Moms Share Their Tips For Parenting Through a Pandemic
Let's be honest: juggling personal and professional responsibilities as a mom has never been easy. But in the midst of a pandemic? There are times when it feels virtually impossible. In this new world of massive unemployment, millions working from home for the first time, virtual school, and social distancing, parenting has entered uncharted territory — What To Expect When You're Expecting certainly didn't prepare anyone for this.
With no guidebook yet written to draw upon, we turned to our most valuable resource — the women of our community.
In honor of Mother's day, we asked moms at our partner companies to share how they're parenting through the pandemic and were blown away with the response! More than 50 women shared their creative hacks for managing work, homeschooling, and childcare, including everything from, "I can't attend any meetings that last longer than Frozen 2" to splurging on a bouncy-house. But their number one tip? Be kind to yourself.
Read on for more tips and stories!
Make time for yourself.
"My number-one tip is to really find time in your calendar for yourself during quarantine to completely recharge. As working moms, we are all juggling multiple full-time jobs: Nanny, teacher, chef, and (in my case) an engineering leader. You can't sustain any of those demands unless you make time for yourself. My go-to is a daily 30-minute ride on my Peloton." Shweta Saraf, Director, Central Engineering, Packet, California
"Go to bed an hour earlier and wake up an hour earlier so you can enjoy a cup of coffee all to yourself. That's my mom time. Give yourself grace and space! That's called self care." Sidney Miller, Talent Acquisitions Lead, Packet, Arizona
"Find time for yourself - every day if possible. Yes, this needs to be first. As moms, we often put ourselves way back in the list of priorities. But if you don't find time for yourself, no one will. Do something that sparks joy….exercise, knitting, baking, whatever! Every person is different. My joy today was sweating my butt off on the bike, yesterday it was working outside in the yard." Melanie Buckler, Senior Talent Acquisition Consultant – Americas, CSL, Pennsylvania
"So, what helped me regain sanity [somewhat] was taking a day off work to regain my composure and think about a new, planned approach. I realized that if I could be calm, and more intentional about the day, it would give my daughter the best chance of doing the same."- Katrina Thomas-Dycus, Sr. Manager of Employee Relations, Intuitive, Sunnyvale, CA
Embrace support from your team.
Jalpa Trivedi (MongoDB) and her son
"One thing I would like to call out is the full support I've received from my team and manager, along with the ability to work flexible hours. That is a huge contributing factor in my current success in work and personal life balance." Jalpa Trivedi, Senior Software Engineer, MongoDB, New York
"Working at CSL requires flexibility in schedules to meet the demands of varying geographies and time zones. Our leaders understand that we have personal obligations outside of the workplace and are understanding when flexibility is needed for schooling, doctor appointments, and other obligations." Tracey Lambalot, Director, Global Talent Acquisition, CSL, Florida
"I've found it easier to recover from 'meeting' interruptions than 'independent work' interruptions. If I need to think deeply about something, I'll try to find a partner to work it through with me in a meeting. If I get interrupted by my kids (which is nearly inevitable these days!), my coworker can get me back on track quickly." - Kimberly Wiederkehr, Staff Engineering Manager, Flatiron, New York
Teach your kids about the world of work — and project management!
"I have 2 amazing sons that are 11 and 14 yrs old and am the wife of a firefighter. My creative hack has been the introduction of Trello to my kids. They each have a board where we outline the school activities for the day and other items like chores and exercise. As they complete their activities, they move the cards to the done column which sends a notification to me. If they have questions during the day, they can input the questions into the Trello card and we can communicate back and forth. It has been a really good system for us and they enjoy the sense of accomplishment at the end of the day when all their cards are in DONE." - Melissa Koehler VP, Product Delivery and Chief of Staff for Technology, CNN Digital, Atlanta, GA
"I have 2 teenagers (13 and 15 years old). They pretty much handle online learning on their own, but I have a set time where I review their week's course work individually and across all subjects (I call it "weekly accomplishments") so they know Mom is still very engaged and cares about their learning." - Patty Chu, Senior Director Makers Ops, Flexport, SF
"My creative hack was to immaculate bi-weekly team meetings. This gives my teens an opportunity to present verbal progress reports, which gives them a chance to work on their public speaking. Our 'WFH Team' uses this as an opportunity to motivate improvement, ensure that all assignments are on task, and encourage enthusiasm and positivity." - Catherine Camarena, Mechanical Designer, Viasat, Duluth
"While working remotely full-time with my two-year-old daughter at home has definitely been a challenge, it has also been a way for her to begin to somewhat understand what my job is. I ordered my daughter a pretend laptop and pretend cell phone. Whenever I am taking calls or sending emails, she likes to sit next to me and pretends to work as well. The other day, she said she couldn't come on an afternoon walk with us because she had to 'take a meeting.' She used to only associate work equating to me leaving the house, and now she associates it with talking to people and helping 'moms and dads find a place to work.'" - Carly Tashjian, Recruiter, DigitalOcean, New York
Be flexible with your schedule (and yourself) and safeguard family time.
"The one thing that's really made a difference has been booking all of my meetings myself instead of having others book them. It's the only way I've been able to exercise some degree of control over my day and create the space that my family needs." - Eva Rijser, VP Global Communications, Flexport, SF"
"I put family time on my calendar and do not allow meetings during that time. My kids are a little older (7 & 10) so they are able to do most of their school work on their own." - Carrie Bryant, Global Customs Lead, Flexport, Atlanta
"With two young kids at home, it seems impossible to get anything done or even feel accomplished. What helps me navigate my 'new norm' is always finding time to step away and just be a mom. Sometimes it's playing the same board game for the 100th time or watching the same movie on repeat or even having an impromptu dance party. Making that effort allows me to feel less guilty when I need to throw on the headphones, put my head down and just focus... No matter what my day looks like or how busy I am, there is always time for some good ol' fun." - Kristine Boccio, Recruiting Operations Manager, Elastic, New York, USA. (For more WFH tips, check out Elastic's blog.)
"I have two daughters - 10 and 6.... We have found that to ease all of our anxiety, frequent cuddle breaks are like magic. I've let go of the 'Mommy's in a meeting - please don't disturb' mentality, donned my noise-canceling headphones, and shifted more into an 'open office floor plan - there's gonna be noise and interruptions' mindset. Folks are particularly empathetic right now and the stress of trying to shut out my new 'coworkers' was unnecessarily taxing. I have two 'meetings' in the day that are on my calendar and protected as fiercely as if they were meetings with our CEO. Having that structured time to sit with the girls and review their work, as well as cuddle them fiercely - has been a lifesaver." - Marcela Pineros, VP Global Enablement, New Relic, San Francisco
Project Manager Yessica Imm with her partner and children, ages six, eight, and 10
"I've worked with my manager to coordinate alternate working hours, breaking my day into 'micro-blocks' that allow me to function effectively in both my roles as a Procorian and parent. I divide my work into blocks (7:00 - 9:00 am, 11:00-2:00pm, 3:00-5:00pm, 7:00-8:30pm) and use the other blocks to prioritize family, exercise, and of course, me time!" - Yessica Imm, Localization Project Manager, Procore, Austin, TX
"My one tip I give to friends and family experiencing the WFH+kids life for the first time is to have patience and be flexible because no two days are going to look the same. Even at 18 months, our kids know how to communicate what they need. Having the patience to listen, understand, and respond accordingly will make rough days a lot smoother. Penelope's favorite time of the day is my 'family time' break around lunchtime. We go on a walk, cook lunch, she helps me unload the dishwasher, or switch the laundry, and we do a craft or run around in the backyard. It's amazing how completely disconnecting for an hour or so and focusing completely on your kiddo can reset any prior feelings of stress or overwhelm either of us had (oh, and that post-family time, midday nap she takes is a win, too!)." - Alexis Florian, Recruiting Coordinator, Elastic, California
"My husband is a realtor who can't work much due to social distancing, so he's been handling most of the childcare while I work. That said, the guilt load from being home with my kids and not being with them is huge. To help with that, I try to set aside time every day to eat lunch with my two kids and then put them down for naps. I also guard the hours between 5 and 7 with my life - that is my family's time. When I'm with my family, I'm not touching anything work-related. Having these intentional blocks for dedicated family time makes a big difference." - Rachael Harnish, Director of Operations, Shogun, Harrisonburg, Virginia
"Know yourself. Be reasonable. Being flexible with myself goes a long way. If my work is done, sometimes I'll switch off an hour early to make the kids dinner. It's about balance." - Katie, Audible
"One thing that's working for me while working from home and managing my 2-year-old is being creative with our daily schedule. I prioritize certain work tasks I need to get through during typical work hours and tackle the not so urgent tasks later in the day. I take many breaks during the day to be present in playing and learning activities. My husband is also a big help in keeping her busy when I need to get work done. We set aside time each day for a fun activity from arts and crafts to pool time. It's not always easy to balance between work and family time, but it's so worth it." - Clarencia Taylor, Accounting and Reporting Advisory Senior, Deloitte & Touche LLP, Houston, TX
"When all of this started, I quickly made a schedule for my kids to follow during the day. At first, it went great, but after about 2 weeks it became hard for me and my husband to keep up with. We actually learned that allowing the day to flow naturally made all of us happier and more productive. My son – who is in 2nd grade – has weekly homework that he has to turn in. So everyday we tackle a little piece of it, and depending on the subject and who has time, my husband and I take turns helping. Our strategy is to simplify. Giving ourselves grace during this period of time is important because we can't do it all and we don't have to either." - Siobhan Burch, Senior Software Engineer, Expedia Group, Austin, TX
Take advantage of naptime
"I am fortunate to have a toddler who naps a lot. I use this time to schedule as many calls as I can and get as much done as possible. There have been several occasions where meetings were scheduled while she is awake. During this time, I set her up with all her favorite toys in our living room and I am on the other side of the room on my call." - Zainab Tohfafarosh, Manager, TA Operations, Priceline, Norwalk, CT
"I'm gonna be honest - nap time is my happy hour. It's not easy to work from home and actually get things done. But I'll admit, in the fourteen years I've been working exclusively from home, the words 'I miss working in an office' have never once left my mouth. Ditching the cubicle life was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I find that I'm far more productive in my job, but with two small children now at home with me full-time, I'm finding it beyond difficult to get things done. Getting both of my children to their rooms or 'quiet space' to sleep, read, (hello Mr. ABC Mouse!) is my saving grace. And if you find yourself taking a 20 minute power nap yourself, because frankly #parentinginapandemic is exhausting - well, you do what you gotta do." - Cami Lewis, Security Community Advocate, Elastic, Colorado
"One of the best solutions we've come up with is to try to do as much as possible while the 2 year old is napping. This includes meetings, work that needs focus, and homeschooling our five year old. It's taking 'sleep when the baby sleeps' to a new level. " - Marissa DeVito, Head of Music Marketing SoundCloud, NYC
"Two things I have started doing that have helped me is to book meetings while your kids are napping! My baby, Henry, likes to nap from 12-2 pm, so I try to schedule my important meetings during that time so i'm not interrupted. The second tip I recommend is always wake up in the morning before your little one does. That gives you time to shower, do your hair, and put on some makeup. If you feel good, your day just naturally goes better!" Samantha Licata, Service Delivery, Manager, Packet, New York
Lauren Schaefer (MongoDB) shares her thoughts about boundaries
"Shut down your computer and turn off your phone notifications when you are done working for the day. Boundaries are super important to ensure you don't burn out. You are valuable to your company. They have invested a lot of resources into making you a productive employee. They do not want you to burn out and quit. When your working day is done, shut down your computer, turn off your phone, and mentally check out. Seriously." - Lauren Schaefer, Developer Advocate - DevRel Content Team, MongoDB, Pennsylvania
"Do your dedicated work time out of sight. When one of us is in our 'dedicated work' time, we tuck away to our bedroom where we've set up an office and close the door. For our 15 month old, it's too distracting to see us (and a screen) and not be able to interact with us (or it). Also, to further minimize distractions for our child, my partner and I primarily text one another to communicate so that we don't keep coming in and out of the room." - Cecilia Lum, Senior Product Manager, Flatiron New York City
"I started making my schedule available to my son and my spouse. We began printing it from Outlook but have since gone green and posted it to our family Google Drive. Purple calendar entries are 'do not disturb Mom and go stalk another grown up to be part of your Ancient Rome Video.'" - Michelle Lemasters, Director of Business Technology, Quality, BT Operational Excellence, CSL, Pennsylvania
Find creative forms of entertainment — and give yourself a free pass on any associated mom guilt!
Jennifer Cullem's son crafting while she gets some work done
"My five-year-old is a dyed-in-the-wool extrovert so getting him to do anything solo is a challenge. However, I've come up with two activities lately that have magically been able to suck him in for anywhere from 30 - 45 minutes. I bought some burlap, yarn, beads, bells, and embroidery hoops and taught him that he can 'draw' with the thread. Many, many T-Rexes have been crafted from this to his delight. I also bought one of those Melissa & Doug kid looms and he spent a solid 45 minutes (after the first few minutes of set-up help from us) weaving his own yarn coaster. I don't know what it is, maybe the soothing magic of repetitive motion, but it buys me time for a workout or a meeting." - Jennifer Cullem, Head of R&D for Soundbetter, Spotify, NY
"Since we cannot go to the playground anymore, I turned our small patio into a playground for my 3-year-old: buying a swing was a great investment, and she entertains herself with lots of chalk painting, hopscotch and bubble making. It helps that I can see the patio from where I'm working" - Kat Liger, Software Engineer, Helix, San Francisco, CA
"Other than the two hours of homework time before lunch on a laptop, the best strategy for us is having both kids (8 and 4 years) take some quiet play time of at least two hours post-lunch and one hour of TV time. During this time, the rules are to play with each other without coming to us unless there is a big fight." - Shuchi Jain, Business Systems Analyst, Viasat, Carlsbad
"Plan screen time around your meeting schedule, and try to keep both to a daily minimum, or as I told a colleague earlier this week: 'we can have a working session, but it can't be longer than Frozen 2.' This might mean shifting discussions to another channel, such as Microsoft Teams, where collaboration can happen on a more flexible schedule. Also, try condensing meeting times and sending detailed agendas/review materials ahead of time so that time together is more productive and action-oriented." - Meghan O'Brien, People Agile Senior Consultant, S&P Global, Salem, VA
"We found that we have to be very intentional with our time and try to get as much outdoor activity each day which really helps with the toddlers. We also got a bounce house in our bonus room that takes up the whole room. That was the best $150 I've ever spent!" - Emily Hunter, Senior Advisor, Talent Acquisition, Dell Technologies, Nashville, TN (For more great tips from Emily, click here!)
"We've been doing our best to be creative with our play and with our space. Living in NYC sized apartments with no yard proves to be a challenge but we've made it work. We are fortunate to have a car so we have extended our play space to the car! Lenox loves to pretend to drive and play with all of the buttons. Sometimes we get an hour out of this! Another thing we've been doing is going on a 'hunt' for items in the apartment. We will point to something in the book and Lenox will find the object in our home and bring it back to us." - Meghan Timpf, Executive Assistant To Chief Executive Officer, Teachers Pay Teachers, NYC
"Shaving cream in the shower! Buys you a 30 minute window for 1.99! I can take a conference call sitting outside of the stall." - Erin Merkel, Director of Implementation, Flexport, San Francisco, CA
"This month my son joined me in volunteering at our local food bank by bagging and distributing groceries to our community. We all adhered to the social distancing and face masks guidelines, but what stood out the most was how beautiful a day it was and all the extra hands we had. After a day of volunteering, my son asked he asked if we could come back for the month of May!" - Morsie Murphy, Client Service Representative, Autodesk, San Francisco, CA
Find the routine that works for you.
"Our family has had to get very creative during these unprecedented times. Trying to manage a full-time job, homeschooling, and keeping my daughters entertained has been a challenge but we are finally figuring out our routine. I have found that a well-planned schedule every day for the kids has allowed them to stay on track while I work. I have also adjusted my schedule to wake up early while the house is still quiet to knock out some work." - Erin Lovern, Director, Global Talent, CloudBees, Virginia
"What's working for us during this time is a schedule that I have set with my kids. They set their alarms, get up, get dressed, make their beds and eat breakfast just as they did when they were going to school (although they do get to sleep in until 7:30). They have a daily schedule they follow that is hanging up in our school room (aka dining room) so they can see and follow it daily. It allows for them to be occupied with their school work and my husband and I to work also."- Angie Kelly, Talent Acquisition, Raytheon Technologies, Texas
"Plan, Plan, Plan and keep the routine going!" - Amanda Taveau, University Programs Recruiting Manager, Raytheon Technologies, Texas
"One strategy that has worked for me is to start every day with a positive frame of mind. No matter what we do, morning routines set the standard. For example, a healthy breakfast, some light yoga, and a glass of water. Once we get the basics down, it's time to build on them. This helps keep sanity in the home. If things aren't right at home, they can't be right at work." - Meenakshi Mishra, Senior Project Manager, StockX, Detroit, MI
Plan ahead as a family.
"Every evening we plan for the next day and add online school meetings to the kids' planner. Teaching the children to be proficient with their digital platforms (Seesaw, Google Classroom, Khan Academy etc.), enables them to be self-sufficient." - Movi Banerjee, Director, Head of Enterprise Architecture, Enterprise Infrastructure & Operations, CSL, Pennsylvania
"The one thing that [my partner] and I have found to really work well is post-bedtime, we review our schedules for the next day to split out our coverage. It's way easier for us to know the times where we can/can't 'work' while on baby duty and it helps both of us focus during the time when the other is 'off' (though we're never off, are we?)." - Mom from Guru (Click here for more tips from the Guru team!)
"After the 1st week, we made a schedule and try to stick to it (with exceptions for meetings that can't be moved). When my husband is watching her in the mornings, I try to really focus on work and not butt in even if I can hear Ada fussing from the other room! At the end of the day, this has probably been a good exercise for me in learning to let go and prioritize." - Alexa Rhoads, Lead Product Manager, Autodesk, San Francisco
"The best way that I am able to manage is to coordinate schedules with my partner when it comes to childcare. To keep ourselves sane, we will sync our schedules the night before so we can tag-team and ensure that our toddler has someone available to interact with. ...If we do happen to [have meetings at the same time] and can't control the schedule, we will resort to the best parent in our household, also known as the television." - Holly Lee, Software Development Engineer II, Expedia Group, Seattle
Don't be afraid to lean on family/friends for support – even if it's virtual!
Danielle Lemon's daughter sharing videos with family
"Knowing that everyone has something that they can learn from someone, we have asked family members to teach [our daughter] things via FaceTime in their spare time. This has ranged from Yoruba lessons, cooking, braiding, to reading together. Family members have also asked my daughter to teach them things she knows, which have reinforced her learning and understanding!" Danielle Lemon, Inclusion and Diversity Coordinator, Conde Nast
"My mother is a former educator. As a single mom, I can't manage work and educating two kids in elementary school at the same time. For two hours a day, my mother and father get on a Zoom call and educate my children virtually. This includes buddy reading, playing math games, learning drafting (technical drawings), etc. The best part, my parents are getting a chance to showcase their skillset and wisdom and my kids have the time to devour it. At the same time, I can count on those two hours to be able to hold meetings without interruption, which is critical to the progress of my work." - Crystal Morey, UX Researcher, Smartsheet, Bellevue, Washington
"Back when my son was a newborn, I would often do work on my phone while he nursed. Now that he's older and has a more regular sleep schedule, I take advantage of hours I know he'll be asleep, both naps during the day, and the evenings, to get my work done. I'm also lucky enough to have the ultimate hack: the help of others. My mom watches my son for a few hours every day so that I can get work done. And ultimately, I have a supportive and involved partner who understands that sometimes I need to put my nose to the grindstone and he takes charge of our son." Vera Wells, Backend Engineer, DuckDuckGo, Pennsylvania
"My hack is also in the realm of getting help from others. My mother-in-law has a tight relationship with my 3-year-old son and has been on FaceTime 'babysitting' him while I'm in meetings. She goes all out with stories, questions, stuffed animals, props, whatever, to keep him engaged. It's not perfect, but it's a nice perk when I'm in a jam." Diana Chiu, Sr. Manager, Business Development, DuckDuckGo, Vancouver, Canada
Change how you take your meetings.
"I have discovered there are options to be productive without the need of being in front of a laptop: walking meetings and taking meetings with wireless headphones. I do a lot of walking meetings with my daughter Tori. I put her into a stroller and we go for a walk while I join my meeting. This works well for us as we both get fresh air and I get physical activity."Anne Michels, Director of Product Marketing, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft, Washington
"My daughter is 10 months old, and I haven't found many hacks yet. I honestly have been trying to enjoy this time with her. If I have a low-key zoom meeting where I don't need to take notes, I have her join and everyone loves it! I have also been working at odd times, waking up at 4/5am and working for 3 hours, then napping for an hour. This way I don't feel too stressed about things during the day. I love taking naps with her, it helps me recharge especially when I get up early." Stephanie Lajoie Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Program Manager, CarGurus, Boston, MA
Use your closed door to communicate.
Tess Dixon's (Conde Nast) special mailbox for her daughter
"My 6-year-old often wants to come and knock on my office door and interrupt me 53 times a day when she thinks of some little thing she wants to tell me, or when she just wants to say hi. My partner helped my daughter make this little 'mailbox' out of card stock and stick it to my office door so that she can color me a picture or write me a note and 'deliver' it to me that way. I check the mailbox periodically when I'm between meetings, and I think it's brightened both our days." Tess Dixon, Design Manager, Conde Nast, Richmond, VA.
"I have set up a piece of a cardboard box that states 'please wait until I am off the phone' in front of the office door. When my daughter sees this, she knows she has to wait before she can interrupt. I tried implementing this for when I am on conducting candidate interviews." Melany Austin, Talent Acquisition Manager, StockX, Detroit, MI
Embrace the occasional bribe.
"I try to find different ways to motivate each of my kids. My one daughter doesn't like reading, so I started to pay her if she reads certain pages by the end of the week. Now she's already finished a few books since the quarantine started! Before quarantine, I didn't allow my kids to watch TV on weekdays. Now, if they finish their work and they don't fight, they can watch TV after 6pm," - Tihut Haven, Global Benefits Analyst, Flexport, SF
Make technology your friend – not your enemy!
"I use Alexa to set timers to alternate between screen time and not. Now my 5-year-old understands how to set the timer himself and he follows it!" - May Chu, Global Operations Manager, Flexport, LA
Above all, be kind to yourself. YOU ARE DOING YOUR BEST!
"Don't forget to pat yourself on the back — balancing children and a full-time job is beyond difficult. Treat yourself with your favorite meal occasionally." Siva Ravali Dhanekula, Development Manager, Priceline, NYC
"At the end of the day (which is often sometime in the late evening), I know I'm providing as much effort as I can for both our child and Teachers Pay Teachers.... Our mission of unlocking the collective wisdom of teachers is more important than ever, and I couldn't be more grateful to be part of that effort — before, during, and after this storm passes. Until then, continue to maintain social distance, wash your hands frequently, and remember to go easy on yourself — you're doing what you can, and that has to be enough!" - Maria Victoria, Project Manager, Teachers Pay Teachers, NYC
What creative hacks are helping you get through this unprecedented time? Let us know in the comments... And Happy Mother's Day!
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