How to Navigate Work / Life Balance as Working Moms During Quarantine
Written by WWCode HQ
Whether it’s working from home for the first time or balancing being the primary caregiver and working full time, the effects of COVID-19 have touched everyone’s lives.
In this interview, we talk to Alaina Percival, the CEO and Board Chair of WWCode, and Joey Rosenberg, WWCode’s Chief Leadership Officer, about balancing being mothers while continuing to further the mission of WWCode of inspiring women to excel in tech careers.
How has quarantine changed day-to-day life for you and your family?
Alaina: My oldest child is no longer in school so there’s a lot of pressure to be heavily involved in an educational structure for him. It means he’s also missing out on a lot of socialization and things that would tire him out, so we have to spend a lot of time and energy focusing on ways to help him release the bundle of energy that he has. Before COVID-19, we also had significantly more help, even beyond schooling, including grandparents involved in care. That meant there were opportunities to have “me time” which aren’t there anymore. So I’m going all morning, all day, all evening until everyone is asleep and then I’m exhausted.
Joey: I feel like everything in my life has changed pretty drastically. My child is nearly one and my wife, who works from home as an engineer, was providing the primary care while I was at work. In December, we were at the point where we really needed some extra help. We had just worked out having one grandparent provide care one day per week and then COVID-19 changed our world. In March, we moved in with my mother where we’ve been safely social distancing and we’re having to figure everything out — new space, new schedule, new people in the mix. It feels like we’re always on.
The way I’ve managed is to remind myself what a gift it is to be able to spend this time with my child and my family. I try to come from a place of gratitude, even though it can be tough to balance everything. I try to always make space for my daughter. Any time she wants to come in and say hello, I always invite her to sit on my lap and say hello, even during meetings. I try to model not only being a parent, but a working parent for the people on the call that might also be working parents who are not sure if it’s okay if their kid makes an appearance or needs their attention.
How do you structure your time, and how do you deal with distractions?
Joey: I have a one-year-old and her needs fluctuate, so it’s not always possible to structure my family time. Also, because of the type of work that I do, it’s not always easy to rigidly structure my workday. Pre-COVID, I often would wake up and check email or social media before I would get out of bed. Now, instead, I have to get up, attend to my child and family needs, and the house. It is only about an hour and a half into Ember being awake that I can transition into work mode. I coordinate with my wife and my mom, so they share parental duties.
I also schedule an hour for lunch on my calendar. I was really bad at taking lunches in the old normal. In the new normal, I have to have time to check-in and connect with my daughter, so I try very hard to protect that lunch hour. I also try to make sure that I have a hard stop by about 5:30 or 6 at the latest, so that I can be there for dinner and her bath. Then if I have anything else to do I’ll pick it up after that.
What strategies do you use to keep yourself sane and healthy?
Alaina: One of the things that I have committed myself to again — Joey and I did this when WWCode first started — is taking any meetings that don’t require me to be at a computer while walking. I’m thankful for these times to focus on work but also able to open up and free my mind a little bit by getting my blood flowing and looking after myself.
Joey: Getting outside is really important for me, too. I have a little harness that allows me to carry my daughter on hikes, and we go whenever we can, which is really nice. If she happens to wake up super early, we’ll go in the morning before work or we’ll take a walk in the afternoon. We’re getting to explore the countryside around my family’s home and get out in the sunshine, which is really refreshing. I’m also really grateful to Women Who Code for giving us an early out Fridays in April. That has become my walking and hiking time, which is also quality time with my family.
Do you have any advice for other working parents?
Joey: Be kind to yourself. This is a really tough time for everyone, and if you’re balancing multiple things, it’s not possible to get it all done. Give yourself some flexibility to feel okay if there’s a screaming child in the middle of your meeting or if you don’t get to answer every email that you need to. Let yourself take the support offered by the people around you and don’t be afraid to be authentic to yourself. If your child pops up in a video, that’s okay. In fact, it’s fantastic! Celebrate being able to balance all of those things and don’t be afraid to be who you are.
Alaina: I would echo that. Try to reflect on the amazing part of getting to spend this much time together. While you do feel very stretched, you have a lot of fears, and there is a lot riding on every day. The moments that we get to be together are actually really precious and amazing.
How have you utilized your network for support?
Joey: I think it’s important to connect with other parents. I’ve found it really helpful just to see what other parents are doing and share in that balancing act that we’re all doing. Connecting with other parents, even if their child’s a really different age, has been really fun for me.
Alaina: I understand the adage better than ever, “It takes a village.” But also the concerns about the impact on your kids is something that certainly weighs on you as a parent. I want my child to be social but now he’s in a situation where he’s not allowed to play with other kids. How is that going to impact him for the rest of his life? When we go for a walk somehow he already knows to stay distant from other people and I think about the long term impact of that a lot.
As executives at Women Who Code, Alaina and Joey won’t give up on their vision of seeing a world where women are proportionally represented as technical leaders, executives, founders, VCs, board members, and software engineers.
As we all grapple with concerns about work, family, and safety, our work is more important than ever.
If you would like to help ensure women in tech have the resources and support they need while navigating uncertainty, please consider making a donation to WWCode.
Women Who Code has partnered with VMWare on Project TAARA, a program designed to support 15,000 women in India in returning to tech jobs after taking a hiatus. This includes women who took a break from their careers for personal reasons, maternity leave, or because of the COVID-19 crisis and quarantine measures. Through offering free technical training sessions, and by helping them to upskill in the latest digital transformation technologies, this program is changing the face of tech and improving the lives of thousands of women and their families. Find out more here.