While doing our best to stay healthy amid a global pandemic, Progress employees held an online forum to share different ways parents and employees can manage our daily challenges and support each other and our families.
Managing life with the COVID-19 outbreak as a backdrop can be a daunting task. Add being a parent to the mix and your situation automatically increases in complexity and stress. To help parents come together and share tips on how to handle life at home, our employee resource group (ERG) Progress for Her put together a panel discussion with our working parents from all over the globe.
The conversation was kept informal and light thanks to moderator and Progress Content Manager Dave Pierce, based in our Burlington, Massachusetts, office. Dave is also the father to two teenage daughters.
Let’s meet our panelists:
Questions were focused on the following topics:
How are they managing studying? Is the school providing resources? Is anyone exploring other ways of teaching?
Iva kicked off the conversation going over some of the resources provided by our Kid’s Center out of the Sofia office. One of the biggest challenges being working with children who are ages 3-6 who are not yet attending school, she had to adjust from a lot of movement and being able to check on everyone with a virtual platform. They have two different outputs coming from the center: one being a daily PowerPoint sent at 8 a.m. to parents with a daily schedule that offers a morning workout, subject studying, snack time, craft ideas and more, and the second being online lessons for the kids.
The presentations are also available to all employees on the Progress internal website so parents can access them when it’s convenient.
Some parents with younger kids like Angel need to be sure to stick to a schedule and keep them entertained. Angel now prioritizes his mornings working out, signing songs, and creating art with his son.
“This is a huge opportunity to spend more time with family and more time with the people that we love the most,” he said.
The balance of caregiving and working from home can vary drastically depending on the home situation, so we dove into how these parents’ routines have changed.
Erica joked that any routines she previously had “have basically gone out the window.” She is grateful to work at a company where her coworkers are patient and understanding, and drove home an important point.
“You can’t work a productive eight-hour day and have a full school day for your kids simultaneously. You need to come up with some sort of schedule that will work for your household,” she said.
Although it’s important to take the time to do what needs to be done, it is even more important to take time for yourself for your own sanity. Erica’s self-care involves going for walks at night when she is able.
Dave spoke about a moment when his daughters were feeling miserable and advocating for themselves to have a family meeting at 2 p.m. to discuss how some things were working and not working, and because of the situation he took a break from work in order to support his kids and was able to pick up work later on.
Each situation will vary, while Angel’s young kids are up early and sleeping during the day, Dave’s daughters sleep in and wake up late—so their work schedules are opposites, but each works for their individual family.
Not only are work schedules complicated, but cooking meals for the family adds another element.
Erica has quickly realized she needs to get creative in the kitchen and welcomes some recipe ideas. Dave broke up the monotony of meals with a turkey for Quarantine Thanksgiving, and Angel is thankful he only needs to be responsible for breakfast.
Of all the challenges parents are facing during this time, we wanted to know from the panel, which challenge has been the most difficult.
Priya commented on the pressures of doing enough, trying to keep up with worksheets the school was sending and seeing parents who either aren’t working or have spare time, put energy into so many additional projects.
“For two to three days I really struggled,” she said. “I made sure in the evening when I’m free I’ll sit with them, but by that time they aren’t interested. So it took a toll, but after two to three days I was like let’s take it one day at a time and not increase the already mountain of pressures.”
Priya has found that cooking in the evenings is something that provides a learning opportunity and enjoyment for her kids.
Erica discussed the pressures of needing to take care of the entire household, cooking, cleaning and the lack of help that may be gone now. Assigning chores to her older children helps take the pressure off her throughout the day and teach responsibility.
Iva and Dave both agreed that it is a great time to teach independence so kids don’t need to wait, say for 5 p.m. for food, if they can simply do it themselves.
But it’s not all challenges, after all, kids are constantly doing funny things.
Priya, who normally doesn’t have many calls, prepared her kids favorite meal and put them down to sleep right before a one-on-one meeting with her manager, only to have the kids run in “ready to blast off” as the meeting started. She was able to flag her husband down to save the day.
Erica dealt with the new classic faux pas, not muting her mic. Her eldest came in the room saying, “Mom I want pizza for lunch” and after instructing him to talk to Nana to get his pizza, her colleague chimed in and asked for some of Nana’s pizza as well.
With all the constant chaos surrounding households with children, it can be difficult to keep kids stimulated and involved. Erica uses leverage, if a kid wants a specific dessert, they’ll have to help make it. Iva points out that multiple children could be beneficial because the older children can help with some tasks to help the younger children, whether it’s letters, chores, etc.
When it comes to school time, Erica points out frequent breaks have kept her kids focused and efficient, whether it is 15 or 20 minutes. She also has been more lenient when it comes to screen time and is leveraging content on Google and YouTube.
Iva gave some teaching advice: show the use of what they are studying. If it makes sense to the child and they can see it will be needed some day, they will want to study it.
Priya partners up with her children; when she does her work, they do theirs, so it becomes a family activity.
One question that is challenging for all parents and can vary greatly, is supporting kid’s mental health and explaining what the current situation is. How much should we tell them? What information is necessary and what will only create anxiety? Our panelists have a few different approaches.
Angel has young children, so he feels he has it easier and simply tries to minimize watching TV and videos around his children.
Iva joked how aware some kids are, stating one colleague was explaining there is a “bad flu” and their child responded with, “it’s not just the flu dad, it’s coronavirus and it’s serious.”
Erica pointed out the importance of how the parent handles and reacts, stating her kids “feed off of me and how I am handling things so if they see me getting anxious about it or you know watching the news with this look of horror on my face they’re going to really get worried and anxious so I have been trying to present a very calm rational approach to it.” She also points out the importance to acknowledge their pain, whether it be missing friends, graduations, etc.
Dave takes the approach of being calm as well, telling his daughters what he believes they need to know without excessive details. He went on to discuss the importance of patience, “It’s important to be incredibly patient with our public officials, with our health officials, and with our parents and with our own family members. There are going to be times of uncertainty and these are opportunities for us to grow and learn how to be patient and learn how to adapt to a changing and scary landscape. ... Having that opportunity to be optimistic in the face of uncertainty is a really good life skill.”
Our panelists also shared some tips for those who do not have kids and are working with those who do.
Angel’s best advice is to remember that if someone is acting a little cranky, it most likely is due to something at home, and as much as it is exciting to have the family together, it can be a lot and that can spill into work.
Dave points out that time is now unstructured. He may send out an email at 11 p.m., and asks for patience, but also would not expect a response when he is finally able to get online.
This time provides an opportunity to also learn from our kids, and our panelists agreed, their persistence, adaptability, and optimism is all something we could benefit from.
The end of our panel wrapped up with a clever trick from Angel for the younger kids. His son loves the camera concept, so he has him cut up triangles to keep him busy as long as possible, then lets him come up and “show” everyone on camera while he is on a meeting (the tip is to keep your camera off as to not disturb the meeting). His son is thrilled to participate with everyone, and is kept busy with some crafting while Angel handles his call.
One thing is for certain, no scenario is the same when it comes to parenting during this time, but as long as we all give ourselves and each other kindness and patience, we can get through it together.
Courtney Gagné is the Social Media Manager at Progress, with over a decade of experience working across different industries in the SMM space. She has a passion for activism and is a part of the leadership team of Progress for Her, whose mission it is to educate and empower female-identifying persons at Progress.
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