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Parenting During a Pandemic: WFH With Kids at Iterable

A core part of any initiative to improve diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging is fostering a work environment that is supportive of all experiences. Parents especially are experiencing perhaps the most difficult balancing act yet, as they take on distance learning, remote work and childcare during a global pandemic.

In a recent survey we conducted among members of Iterable’s #parenting Slack channel, we found, among many insights:

  • 54% of respondents split childcare responsibilities with a domestic partner, 21% have the support of extended family and friends, 8% have a full-time caretaker, 4% have a part-time caretaker and 13% support their families all on their own.
  • 92% of parents altered their work schedules to take care of their children.
  • Weekends are spent primarily spending quality time with family and catching up on housework.

We sat down to interview several Iterable parents, at all levels and across the organization, to understand how they’re adapting to child-rearing while working from home. We hope their open and honest conversation provides reassurance that everyone struggles to find balance in their lives and that we’re all doing the best we can.

So with that said, let’s meet our panel!

Meet the Team: Parents at Iterable

An Iterable Q&A on Parenting During a Pandemic

Please provide background information about your parenting experience.

(Number of children, their ages, your marital status, and whether your partner works outside the home.)

Sanam: I have two kids, boy and girl twins, age 7.

Mike: I have (almost) three children: a 4-year-old girl (Pippa), a 2-year-old boy (Senan) and a baby that is due in 11 days (!). I am married to a wonderful woman, Mairead, who is currently on maternity leave.

Krishna: I’m married and have two kids, ages 4 and 1. My wife is an entrepreneur and works from home.

Grace: I have two children, ages 9 and 2. I’m married, and my husband works from home full-time.

Ryan: I’m married and have two kids (a 3-year-old boy and a 4-month-old girl). My wife is full-time employed (currently on maternity leave).

Margie: I am a Single Mother by Choice (SMC) of a 21-month-old girl (Georgia).

Do you have support from extended family or professional caregivers?

Sanam: Yes, I have support from my sister and a part-time professional caregiver.

Mike: No, we recently moved to London and with the pandemic, we’re mostly confined to the house.

Krishna: We send our kids to a daycare near us. Between April and November we kept the kids home but sent them back in mid-November.

Grace: We have a regular professional caregiver coming in three days a week for a few hours, so that we can get some work done. We do not have family nearby.

Ryan: Yes, our family is local in the Bay Area so we get support with our toddler during the work week. However, this was not the case for the entirety of this pandemic.

Margie: I have an au pair, someone that comes from another country on a visa to work in-house providing childcare. As a single parent, it was the best option for me, especially pre-COVID.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, how has your work schedule changed to take care of your family?

Krishna: Taking care of two young kids is a full-time job in itself, so my wife and I definitely struggled juggling childcare and work. We were lucky to have a friend who lived nearby who helped out for a few months. My work hours are a lot more fixed now: I work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and outside of those hours, I’m available for urgent issues—but for not much else. I’m usually taking care of the kids at that time.

Grace: I’ve had to make drastic changes to my schedule. I work longer hours when my kids are asleep to compensate for time spent switching between kids and work. I work the Swing Shift (5 p.m. – 1 a.m. PT) and therefore get most work done when they’re asleep.

Mike: I’m very fortunate to work for an employer that is flexible when it comes to work-life balance. Sometimes I need to take a few hours off in the morning, but I can catch up on work later in the day. Sometimes I work with the kids running around me, which makes Zoom calls interesting! In fact, the kids have even sat beside me during some interviews. This photo was taken after I interviewed Hannah Francis, on our sales team.

Mike McGuire with his family

Mike McGuire and family, making interviews interesting!

What has been your biggest challenge of working from home? Biggest reward?

Mike: The biggest challenge is the long hours on Zoom. The biggest reward is getting to have breakfast and dinner with my kids. I saw my son’s first steps, which I would have missed if I was in the office.

Ryan: The challenges have been plentiful, to say the least. However, the biggest has been trying to give my responsibilities equal attention: caring for my family and performing effectively at work. On the flip side, the biggest reward is easily spending all this extra time with my kids. Though it sometimes comes at the cost of my own productivity, this, oddly enough, is a certain kind of joy I would have never known without COVID. 

Margie: The biggest challenge is having a place to work that is functional while being totally separate from my daughter. I have to be mindful of how loudly I talk when she is napping right next to where I am working. The biggest reward is also hearing her in the other room and understanding what her mood is like. I do also enjoy being able to do things like a load of laundry in between calls. It’s nice to have the ability to multi-task some things while at home rather than have to do it when I would get home from work otherwise.

Margie Hollister outside with her daughter Georgia Georgia playing on Margie's laptop

Margie Hollister and her daughter Georgia enjoy working from home and the great outdoors.

How has your team supported you as a working parent? For those who manage people, how are you supporting the parents on your team?

Krishna: My team has been very understanding and I would say, in general, the entire company has been very empathetic about all the challenges related to this pandemic—childcare being one of them. I’ve asked my leaders to speak to people individually and ask what accommodations we can make to help make our employees’ lives a little easier. Expecting 100% efficiency when we are staying home and also taking care of kids is not realistic, and we were honest and up-front about this with our team.

Grace: My team is always willing to help when I have to reassign work that I couldn’t get done during my work hours. Every time I meet my manager, he asks how my family is doing and how I feel about work. It’s motivating and mentally relieving to know that my manager cares about my well-being.

Ryan: The team has been great. Both managers and peers have been supportive of my situation and accommodating to my hours of availability and workloads. I’m grateful that Iterable has taken such a realistic approach to work-life balance during these times.

Ryan Brelje at his standing desk with his daughter strapped to his chest

Ryan Brelje takes the standing desk to new heights with his daughter.

For those who have taken parental leave while working at Iterable, please describe your experience.

(How long was your leave? How did you prepare before taking leave, and how was transitioning back to full-time work? Any advice to parents about to take leave?)

Mike: I am taking four weeks of parental leave in February. Iterable has been incredibly supportive and what has been most heartwarming is the outpouring of support from people across the business. Almost everyone has asked how and if they can support my team while I am away. I am so grateful to be able to spend this important time with my family.

Ryan: I’ve taken paternity leave twice during my time at Iterable. Both times were great—I took six weeks off after the birth of my kids, and sprinkled the remaining six weeks throughout the rest of the calendar year. I worked closely with my manager to turn down my workload as I drew nearer to my respective due dates to ensure that major projects weren’t at risk of incompletion in my absences. The transitions back are difficult, but manageable. Take it slow, and be communicative of your needs to your managers and teams. They WILL support you!

Krishna: I took about two months off for paternity leave, and I took this time off about nine months after the birth of my second kid. My wife took time off when our son was born and we had some family members help out during that time, so I put off my paternity leave for a later point when I knew I could be more helpful. Staggering our parental leave between my wife and me was very helpful for us.

Krisha Reddy and family during bath time

Krishna Reddy balances bath time and beer time with his family.

Let’s talk about Balance. How do you spend your Balance Days? What activities do you enjoy most to de-stress—with and without your kids?

Sanam: Balance Days have been invaluable to me and my family! Just introducing the concept to my kids has been helpful to create the space and dialogue about creating balance in one’s life. We spend those days outdoors and usually hiking a new trail in the Bay Area creating memories together. We plan those days in advance with each one of us getting to plan a part of what we want to do that day, and everyone looks forward to it each month. 

Margie: If possible, I get out for a nice long walk with my dog at Chrissy Field or somewhere local to clear my mind. I usually have childcare on Balance Days, so it is a great way for me to catch up and get to do something for myself. Balance Days are definitely a unique day, different from the weekend for me. They are extra special and a really wonderful benefit for parents.

Mike: We go on walks! There’s a forest nearby that my daughter calls “The Fairy Forest” and we go exploring there. It’s great to be away from technology and out in the fresh air.

Mike McGuire and kids explore the Fairy Forest

Mike’s children exploring the “Fairy Forest.”

What’s your advice to working parents who struggle with Balance in their lives?

Sanam: Don’t forget to be kind to yourself when you invariably want to judge your parenting success in that moment or that day. A few months into the pandemic, I apologized to my kids because I was frustrated that I had to be in my office all day with only being able to come out at lunchtime to see them. My daughter said, “That’s okay, Mommy, we like this better because we know that if we need you, you are always there and we can just come in. And now we have lunchtime together every day.” I realized that to my 7-year-old twins, they felt like they had more access to me anytime. So while I was busy berating myself for a parenting failure of not being “there,” my kids felt like I was even more there than before.

Margie: I think finding something that you can do each day that you look forward to with your kids is important. Right now, I enjoy bath time because she is contained, she has fun, and we can focus on each other. I have also explored meditation and mindfulness since COVID and found it to really relieve stress and stay focused in moments that matter. The Zenit group at Iterable helped me start and explore the practice. It’s been another wonderful benefit.

Grace: For the most part, some of us are also struggling to stay balanced, so you’re not alone. If you get time, even if it’s ten minutes of quiet, take that time for yourself—you deserve it.

Grace Kiburi and her two children

Grace Kiburi’s all smiles with her two children.

What’s something we didn’t ask you that you really want readers to know about being a working parent during a pandemic?

Krishna: Don’t be hard on yourself. These are unprecedented times. Maybe lower your standards a bit. We are all in this together, so share your experiences with others, and hopefully, we can all support each other during these times. 

Ryan: A pandemic with kids is 100% a different experience than a pandemic without them. We have to worry on behalf of our children, we have to ensure we can foster an environment of normalcy and stability even though it’s not actually guaranteed—we have to put them first even though we might be struggling. We chose this life, so I’m not asking for sympathy—just recognize that there are differences about this experience that some just won’t truly understand.

Sanam: For me, being a mom during the pandemic has been finding and balancing a new sense of normal for my family between my work, the kids’ full distance-learning model and our lives. It’s hard some days and easier others. I learned early on that what worked best for me and the kids was to create combined workspaces so we can feel connected together even when we were engrossed in our own work.

Sanam Saaber working from home with her kids

“One weekend we decided to create quadrants in Mommy’s office for each kid and even a spot for our dog. It’s not perfect, and every day is a juggle, but it works for us” ~ Sanam Saaber

Parents: We Have Your Back

While phrases like “you’re not alone” and “we’re in this together” may just seem like platitudes, time and again the parents at Iterable have expressed that having support is paramount to their success. After all, this is the first pandemic we’re experiencing—all of us—and we’re just learning as we’re going. No one should be striving for perfection right now, and parents especially deserve grace (and some much-needed me-time!).
 
Ultimately, taking care of kids can be enormously challenging, no matter the circumstances, but if the businesses of today can alleviate the burden and help carry the load, working parents—and the generation they’re raising—will be much better for it.

To learn more about Iterable’s company culture and benefits, please visit our Culture page.

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