4 Lessons From a Working Parent in a Remote World

The world of work has been changing for nearly three years now. So why does it feel like companies still haven’t figured out how to support working parents?

Written by Ben Kessler
Published on Sep. 30, 2022
4 Lessons From a Working Parent in a Remote World
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
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Today’s parents are challenged with balancing their careers with caring for their children. While this has always been the case for working parents, remote work presents the new and unique challenge of having to do both at the same time. According to an APA study, 72 percent of working parents were stressed about their childcare schedule. A new school year for parents means it’s time to retire summer routines to meet the busy schedules of their children. While it’s tough to say goodbye to summer vacation, it’s also a motive to start fresh to conquer the new year.

This year, my wife and I welcomed our second daughter, and I also joined allwhere as Chief Marketing and Growth Officer. I work remotely, with my team spread across the country, and I’ve learned a lot about what it’s like to parent a toddler and a newborn all while scaling a fast-growing startup (one important lesson being that one can never get enough sleep!).

Throughout my career, I’ve helped teams move into the future of work and accommodate their shifting needs. Today’s world of work is ever-changing and it’s important that companies are meeting the needs of their employees, especially if they have families to take care of. From the stories I hear from other parents, though, it doesn’t seem like all companies have caught up.

I’ve been able to see the perspective of company leadership and as a team member trying to balance working remotely with caring for my daughters. Balancing both isn’t always easy, and all too often the responsibility seemingly falls on the employee, when companies should be stepping up to provide that same support.

Here’s how to best manage work responsibilities with parenting — and what companies still aren’t getting right on what it’s like to be a working parent today.

4 Lessons From a Working Parent in a Remote World

  1. Your schedule will be fluid. Always be adaptable.
  2. The right setup can make all the difference.
  3. Don’t schedule parenting around work. Schedule work around parenting.
  4. Letting go of toxic workplace culture means letting go of its shame, too

 

1. Your Schedule Will Be Fluid. Always Be Adaptable.

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest challenges of being a working parent is the unpredictability factor. There are some days where both of my daughters are content to play or nap, and I’m able to accomplish all my tasks and meetings for the day uninterrupted. On other days, however, my newborn will start crying as my toddler knocks on my office door, all while I’m meant to be leading a meeting on Zoom. Those moments are a clear reminder that, when you’re a parent working from home, you’re never really at work; you’re at home doing work.

It’s important to embrace the chaos. If you have to move things around on your calendar, don’t apologize; it’s natural to shift things around. As a leader, I try to set an example for my team by always remaining flexible, empathetic, and understanding, and I know that I can count on them to do the same.

More on Working and Parenting on Built In’s Expert Contributors NetworkTrying to Diversify Your Engineering Team? Start by Supporting Moms.

 

2. The Right Setup Can Make All the Difference.

Your work setup plays a big factor into how you stay engaged and motivated while working at home. Companies should recognize this and provide working parents with appropriate resources, whether it’s offering a monthly child care stipend, or an all-in-one coworking and daycare space like Bumo. Many companies are cutting costs by removing benefits like free lunches, and yet are not reallocating the saved budget to family-friendly benefits like childcare or mental health services. Companies that offer these will ultimately save on cost and run more efficiently.

When I say setup, I also mean it literally. Having the appropriate resources also means ensuring that you have the right equipment to do the best work possible. Workers should ask themselves: What made me focus when I worked in the office? How can I stay organized while at home? Because my setup helps me stay organized, I know that when I close my office door, I’m working. Having that separation has helped tremendously.

More Working and Parenting Advice on Built In’s Expert Contributors NetworkWhy Product Management Is Like Parenting

 

3. Don’t Schedule Parenting Around Work. Schedule Work Around Parenting.

Since work and family matters can be difficult to juggle, enforcing a strict routine can help with scheduling. Time-blocking your calendar is a great way to efficiently navigate family commitments and work deliverables.

My morning routine is the same almost every day: I wake up early to spend some time playing and learning with my eldest daughter, then I drive her to school. During the car ride on the way home, I listen to a podcast, and by the time I arrive home I’m ready to start the work day. This time with my eldest is precious to me, and it allows me to have some “transition time” in the morning to ease into my work day while spending time with my family.

It can be easy to get lost in a maze of emails and meetings, but it’s important to never lose sight of being a parent first. Children are going through the same shift that we are. This may mean a few more interruptions throughout the day, or having to explain the concept of “work” or a “meeting” to a toddler. Still, we’re undoubtedly lucky to have this extra time with our families.

More Working and Parenting Advice on Built In’s Expert Contributors NetworkHow to Parent Like a Product Manager

 

4. Letting Go of Toxic Workplace Culture Means Letting Go of Its Shame Too

While the onus is on employers to support working parents, the onus is on employees to break the stigma of what that entails. The future of work is about more than just the shift toward remote and hybrid work models; it’s also about the shift in attitude that’s afoot in work culture as a whole. Traditional office culture encouraged employees to all but pledge allegiance to their companies, forcing people to sacrifice their personal lives in favor of working to the point of burnout. Fortunately, work culture is now moving toward breaking stigmas around topics like toxic management, work/life balance, and mental health. So why not the same for working parents?

The pressure to fulfill our jobs and always be 100 percent present and available is an insecurity that’s in all of us, and one that’s left over from our past experiences with traditional office culture. We need to rewire ourselves to accept what’s hopefully a permanent shift toward a fair and equal workplace, and break the stigma of being a working parent. Though it’s tempting to give in to the urge to “fake it until you make it” and cover up any perceived shortcomings, it’s important to be honest with your team about how you’re feeling and what you can handle. I encourage my fellow working parents to be honest with their leaders, and I encourage my fellow leaders to support their teams fully and unconditionally. The responsibility lies with us both.

Built In Has Tons More Remote Work Content Like ThisRemote Work Has Many Benefits. But It Could Be Better — and More Fun.

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