Being a parent and a working professional is a difficult thing to balance.
Before Covid-19, however, the working world and the parenting world were primarily kept separate. When we show up to the office, we often forget the people sitting next to us have lives outside of work--kids, after-school activities, family responsibilities, etc. As a result, we really only get to know our co-workers in the context of our day-to-day responsibilities.
We don't often get a glimpse into each other's lives.
One of the unexpected positive impacts of the coronavirus has been an increased level of empathy within companies all over the world. All of a sudden, your co-workers, clients, vendors, and so on, aren't just people you work with. By hopping on Zoom video calls, or needing to take phone calls from home, we have all been able to see each other more for who we are. We notice the paintings hanging on the wall in the background, we can hear the dog barking in the other room, we can see a husband or a daughter walk in during a meeting. And these small, seemingly insignificant moments throughout the day have led to a whole new level of understanding between team members, as well as working professionals at large.
At ThirdLove, specifically, I have found empathy to be at the forefront of how people have been feeling these last few months. Not everyone knows what it's like to try to be productive and work while you have kids running around the house or apartment. And so, in little moments where you're able to see what's really going on, a whole new level of respect is earned.
We have always been a kid-friendly office and company, but this has been a unique time for all of us to come together and better understand and support those of us who are working parents, as well as give other team members the opportunity to be more understanding--and lend a hand whenever possible.
Here are a few ways I encourage you to think about how you can support working parents during this time:
1. Working moms have it the hardest--so find ways to celebrate their efforts.
The brunt of the extra responsibilities that have emerged from Covid-19 have fallen on the shoulders of women.
I have heard this over and over again from so many people, and yet it rarely gets discussed. I'm not saying working from home and having kids running around doesn't impact men as well, but for the most part, women are the ones who end up being responsible for all the little things: feeding the kids, making sure they're entertained, etc. In dual working households, sometimes the man is in his office, while the woman is bouncing between four or five different things all day long.
Funny enough, we were celebrating a woman on our team during our company all-hands meeting a few weeks ago, who is a mom to two little kids. We were appreciating her leadership, and just how great she's been, and when she hopped on video to say Thank You, she was tying her daughter's ponytail at the same time.
Showing empathy, and celebrating the efforts of working women who are also managing a full house at the same time goes a long way.
2. Expectations right now need to be flexible and subject to change.
Parents need flexibility during this time more than ever. As a mother myself, I know I have needed to ask for other people's understanding as I constantly shuffle things around.
The reality is, society's expectations of needing to work eight or nine hours per day five days in a row, have needed to shift. Sure, there are certain meetings that can't be missed, certain deadlines that need to be met, etc., but it's unreasonable to expect working parents to be as productive and attentive while working at home (especially without any child care) as they would if they were in the office. At the end of the day, it's not about clocking hours as much as it is getting your work done in a way that is most convenient and productive for both you and the company.
Maybe that means getting up early and doing some work before your kids wake up. Maybe that means working at night when they go to bed. Maybe that means scheduling meetings during their nap time. Whatever the case may be, working parents need to feel comfortable and supported to be able to talk about these challenges with their employers and fellow team members.
Help create that safe space for them.
3. Provide internal resources and help however you can.
These are moments in history where the ethos of a company gets challenged. If you say your team values being supportive of others, now is the time to walk the walk.
One of the things we have done is create Slack channels that support parents. We had one called #homeschooling, sharing resources and interesting things parents can share with their children to keep them entertained and just somewhere parents could joke and commiserate about the wacky situations that happen when you're a parent. Little efforts like these are what help people not feel so isolated and alone, and instead feel supported, heard, and most of all, understood.
We have also been providing team members with a "wellness day" once a month, giving everyone the day off to take care of themselves. For a parent, this almost always means spending part of the day with their kids and hopefully getting a bit of downtime too -- which are both equally as important.
Regardless of the activity or the effort, what matters is that working parents don't feel alienated and ashamed for not being able to be as engaged, or as productive as someone in their 20s living alone. Instead, it's important to celebrate each person's unique circumstances, and help each other out as best we can.