An Ode To Working Parents In The Wake Of COVID-19
“Hey Mom, can you help me?” Mom, are you still in that meeting?” “Mom, my brother is drawing on my worksheets” “Mom, I’m bored” “HELLO? Mom” …….
Working from home presents its own challenges and adjustments but working from home with the kiddos around is a whole new animal. As a parent, you learn to juggle multiple things at once and may even credit yourself for the ability to multitask. But we all know we can really only focus on one thing at a time. So in this new normal, how is one to work, take necessary meetings, be on camera for video calls while also putting on a teacher hat, be a toddler playmate, cook meals, and prepare snacks (….like every hour)?
With transparency, and with self grace.
I am not an expert, but what I do know is that we are all human and that most of us out there can relate to this juggling act. Most of us out there are working from home with kids around. Most of us are trying to take this day by day and balance it all. Let’s raise the coffee mug together and recognize there may be kids in the background. It just makes us all feel more comfortable.
This pandemic is anything but a good thing, but if there is a bright side to this, I think it’s making us a little more human, a little more relatable and for the first time ever, getting us to a place where it’s okay to talk about home life in a work conversation. Not at the water cooler, but in the meeting.
COVID-19, as awful and disruptive it has been, has forced us to couple work life with home life. It has pushed us even further to become master jugglers, balancing work with parenting and all the things that come with that. IT’S HARD! But, it’s also really humanizing and grounding.
We’ve all seen that BBC newscast from a few years ago with the Dad/Professor who takes an interview from his home office when his child suddenly bursts in behind him. In an instant, the whole mood of the interview changed: he was calm, collected, and in his element talking politics of South Korea till one of his little ones rolled in behind him. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and give it a Google; it’s pure gold. However, as hilarious as it is, it went viral because it was so out of the norm. We aren’t used to seeing work life and home life coexisting in one frame. We aren’t used to kids playing in the background while in work mode or thinking of the people we work with as a Mom or Dad during work discussions or negotiations. But, suddenly now, this has changed.
I have been working from home for at least five years. I know how to collaborate digitally, stay engaged, and be productive away from an office (sans kids). That is, until a few weeks ago. Pre-COVID-19, I dropped off my daughter at school at 7:15, then my son at daycare, then return home to fire up my computer in a totally quiet home. Let’s get one thing straight: my home is anything but quiet today. Instead of sipping on my coffee in peace, letting inspiration flow into the morning, I am now checking emails while cooking breakfast and sharing my meeting schedule with my husband so we can lay out the day and designate who watches the kids when. It’s hard. But, it’s humanizing and grounding.
When I hear other people’s kids in the background on my calls, I smile and say hi to them, not just because I love little voices but because I resonate with that. Then I mention how my kids are probably in the playroom wreaking havoc, and suddenly the nervous and embarrassed face of the person on the other end of the video call loosens to a smile and sigh of relief. A silver lining – in the last few weeks, I have gotten to know my customers on a much more personal level and, in return, they know me better, too. I am thankful for this.
I am not discrediting professionalism in any regard, but I think we can all relate to these adjustments … and, well, life happens. Perfection should not be the goal. We are in survival mode, and doing the best we can is more than enough.
You are not the only Mom or Dad out there putting crayons and printer paper on the floor of your office to occupy a little one for a few minutes while you take a call. You are not the only parent out there yelling out to the family to please try and be quiet for the next few minutes before you push unmute. You are not the only parent doing their darndest to line up nap time with your ‘big meeting’ of the day or running through the house in between your back to back calls to make sure that your older child is getting some of their school work done.
As absolutely hard as this is, we are all in this together. Let’s laugh about these challenges together, be a little forgiving when things don’t go completely as planned, and give ourselves some grace.
Be transparent and mention how you are feeling, truly, at the front end of the call. Be honest and tell the others on the line what’s going on in the background– they may just have a similar setup.
My hope is that when things go back to ‘normal’ that we remember this time and not go back to that polarizing notion of separating work life and mom life (or dad life). Being a parent is a huge part of everything you do in life, including the decisions you make at work and everywhere else. Let’s not leave that part of ourselves at the bus stop when work and school life resumes back to ‘normal.’
Yes, the day will come when we ‘go back to normal,’ when the kids are in school and all is quiet in the background. When that happens, let’s remember this time fondly and continue bringing that transparency to the office. If nothing else, you will be well equipped for the next snow or sick day.
In the meantime, use that mute button, get yourself a virtual background, take a deep breath, and be honest. You got this. #nowofwork
(your fellow imperfect #momboss)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marissa Franco brings over 10 years of sales and business development experience to Leapgen. Prior to joining the Leaper family, Marissa worked for various financial technology firms where she managed strategic partnerships and drove enterprise growth. She is passionate about building meaningful client relationships and solving complex business problems through efficiency and engagement. Marissa enjoys traveling with her husband and two children, Lily and Liam. She’s a technology lover and dedicated yogi.
Leapgen is a global digital transformation company shaping the future of work. Highly respected as a visionary partner to organizations looking to design and deliver a digital workforce experience that will produce valued outcomes to the business, Leapgen helps enterprise leaders rethink how to better design and deliver workforce services and architect HR technology solutions that meet the expectations of workers and the needs of the business.
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