Balancing Remote Working & Parenting
Memes and posts have been floating around social media, depicting some of the struggles that many parents face in balancing their ‘new norm’ of remote working and parenting; following the government’s announcement, on March 13, for schools to largely operate in a virtual space until the end of the school term, as one of the measures to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). But even at the end of the official school term, which ends in a few weeks, children will remain at home during their summer break, with no Summer schools and limited camp or other engagement activities expected, due to the social distancing protocols still in place. Kedesha Dallas Goode, internal communications officer at JMMB and seasoned educator, outlines that it is critical for parents to use this time to be a catalyst for productivity, for themselves and their children, instead of seeing this as a catastrophic moment.
Dallas Goode shared that JMMB Group’s culture and organizational policy has always allowed for remote working, with its flexi-time policy. Additionally, since March the company has identified roles and the respective team members, to transition to working remotely, on a protracted basis, even as the Government of Jamaica’s (GOJ) officially lifted the Work from Home order, as at June 1. She admits that this extended work-from-home situation, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, took some adjustment for her, as she too struggled to make a smooth transition to her new reality of juggling dual roles; even though armed with over a decade of experience in the classroom, before joining the JMMB Group team.
Having now achieved a better footing, the mother of five-year old Maddison, shares some of the tricks of the trade that she has used in balancing remote working and parenting, with her husband Evon. She underscores that a part of her recipe is, trial and error, “don’t be afraid to get it wrong and don’t be too hard on yourself, as you try to figure it all out.” Adding that the balancing act remains a work-in-progress and is not a perfect prescription of success.
- Create a Routine
“Every purpose has a posture, (meaning) even though you don’t (go to) school and/or work it is crucial that you mirror – for the most part – a routine, that of getting ready for school/work as this helps to prepare your mind for a mission and behaviour for action, (and) create a mood of productivity.” As such, she maintains her morning routine of waking up at 5.30 a.m.; having devotions; making breakfast and getting ready to work. In so doing, she sets an example for her daughter and fashions a standard of productivity for her to emulate. “As hard as it may be at times, I try to help my daughter to understand that even though we will be working within the same space, it is important that we both get our work done, in the same way she would complete her work, while in school, and I would execute on my duties, while in office.”
- Be Patient & Pace Yourself
As parents create a routine for themselves and their children, it is important to pace themselves in a realistic manner, recognizing that home situations may be different and, as such, the strategy varies accordingly. “Keep your goals clear, but be flexible with your methods,” shared Dallas Goode. This will allow you to regroup and learn from your experience, where particular approaches fail and get help from other parents or online sources, where needed. She added, “Recognize that even as your work load may vary on a daily basis, there will be days you will achieve more or less in that day; and that’s ok.” In sharing her own experience, Kedesha admitted, “I am not always able to upload all my daughter’s school work on time or have her finish everything on time, but I do so as soon as I can, realizing that I cannot get frustrated with myself. Instead, I do the best I can, when I can.” Noting, “At the end of the day, progressive productivity is what wins the race; slow and steady progress.” For parents who may have to still work, while home schooling, her advice is, “maximize on the time that you have and, where you can get help, ask a trusted family member to assist and you can review and spend quality time with your children when you get home.”
In underscoring the need to pace yourself, Kedesha shares that this is imperative for the well-being of both the parents and the children, “your mental health will affect your productivity and your ability to effectively help your children, so take good care of your mind by fortifying it everyday.”
- Be Creative
In drawing on her educator skills, Kedesha outlines that as you teach your children at home and even as learning continues after schools officially closes, incorporate fun activities and use tools and other materials available around the home, to reinforce the learning objectives. “For younger children, you can use more hands-on activities to keep the learning going.” Even without the technical skills, parents can use technology to teach children the principles of some sports, or have children solve puzzles and play other games, to maintain physical activity at home. She also said, “The greatest thing to teach your children is life skills…such as making breakfast, or learning a few new skills. This will allow them to be street smart, so that they are not just academically inclined, but socially capable.”
A firm believer in goal-setting, Dallas Goode keeps herself accountable daily, with her checklist, “I make a list of the things to be achieved at the end of each day or week, so that I can remind myself of my deliverables and my top priorities…so that I am progressing purposefully and sticking to it, so that I am not plundering myself because of procrastination.” Through her touch-and-go meetings with her team, she is also able to realign on priorities, as the crisis keeps the situation dynamic.
She credits her team for the supportive approach they have also taken, demonstrating real care for each team member and his/her well-being and not just the output, which forms a source of further encouragement.
In Kedesha’s role as internal communications officer, she also seeks to create a ripple effect of motivation and promote productivity; therefore, she along with her team, provide timely email updates about maintaining productivity; effective remote working techniques; keeping healthy and coping strategies, which supplements the sanitization initiatives done by the company. In addition, JMMB Group reminds its team that it can still access counselling services, now online, to ensure they are able to maintain good mental health, in these challenging times.
Admitting that even as COVID-19 offers several challenges, there are opportunities. ”We now have the time to forge a deeper bond with our children and family members, while working remotely.” She also challenged persons to use the time to be more productive, by examining their best working times, saying, “sometimes increased pressure forces us to be more productive.” Adding, now is also a time of greater introspection, “take the time to pray more, draw closer to God and explore your purpose and passion, if you feel discouraged or overwhelmed; it is ok, but it is not okay to operate or think from that space, so ‘faith’ it through in order to ‘fight’ it through.”