#SWAAYthenarrative

Working From Home While Parenting in a Pandemic. The Juggle is Real.

5 min read
Lifestyle

I had just finished putting my toddler down for a nap when my 3-month-old cried out from the next room — hungry. Again. As I slowly backed out of the room so as not to disturb the nap that took five diligently-read books to achieve, I glanced at my watch — just five minutes to spare before my scheduled Zoom meeting.

As a mom, I'm in this like everyone else — not knowing what tomorrow will look like and doing my best day by day.

While I was going through these familiar motions, I thought how am I making this work? After talking to more moms just like me, I've come to learn that I'm not alone. Left without childcare in the middle of this pandemic, we've just been forced to improvise and expected to do the impossible, usually, while worrying about how long we can keep this up. In fact, instead of worrying about making it work, some parents have decided the best way to deal is to give up parenting for the time being altogether. At least, half-jokingly anyway.

This is working from home while parenting in the time of COVID-19 — a messy juggling act.

A Near Impossible Job: Full-time Parent and Full-time Employee

Working parents, unemployed parents, single parents, essential worker parents — all of these parents and situations have their own set of challenges. The circumstances of the pandemic have placed many parents at a crossroads to find alternative childcare in order to return to work or otherwise give up their employment and thus their financial security. More than 4 in 10 parents of children younger than 19 reported that they or someone in their family lost a job, work hours, or work-related income because of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Urban Institute's Health Reform Monitoring Survey (HRMS).

Working From Home While Parenting in a Pandemic

I established my career in Silicon Valley as a remote professional, and have for the last decade believed strongly that location-independent work is the future of work. As I became a mother and made that first transition back to work from maternity leave (albeit a leave way too short, but that's a topic for another day), I realized this remote work arrangement was the only thing that enabled me to continue to work.

I could meet the demands of my job while caring for a newborn. I often worked outside of the usual 9-5 and while the days were long, I was just so grateful to have a work-life arrangement that allowed me to be near my child when I needed to be. Turns out, that's a familiar story to many parents. A flexible job is really important to parents of young children. In fact, 82% say that having school-age kids affects their interest in finding a flexible job.

While the lines between work and home life are blurring, be flexible, communicate effectively, and lead with empathy.

Many workplaces have turned to remote work during this pandemic but with childcare and school closures, working from home with kids doesn't look like the "flexible" work arrangement it had once been. Parents have been handed the near-impossible task of balancing the responsibilities of full-time caregiver, full-time educator, full-time employee, and first-time remote employee.

As a mom, I'm in this like everyone else — not knowing what tomorrow will look like and doing my best day by day. I wish there was an easy answer to the childcare predicament all working parents face. In the meantime, I have figured out a few things that have really worked for me in order to have a productive day, lead from a physical distance, and maintain some sense of order in my home from 9-5.

My 3 top tips for working from home while parenting in the time of COVID-19.

1. Maintain A (Flexible) Routine

One of the major changes that comes with working from home is that without an office environment routines can get thrown off. Be sure to create a routine for both you and your children. I would also opt for a time-blocked routine rather than a rigid to-the-minute schedule. For example, mornings are for your meetings and the kids' quiet busy work (be that school assignments or other activities). A routine gives everyone an expectation of how the day will go and this can help decrease stress. Furthermore, using a routine rather than a rigid schedule also sets you up to be more successful because it allows flexibility for you all to make changes when needed.

2. Create a Designated Workspace

Control the things you can and don't spin your wheels on the things you can't. While there are few things that can be controlled, your workspace is one of them. It doesn't have to be an office, but your workspace should be a space that is your own. This isn't a space anyone in the house can simply drop off their things or fiddle with yours. Ideally, this space will be organized and clutter-free so you're not losing time finding what you need to get to work, or being distracted with anything else. Studies have found that work environments have an effect on satisfaction and productivity. If you work in a place that inspires instead of distracts you, you are more likely to be efficient, productive, and happier.

3. Communicate

Over-communicate with both everyone in your house and the remote team you are collaborating with. In the house, be sure everyone knows your schedule especially if you're co-parenting and co-working with a partner in shifts. It could help to post your weekly schedule, so everyone knows when a big meeting is coming up and you're in the do-not-disturb zone. With your remote team, take advantage of platforms for video communication to help recreate face-to-face interaction. General rule of thumb, if you find yourself writing an email that's become a novel or you're responding to a thread that's gone too long, the clearer route to communicating is likely a video conference.

While the lines between work and home life are blurring, be flexible, communicate effectively, and lead with empathy. And most importantly of all, give yourself the space to make mistakes, try again, and learn what works best for you.

P.S. Are you finding yourself overwhelmed by the challenges of parenting through the pandemic and keeping up with the work-life juggle? In a time when moms need a support system more than ever, I've founded Hey Mom Co., a new kind of wellness and mindset development community for working moms. Visit our website to learn more: http://heymom.co

5 min read
Self

Lessons Learned and the Power of Turning 50

Except for 16, I have celebrated all of my milestone birthdays in New York City.

I turned 16 in Arnold, Missouri. Arnold is a small town (though not small anymore) 20 miles south of St. Louis. St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch, a beautiful arch of shiny stainless steel, built by the National Parks Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson's vision of a transcontinental U.S. St. Louis is also known for its custard, a frozen dessert that is so thick, they hand it to you upside down with a spoon inside. Something else about St. Louis you should know is that there is a courthouse just steps from the base of the Gateway Arch where one of the most important cases in history was tried: Dred Scott v. Sanford.

I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive.

Mr. Scott was born into enslavement around 1799 and, in 1830, was sold to a military surgeon who traveled back and forth between his military posts in Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was prohibited under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In 1842 the doctor and Mr. Scott both married, and they, all four, returned to St. Louis. Still enslaved, Dred Scott filed a lawsuit against the doctor's wife for his and his wife Harriet's freedom. We don't know exactly why he chose this moment in time to file a lawsuit, however, he did. At the time of filing his, now, famous lawsuit, he was 50 years old. Ultimately, The Scott family did not gain their freedom, but their profound courage in filling this case helped ignite the Civil War and what we would come to know (or think we know) as freedom from enslavement for all human beings. Powerful then and even more powerful now.

My next milestone was turning 21, and I did it in the Big Apple. Having only moved to "the city that never sleeps" a few months prior, I knew nobody except my new friends, the bus-boys from the restaurant I was working at, Patzo's on the Upper West Side. And, yes, pazzo is actually the correct spelling of the Italian word, which translates to "crazy." Trust me we all had several laughs about the misspelling and the definition going hand in hand. I worked a full shift, closing out at around 11 PM, when, my kitchen team came out from the line with a cake singing, "Cumpleaños Feliz." It was fantastic. And the kindness of these almost-strangers was a powerful reminder of connection then as it still is today almost 29 years later.

I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy.

When I turned 30, I had just finished a European tour with Lucinda Childs dance company. The company had been on tour for months together and were inseparable. We traveled through Paris, Vienna, Lisbon, and Rome. We ate together, we rode on a bus together, we had drinks after shows together, and we even took turns giving company class to get warmed up before a show. It was deeply meaningful and dreamy. We ended the tour back in New York City at BAM, The Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was an incredible way to end the tour, by being on our home court, not to mention I was having an important birthday at the culmination of this already incredible experience.

So, when I invited everyone to join me at Chelsea Pier's Sky Rink to ice skate in late August, I was schooled really quickly that "tour" does not mean you are friends in real life, it means you are tour friends. When the tour ends, so does the relationship. I skated a few laps and then went home. This was a beautiful lesson learned about who your real friends are; it was powerful then as it is today.

Turning 40 was a completely different experience. I was in a serious relationship with my now-husband, Joe. I had just come off of a successful one-woman dance show that I produced, choreographed, and danced in, I had just choreographed a feature film, John Turturro's Romance and Cigarettes, with A-list actors, including Kate Winslet and James Gandolfini, who became a dear friend and had even been on the red carpet with Susan Sarandon at the Venice Film Festival for the movie a year earlier.

And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age.

This was a very special birthday, and I had, in those 10 years between 30 and 40, come to cultivate very real friendships with some wonderful colleagues. We all celebrated at a local Italian restaurant, Etcetera Etcetera (who is delivering for those of you in NYC — we order weekly to support them during COVID), a staple in the theater district. Joe and I were (and are) regulars and, of course, wanted to celebrate my 40th with our restaurant family and friends. We were upstairs in the private room, and it was really lovely. Many of those in attendance are no longer with us, including Joe's Dad, Bob Ricci, and my dear friend Jim Gandolfini having transitioned to the other side. Currently, that restaurant is holding on by a thread of loving neighbors and regulars like us. Life is precious. Powerful then and today even more so.

I write this article because I'm turning 50, still in New York City. However, I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive. And I could not be more filled with hope, love, possibility, and power. This year has included an impeachment hearing, a global pandemic, and global protests that are finally giving a larger platform to the Black Lives Matter movement. Being able to fully embody who I am as a woman, a 50-year-old woman who is living fully in purpose, takes the cake, the rink, and the party.

I'm making movies about conversations around race. I've been happily married for 11 years to the love of my life, Joe Ricci. I'm amplifying and elevating the voices of those who have not previously had a platform for speaking out. I choose who to spend time with and how long! I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy. Being 50 is one of the most amazing things I ever thought I could experience. And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age. I'm 50 and powerful. Dred Scott was 50 and powerful. This powerful lesson is for today and tomorrow. We have the power. No matter what age you are, I invite you to use your powerful voice to join me in making the world a better place.