Crash Course: Remote Work for Parents

Hey! Sam B. here; mom of two, data engineer, post-grad student. Get this, I do it all from the chaos comfort of home. That’s right. I’ve been training my entire career for this “quarantine” lifestyle. It’s apparent that there are many, and I mean all, parents out there who are now living the same reality. So, children endowed peers, I’d like to share a few things I’ve picked up over the years.

1. Kids won’t care for your schedule

No one scheduled this pandemic; everyone’s life is scrambled. But I mean, we try - right? Breakfast, something to occupy them until lunch, and then something again until dinner.

For the most part, we can’t expect our kids to handle this sort of unraveling in a mature manner. But what we can expect is for them to need nourishment and attention - a lot of attention.

How are you supposed to manage that while still working full time?

Tip: you’re not. At least, not gracefully. I’ve come to terms with the fact that try as I may, scheduling every hour isn’t going to make anything easier. Instead I go with the flow.

After breakfast, we have what I like to call “play as you may” time. Go ahead, be crazy/loud/rampant - get it all out before I have four meetings back-to-back. Beyond that, I try to set them down with whatever educational material is available (currently the heaps of assignments) while I deal with conference calls.

Go with the flow. Kids have good days and bad days too. Sometimes things just won’t work the way you need it to. Learn to be okay with that.

2. Sometimes your kids will join conference calls

Zoom is all the rage right now. Kids popping up in video calls is a cheeky part of remote working. However, that’s not to say I don’t remember to do a few things before I turn on the camera.

Firstly - make sure they have clothes on. My kids like to sleep in their britches. So it’s important that I remind them to dress themselves before the entire team can see my living room. Otherwise be prepared for a surprise appearance.

Secondly - unless someone has specifically told you that your children are a massive distraction, let them do whatever they’re going to do in the background or in your chair.

Choose your battles. When my daughter was younger she would sit in my lap for most calls, it was easier and I could be present for the conversation. Not worth fighting a toddler while also trying to update the team on task status!

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s usually ok - don’t freak out. Kids are kids and they like attention. People recognizing them on your computer makes them feel special so of course they’ll come back for more.

3. Recruit the oldest to help

Nothing like having multiples and leaning into the maturity of the oldest, am I right? My babies are five and seven. Often if I need fifteen minutes to rush order a bugfix, I’ll tell the oldest that he’s in charge of hide-and-seek. Usually, this works, and he has a new found glory of being a leader. I let my youngest be the boss too, but let's be real, she’s a boss in every situation.

Don’t be afraid to take your eyes off them - your littles should be okay. Let them explore, bicker, and come to resolutions on their own. There is growth in sibling conflict.

But also, bribing with ice cream is a good alternative. Depends on the day.

4. Snacks are your best defense

Speaking of ice cream, readily available snacks are a gift. Reinvent the snack drawer and let them bottomless pits know they can get whatever they want, when they want it.

To meet the between-meal nurishment needs of my forever hungry kids, I dedicated a few spots in our kitchen to healthy snacks. They know they don’t have to ask me to grab something from the dedicated snack options.

Take it up a notch and dedicate one of your refrigerator drawers (or the bottom row) to juice boxes, cold snacks, and other goodies.

Life is good and you’ll be interrupted less with: “Can I have a snack?!” or, “I’m hungry!”

5. Screen time mumbo-jumbo

This is a big topic amongst parents. How much time is too much time? Netflix, Kids YouTube, Disney+; options are endless. To be frank, I don’t limit my kid’s screen time during working hours unless they’ve done something to revoke the privilege. But that doesn’t mean they’re surfing videos all day.

Pack their tablets (or a folder on your phone) with educational apps. Let them learn virtually while you tackle rebuilding an entire user interface (I see you, Astronomer). Right now really isn’t the time to be limiting screens. Let them have it if it makes your life easier.

Repeat: Choose. Your. Battles.

As a tried and true veteran of remote working (as a parent) - this is probably some of the best realest advice you’ll be getting. My empathy knows no bounds; working under these conditions is tough. You’ll prevail. It’s not forever. Give yourself grace (and maybe some wine.)

Best of luck!

✌️

Sam is a Full-Stack Developer at Astronomer.

Astronomer is hiring! If you’re looking for a remote first culture and love Airflow, apply at https://careers.astronomer.io/ or contact us at humans@astronomer.io.


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