Juggling WFH & Parenting Duties? You’re Not Alone!

Homeschooling, juggling work, life and your attitude, our account of the challenges during 2020.

It’s been some weeks since we first heard the words COVID-19 and social distancing, and we’re all adjusting to the work from home life to varying levels of success.

You’ve probably come to grips with new tech and collaboration tools to help you manage your relationship with your colleagues. But how are you managing your relationship with your kids?

Turns out the balancing act that is parenting becomes even more difficult to juggle and thankfully as restrictions ease and kids return to school, I hope this will be an experience looked upon as a challenging yet rewarding time for you and your children.

I spent some time talking to people in the industry who have kids, as well as reflecting on my own struggles, to get some insight into how people are managing this challenge.

Navigating Work From Home with your Baby

Chrissie Zenonos is the General Manager of Digital at HCF. She was generous enough to give me a few minutes of her precious time to chat me through what her day working from home while looking after her 16-month-old looks like.

How is your routine different from previously and how are you making this work for you?

Me and my partner are now both working from home so juggling our busy schedules while looking after our baby is the trickiest of things.

We are trying hard to be mindful of each other’s space, which can be difficult. I have worked remotely before, now as everyone is doing it it’s a lot easier to be productive. As a returning to work mother it’s good to know this way of working is going to become more and more accepted as we all get used to it.

What is your biggest challenge in terms of juggling responsibilities and how are you overcoming this?

Our baby doesn’t get why we are not leaving the house, he knows we are home and he can be unsettled as we are still here, working tucked away. It’s really hard to stay focused when he’s so unsettled.

How has your employer/workplace supported you through this?

My employer has always supported me by allowing me to work from home, even prior to me having the baby. They’ve really been so positive and supportive in terms of their flexible working arrangements.

Have there been any positive impacts on your work or parenting?

Probably spending more time together. Often, we’ll knock off at dinner time to eat together and we can pick work back up again later if necessary. Our baby loves we are with him earlier in the day, and we love spending more quality time with him.

Working from Home with Your Primary School Aged Kids

I spent time chatting with Neil a Head of Enterprise Applications Manager for Wesfarmers about the struggles he’s facing as a working parent right now.

How is your routine different from previously and how are are you making this work for you?

What’s interesting is you have a lot more time in the day without the overhead of travel, and your routine is a lot more flexible, breakfast and grooming habits whenever you want which is quite nice, ability to multi-task while on calls and meetings is more productive. My home has never been so clean.

My IT function is a lot easier, where the teams that we work with are suited to remote working suited for collaborative working with people remotely to implement solutions

The challenge is where you have complex issues that typically to need to be in a room to have a proper interaction you lose that really deeper analysis, where people can stand up at a whiteboard or challenge each other differently being face to face.

What is your biggest challenge in terms of juggling responsibilities?

Engagement with individuals. I have quite a big team, and although not everyone reports to me directly, I would make an effort to engage with my team members frequently in a hallway or kitchen chat. To find out what people are working on and to check-in is challenging when people are working remotely.

What does a learning day for your kids look like?

The most significant challenge is home schooling. Work is easier to navigate, but the kids need supervision and help with their learning.

When my kids have issues with their online classes, which is a constant drain on your time, then lunch and breaks in their school schedule is very disruptive. Two weeks before school holidays, that week was chaos. It was stressful and my patience with my kids from that perspective was a massive test of my parenting skills.

How has your employer supported you through this?

My employer has been very supportive. My teams know my situation being a single dad of two kids and were responsive to when my kids needed my attention, and management understood and were equally supportive of me being on mute or looping back in later when schooling matters were sorted.

Have there been any positive impacts on your work or parenting?

There has been a lot of positive bonding time with my kids without distractions, which is amazing. The opportunity to understand what my kids are learning, the support they may need and what they’re enjoying has been great.

I find I have a better work-life balance, without the humdrum routine of traveling to the office. I really enjoy the flexibility, being able to attend to personal home duties or whatever, whilst being a call is good for me personally.

The longer-term changes sociologically we will see. I don’t think working from home 2-3 days a week impacts the quality of work people deliver. I believe there will still be a strong need to be co-located work wise, I think it’s important we reconnect, but still, maintain the balance moving forward.

Helping your Child Through High School During COVID-19

My daughter Darcey is just starting year seven. She’s been a real trooper throughout the iso period, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tough on both of us. I jotted down a few thoughts on what I’ve learned about being a parent during the lockdown.

How I tackle a ‘normal’ school day

The speed at which my daughter’s school has spun up from the classroom to online learning at home was very positive and fast considering and it has improved significantly from the onset of all of this major change.

Each day the school sends out a plan for what work needs to be completed the morning of, so I use this as the basis for our routine.

Each subject is run via a separate Microsoft Team, using a variety of online platforms to deliver the work depending on the subject. I encourage Darcey to be as independent of me as possible in managing her time and following this schedule.

I have noticed that immediate feedback via instant messaging or video conferencing is missing from this system, so while I try and have time blocked out in my calendar during the day to check in on her school work, you do have to be accommodating of interruptions to the routine when she gets stuck. It’s actually been pleasing to see how tolerant people are when these interruptions spill into my workday.

Screen time is often a touchy subject for teenagers, here’s my set rules for this.

I understand Darcey needs to spend the majority of the day online to complete her schooling, but it’s important that this remains productive time. The school has also been great in encouraging students to chat with each other and use social media during their breaks, and I try ensuring there’s no phone usage during class or mealtimes, this request has been broken many times, we are definitely not perfect. There is never a dull moment with a sneaky view of Tik Tok or You Tube at these times.

The lighter side of lockdown

While it’s certainly a challenging time, removing commuting and many of the BAU tasks from my daily routine has freed up time for me to review our processes and organisational efficiency. It’s also allowed me to re-examine some side projects we’ve had planned in order to pivot and diversify our go to market offering.

On a personal note, it’s been great getting to really reconnect with Darcey and get a first-hand experience of her school and to learn more about her friends. We’ve had some really honest and open conversations about consequences and responsibility off the back of the social distancing guidelines, and as unpleasant as it is short term, I think we’ll be closer at the end of this.

I take my hat off to school teachers, for their passion, patience and teaching our kids, they should be commended for their chosen careers, and I have truly seen how challenging it can be and what I have learnt from their ongoing commitment to teaching our kids.

Let me know how you’re juggling parenting and working from home during this difficult period in the comments below.

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