Categories: General

Real tips for working from home with kids

Being a working parent means having to juggle a lot of responsibilities, which can be challenging in the best of times let alone during a worldwide pandemic. Parents quarantining at home with their kids can feel overwhelmed by having to be “always-on” and wear multiple hats ranging from teacher to chef to mentor plus being an employee–all in one day.

Adjusting to this new normal has a steep learning curve with no clear right or wrong answer. Many parents who are working from home, even those doing it long before COVID-19, are experimenting to find solutions that work for their families, even if it changes day by day.

Mozilla has been one of the forerunners of remote work with “remotees” making up just under half of our employees. However, even the most seasoned remote worker can be new to the experience of working from home with kids. Here’s what some of our very own Mozillians are doing to make it work.

Name Eddie Ibarra, Title Brand Marketing Director, WFH Experienced; Name Venetia Tay, Title Head of Audience Insights, WFH New; Name Dave Townsend, Title Sr. Staff Browser Software Engineer, WFH New; Name Emma Irwin, Title Staff Program Manager, WFH Experienced; Name Mark Weaver, Title Senior Brand Designer, WFH Experienced

Tell us a little bit about your family. 

Dave Townsend: I’m married with one five year old and another due in August.

Venetia Tay: My partner and I have a 2 year old. I’m lucky that I have a partner that does his equal part in childcare (less so in the other household duties though 😜).

Emma Irwin: I’m a widow with three children: ages 16, 14 and 9. We have a dog and a cat as well.

Eddie Ibarra: It’s just my wife, daughter and me. We also have two dogs if we’re counting fur babies (though I kind of hate that term, haha).

Mark Weaver: My wife and I have been married for 13 years and we have two children. My daughter is 9 and my son is 6.

“I’ve worked at home with kids for years, my manager joked that I’ve been training for this, but I never actually trained for this.”

How do you structure your schedule so you can balance your work and family life?

Dave: I try to be careful about maintaining start and stop times. I get up, have a cup of tea and then start work. Then I finish at the end of the day and don’t look at work for the evening. This was somewhat easier when I was in SoCal as I had a dedicated office. Now my desk is in the TV room and so it is much harder to enforce that separation.

Venetia: We have a Google Sheet where we both fill in our meetings schedules for the week and we triage every Sunday. If there is a conflict, whoever has the “least important” morning is on childcare duty.

Mark: I try to keep my work schedule consistent by starting and ending my day around the same time. I also find that having a dedicated space for work is helpful to maintain that balance.

Emma: I’ve worked at home with kids for years, my manager joked that I’ve been training for this, but I never actually trained for this. So i think it’s good to call out this is different, this is not just working from home. There’s a lot of stress, anxiety and uncertainty. Then there’s dealing with your kids emotions, especially teenagers. I just try to have a normality to their schedule as best as I can.

Eddie: We’re taking an iterative approach. We tried one thing one week and that didn’t work so we tried another thing another week. We keep refining. Mondays are a little more difficult because we typically have a lot of meetings so we let our daughter ease into the week, which means she probably watches a bit more tv than normal. We downloaded age appropriate apps that she can self-navigate pretty easily. They’re educational and fun which is great because then she wants to keep going. The rest of the week we split the day, one of us gets mornings and the other gets afternoons and then at night we try to get things done around the house like cooking and cleaning.

Are there any apps you’re using to help manage your work/family life? 

Eddie: We’re old school meets new school. My wife and I both live and die by calendars, so we have a shared family calendar that we use. We also have shared notes where we write down ideas for our daughter, like things we want to do with her or interactive sites, etc.

Dave: I use Microsoft To-Do to try to keep track of the main things I have to get done at work. At home we use Google Keep to build up a shopping list for when we want to venture to the grocery store, Google Sheets for tracking our finances and Google Calendar for a few things.

Emma: I’ve tried putting blocks in my calendar, but they seem more symbolic. I’m not actually breaking at those times, but they’re there if I need them. On YouTube there’s some great channels that do storytelling and my youngest daughter really loves that. There’s also the Royal BC museum in Victoria. They’ve been doing some live programming which is really nice.

What are some new things you’ve been trying with your family since the quarantine began? 

Venetia: Books and toys. We used to be a pretty minimalistic household, but since the quarantine has begun, we have gotten many supplies to keep our daughter entertained.

Mark: A new thing we tried was cooking a family recipe together over Zoom with my parents and siblings who all live in different parts of the world.

Eddie: We both have been pretty diligent about doing school work with our daughter, which has had a very positive effect on her. I hope my wife and I continue to keep practicing with our daughter. On the other hand, I’m definitely looking forward to the help again [from school].

What has being in a quarantine with your family illuminated for you? 

Venetia: “We” are enough for the little one. She is just happy hanging with us. My partner mentioned that, while it is challenging, he enjoys being able to spend every day with her and being able to see her throughout the day.

Dave: That teachers are amazing and homeschooling is most definitely not for us.

Mark: It’s been a good reminder for us to not take things for granted.

Emma:  Everyone is being really good to one another. I thought there would be a lot more arguing and disagreements, so that surprised me. For me, it’s strengthened my will to garden. We’re growing food, learning new skills and connecting with the planet.

Eddie: It’s given us more of an appreciation to visit family a bit more or carve out more time for them because you kind of take that stuff for granted.

What are some mental wellness tips you could offer other parents?

Venetia: You are enough. Don’t worry about if your child will fall behind others, or if you are providing them the right activities. They are just enjoying all the time they have with you now. The kids will be alright.

Dave: I think we’re trying very hard to focus on the now rather than thinking much about how long this may last. We can’t control that, might as well spend your energy worrying about things that are under your control.

Mark: Doing something simple like going for a walk or a hike has been huge for our mental health.

Eddie: From a mental wellness perspective I’m probably just giving myself permission to be ok with not being so hard on myself. Which is one of the hardest things for me to do. So I pride myself on just saying “hey that was the best I could do” and move on whereas normally I’m the type to dwell on the things I didn’t get done. So I’m just being more forgiving [to myself] than usual.

Emma: Getting outside if you can and doing some form of exercise… and gardening. [laughs]

Looking for more tips? Check out these Firefox resources to make working at home with kids a little easier.