs and a cup of coffee every morning.
Loewen and his husband Leo take turns making breakfast for each other, and their daughter Zoe makes her own breakfast. Since the pandemic, she’s become more independent.
“We don’t have to be out of the house so quickly, so that is one reason,” Loewen told Business Insider. “We’ve encouraged her to think about what she wants to eat and what she can make because we can.”
When Loewen eats breakfast with Zoe, he goes over his schedule for the day with her.
Since Loewen’s meetings include client confidentiality, he goes over his schedule with Zoe to let her know when his room is off-limits.
Just in case she forgets, Loewen came up with a system for letting his daughter know when he’s in the middle of a session — he puts a sock on the bedroom door.
Loewen puts a sock on the bedroom door and plays a white noise machine before he begins his sessions. He told Business Insider that if his family can hear his sessions from outside his door, the white noise machine makes it so they cannot understand what he is saying.
Loewen works inside his bedroom, but his bedroom office has transformed since he began working from home in March. This is what it used to look like.
“This lasted for about a week until I could adjust and figure out something better,” Loewen said of his make-shift laundry basket desk set-up.
Although he found it homey, Loewen told Business Insider that once he realised he could be working from home for a long time, he decided to get a more comfortable, practical set-up.
Now, this is his set-up, complete with a ring light and wall art.
Loewen pulls his desk set up from the wall each morning at about 9 a.m. He has a stand with an extra light where he secures his cell phone during sessions.
“I set up the lighting and the angle so that people don’t see that I’m in my bedroom,” Loewen told Business Insider.
Loewen also added a picture to the wall behind him for therapy sessions.
“It’s to make it visually appealing when I talk to people, instead of just a white background,” Loewen told Business Insider.
This is where Loewen sits to conduct 3-4 therapy sessions each day, which he says come with new challenges amid the pandemic. Now more than ever, Loewen can relate to his clients’ stresses.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Loewen said there was a decrease in clients.
“Clients thought they would just suspend their therapy for a few weeks,” Loewen told Business Insider. “But as time went on, and we realised this was going to be a longer quarantine period, clients came back on.”
Now, Loewen said he has the same number of clients as he had before the pandemic began.
Loewen told Business Insider that a major difference between being a therapist before the pandemic and being a therapist now is that he is often dealing with similar stresses.
“If I see a client, generally, I’m not going through what the client is going through. So I can help somebody with depression and not have depression,” Loewen told Business Insider.
Loewen said that the most basic thing that a therapist does is to stay present with a client and allow them to bring up all their fears to process. Amid the pandemic, clients might talk about their anxiety and depression in contexts that magnify what he is already feeling.
To handle added stress, Loewen tries to make time for yoga and mediation between sessions.
Before and between appointments, Loewen takes time to breathe and meditate to create a mental barrier between his work and other aspects of his life.
Sometimes Loewen only has a couple of minutes between appointments. But that’s two minutes to breathe and remind himself where he is.
“Or I might do some yoga poses in my small room here to just kind of stretch my body and say, all right, this is completed, I can now go, and I can be present,” Loewen told Business Insider.
At the same time, Zoe is in the other room doing schoolwork with Leo.
Also at 9 a.m., Zoe begins her school day with Zoom classes. Zoe is in 2nd grade. Her teachers send her worksheets and projects.
Leo is a learning and development manager. Because his job doesn’t involve confidentiality, Leo does most of the schooling with Zoe during the day.
Loewen said that Leo also assigns Zoe additional projects to do at home.
Leo assigns Zoe extra work too, including science and engineering projects. This assignment was to create a map of the neighbourhood.
Loewen likes to play outside with Zoe to break up his workday. After finishing up sessions, Loewen might take Zoe outside for a roller-skate break.
Usually, he walks her around the neighbourhood while she roller skates.
Loewen invites Zoe in the bedroom to work with him once he’s finished with his sessions.
“When I don’t have clients, my daughter might come in and she’ll bring some of the school stuff that she’s working on,” Loewen told Business Insider.
Loewen also does administrative work at his desk, like billing, paperwork, and keeping up with the practice.
At the beginning of the pandemic, much of Loewen’s work was administrative.
That’s because he had to transfer the entire counseling practice to an online portal system complete with confidentiality for clients.
Now, Loewen’s administrative work includes communicating with his receptionist, billing, and helping colleagues with the new system.
Several times a week, Loewen will break up his day with a bike ride to refresh his mind.
Loewen has been biking regularly for more than a year. He rides a trail that connects Richmond with Williamsburg, Virginia.
“I love the road,” Loewen told Business Insider. “I love the feeling of the wind, and I love the sound of the wheels turning, and just the smoothness, I really appreciate it.”
Before the pandemic, he would plan his work schedule around biking. He would make time for a 2-hour bike ride three times a week.
“The second hour of riding is when I really get the high that runners will talk about, the runner’s high,” Loewen told Business Insider. “People who only ride their bike for like an hour at a time don’t actually get the best part.”
Then he would go home and shower and then go to work.
“But now, I get home, and some work is already waiting for me, or my kid needs me, or whatever it is,” Loewen told Business Insider.
When he has time for a 2.5-hour ride, Loewen bikes to a specific pier where he likes to reflect.
“I sit down, and I have 10-15 minutes of meditation … or journaling, and then I ride back,” Loewen told Business Insider.
Taking the time to properly maintain his bike makes the experience of riding better, Loewen told Business Insider.
When Loewen doesn’t take his time preparing his bike to be ridden and cleaning his bike after, he feels rushed during his ride, and he finds it less enjoyable.
When he takes the time to prepare his bike, his mind opens up because he is able to fully disconnect from work.
About once a month, Loewen does a live virtual reading of his book “What Does a Princess Really Look Like?” with his daughter.
“What Does a Princess Really Look Like?” is a child empowerment book inspired by a conversation Loewen had with Zoe while drawing a princess.
“We had a talk about how looking beautiful is not actually something you do. The princess might do something, but just looking beautiful isn’t an accomplishment,” Loewen told Business Insider. “So when we worked on a princess, we went down the body in a sense of what the parts of the body can do instead of what they look like to other people.”
Loewen conducts live readings through various platforms, depending on the organiser.
Before the pandemic, he would visit schools to read the book.
Loewen also published a colouring book about LGBTQIA+ families in March called “The True Colours of Family.”
“We realised that people really wanted books that were specific to LGBT families because that was not existent at all,” Loewen told Business Insider.
Between 5 and 6 p.m., the family concludes their workday and meets out on the deck.
“When I’m ready, I go down, and we’ll grab a drink, and we sit out on the deck and kind of decompress from everything,” Loewen told Business Insider.
During this time, Zoe might be riding her bike, which she does almost daily now, just like her dad.
Because Zoe rides her bike by herself now, Loewen and Leo gave her a GPS tracker and walkie talkie so they can stay in contact.
“She thinks it’s the best thing in the world,” Loewen told Business Insider. “It’s kind of cool. It’s very 80s.”
At around 7 p.m., it’s time for dinner.
Loewen told Business Insider that they have been grilling a lot lately. A typical dinner is grilled chicken and vegetables. Sometimes they order take-out from local restaurants to support them instead, Loewen told Business Insider.
After dinner, Loewen takes over kid duty until bedtime.
“Because my husband has been with her all day, most of the time I’m then in charge,” Loewen said of the bedtime routine with Zoe.
When she was going to school every morning, Zoe had to be in bed by 8:30 p.m. Now she can stay up until 9 p.m.
Loewen sends her to shower and brush her teeth, then he does a calming activity with her in her room to get her ready for bed.
This might include reading a story, building legos, or applying face masks.
After Zoe goes to bed, Loewen tries to squeeze in some time with Leo before going to bed himself.
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