With remote work, all our working parents were suddenly confronted with their personal lives and their professional lives occupying the same space – and they needed new solutions.
“Home-life and work-life all lived in my house, and that was a big adjustment. I went from having work as a kind of escape to having my children actually with me at work,” says Nicole Santiago, Tele-Data Solutions project coordinator. “I’m the mom of two, and I’m thirty-five weeks pregnant. Suddenly, not only was I an employee, but I was also a teacher for my children. In our industry, it also got really busy, so it was definitely a little chaotic.”
“Chaos” is a theme that many working parents felt during these initial months of fear, uncertainty, and adjustment.
“I have three kids—ten, eight, and four—and I’ve been back to work part-time for five years,” says Cara Miscia, Tele-Data Solutions accounting team member. “When COVID hit, we were so busy that I went from part-time to full-time remote. With the nature of remote work, I was actually able to work more, so I dove in, but without daycare or family coming around, I was logged in 24/7. It was an adjustment for all of us and a really chaotic time.”
Among the chaos, however, many working parents have actually found a lot to like about remote work.
“One of the big highlights is not having to drive into the office,” says Nicole. “Not having that commute and not having to wake up super early are big upsides to remote work.”
“With remote work, I can actually work more and still not miss important family things,” echoes Cara. “If I have a meeting scheduled at four, I know I can still take my kid to the doctor in the morning.”
Technical Solutions to Deal with the Challenges of Working from Home
To deal with this unique situation, here are a few invaluable technical remote life solutions that our workers use every day:
Not every company is going to have this option, but if you can route your work phone calls to your cell phone and replicate your work station as much as possible through a mobile app, you can help ensure you don’t miss anything.
“For me, being a working mom at home, sitting at my desk for eight hours straight is just not possible,” says Nicole. “I need my work at my fingertips, even if it isn’t on my laptop. With the mobile app, all the calls that were on my work phone are coming to my cell. Now, even if I have to help one of my little ones, I can grab the phone and know I’m not missing anything.”
In this system, work emails can also come to a cell phone, and even team communication systems, such as Slack, can all be done via a mobile device.
Web phone technology allows calls to come into a laptop or computer, which again facilitates never missing important communication.
“I’m thirty-five weeks pregnant, and it’s getting to the point where it hurts a little bit to sit for too long,” says Nicole. “With web phone capabilities, I can be in my bed and bring all my work with me. Web phone has helped me a lot in that way.”
Headset with a Mute Button
Every mom working from home who has a client meeting or an important phone call knows the dread of trying to navigate those professional moments with screaming, shouting, fighting, laughing children in the background. Luckily, a simple mute button can alleviate a lot of that anxiety.
“A wireless headset with a mute button has been a savior,” says Cara. “If there’s a meeting where I can’t be disturbed, I know I can just plug in my headset and hide in a room. It helps a lot.”
Headsets can also aid with accessibility.
“I just walk around with my headset all day,” says Nicole. “Even when I take lunch, if I do get a call, I can pick it up on my headset and still be in communication.”
With potentially multiple people working from home, it’s a good bet your Internet bandwidth is getting more of a workout than it’s used to. Upping your Internet capacity can help ensure those important video conferences don’t drop or chop.
“Before all this, my home Internet wasn’t great,” says Nicole. “I chose to upgrade my modem so I wouldn’t get stuck down the road. With a little planning and innovating, I was able to get all the extra tech pieces that make my life today doable.”
Non-Technical Remote Life Solutions to Deal with the Challenges of Working from Home
Headsets and software can help give you a leg-up with remote work, but for many moms, successfully navigating this balance with life requires many solutions, including some non-technical pieces:
Help around the House
It’s no surprise to any working parent that keeping the daily household duties going is a constant battle. Finding innovative ways to do everything from buying groceries to cleaning up has helped parents working from home get everything done in a day.
“I needed to start getting groceries delivered to the house. That way, I could sit with my kids and help them do their homework. I could put the investment there instead of going out to the store,” says Nicole. “I also got a Roomba so I could cut an hour out of having to sweep my house. That’s time I can use now to get dinner on the table or to finish work.”
Help with the Kids
Sometimes having the kids in the house and trying to work just isn’t feasible. With many daycares and schools closed, finding help with the kids continues to be a major challenge, but if you can reach out to friends, family, or others, don’t be afraid to ask for that help.
“The kids were kept out of school and were doing everything through Zoom. I was trying to help them manage that while being logged in and working remotely,” says Cara. “It became clear that trying to work and be a teacher for my kids just wasn’t possible for me. I ended up hiring a tutor three times a week for my middle child so my kid could get that extra help while I was working.”
As some distancing and quarantining protocols loosened, many parents were relieved to once again call on family and friends for help.
“As the fear settled down, my mom and sister-in-law started coming around again to take care of my youngest. I was still logging in to work after the kids went to bed, but with this extra help, I could focus more on work during the day without being distracted,” says Cara. “I still don’t have a daycare solution, and life isn’t normal, but it’s settling down some.”
“Having family support is huge,” agrees Nicole. “Not everyone has that, but for us, it was pivotal. It was the only way we got through those first couple of months.”
With work life and home life colliding and everyone busier than ever, parents are finding time management to be one of the biggest solutions.
“Every day, even more than usual, I have to prioritize my tasks, in my work life and my home life,” says Cara. “I ask myself, What absolutely has to get done today? What can wait until later? I’m still dealing with challenges, but I’ve taken multitasking to a new level.”
Sometimes the best solution is just a small break. If you’re the kind of person who lets vacation time accrue, this might be the perfect year to take it. Stepping away for a few days can help you feel more connected to your family and can help you come back to work refreshed and motivated.
A significant challenge for many working moms was suddenly having to make their existing homes compatible with not only working from home but having the kids do school from home as well. “I had stations set up all over the house where the kids could do school and homework,” says Nicole.
If the existing home setup simply isn’t working, some are even looking into remodeling.
“The basement became the school area for the kids, so I’m literally working at my kitchen table,” says Cara. “The biggest challenge for me is not having an office where I can shut the door. We’re actually looking into doing a renovation to add a home office because it’s that important to make our situation work.”
One of the biggest solutions that can help moms is actually nothing more than a mindset shift. Juggling work and parenting isn’t just difficult; sometimes it’s downright impossible. There will be times when working parents will have to choose between taking a client call and changing a diaper, but accepting that and forgiving yourself for not being able to be in two different places at once is key.
“Sometimes I work when I should be helping my kids, and sometimes I help my kids when I should be working. I’m definitely still finding that balance,” says Nicole. “I like for everything to be perfect and completely professional. My worst nightmare is an upset customer. But forgiving myself when I don’t get it right is so important.”
If working parents have learned anything from this experience, it’s that sometimes the imperfect moments are the best opportunities to laugh.
“I run a weekly project meeting, and as lead, I can’t mute myself. In the middle of that meeting, my five-year-old yells out from the bathroom, ‘Mommy, I pooped, and I need you to clean me!’ Everyone heard it, and they’re all dying laughing,” says Nicole. “I’ve really learned that clients, coworkers, they’re all understanding. It’s not always going to be perfect, but we’re all trying our best. And, when you have kids in this unique situation, sometimes you just need to step away for a few minutes.”
We’re all living through this incredibly bizarre moment in history, and for working parents, it can be really tough. Hopefully, some of these practical tips and solutions from our working moms help make your remote life a little bit easier. If you have any solutions that have really helped you balance remote work and parent life, please feel free to drop them in the comments. We’re all in this together!