When Working Parents #WFH


September 16, 2020


Being a working parent is not easy, but being a working parent in 2020 is a whole new ball game. Now that the school year has kicked into full gear, many working parents are adding roles and tasks to their plate that 2019 never saw coming. In honor of National Working Parents Day, Design West Engineering wants to share some knowledge and experiences from our team to yours in hopes of benefiting working parents all around us.

Managing Your Time

We asked our team if they have any tips or approaches that are helping them to manage their time right now.  It seems there are primarily two thoughts on the matter.

Is flexibility the best approach?

  • Steven Johnson: “I just take things in stride and still try to accomplish my tasks and goals needed. It is easier to start and stop work when at home, so I don’t do the traditional working hours when I am at home.”
  • Brian Graham: “The lack of commute has provided additional flexibility and time to allow me to help them and then get back to the work.”
  • Jeremy Richard: “It’s really been about flexibility.  I often start earlier and finish later, but taking multiple breaks throughout the day.  If the kids are all on Zoom calls in separate corners of the house and we are running short on quite areas, I may go for a walk and take some calls outside.”

Or is structure the best approach?

  • Randy Sheffer: “For us, structure is key. On school days, we keep a steady routine similar to the one we would have during in-person schooling. We wake up at the same time, shower & dress, eat breakfast & lunch at consistent times… Every. Single. Day.”
  • Shannon Stewart; “I’ve found that keeping a schedule is everything right now. While it seems like work and personal time can blend together since it is all taking place at home, keeping a consistent schedule allows everyone in the family to be on the same page.”
  • Heather Zamora: “Regularly scheduled naps and feeding times are essential to getting the best version of your child throughout the day. Without it your small human is a ticking time bomb for a complete meltdown.”

Truly, it seems that every individual needs to find the rhythm that works best for their own family.  Still, at the end of the day, it seems most all of our parents are working hard to minimize the disruption to their kids schedule and this is a task that often requires some real flexibility on the part of the working parent.

The Juggling Act

We asked our team how they keep their kids on task when they need to focus and how they juggle their attention between their kids and their work tasks. 

  • Shannon Stewart: “I try to mitigate interruptions by making sure that their workstation is set up before I move to my own tasks. I try to prepare them by letting them know I will be unavailable and what they need to be doing in the meantime.”
  • Brian Graham: “Having the kids have all their passwords in one place, having the links they use the most added to their bookmarks bar, and having their reference materials organized before the start of each school day has helped.”
  • Jeremy Richard: “One thing we are doing is investing in supplemental school curriculum for our kids right now to keep the kids busy when their schoolwork is slower.  It also helps us feel more assured that they aren’t falling behind in their grade level studies.”
  • Leo Maya: “I take turns with my spouse to work and keep kids on task … I think that boundaries need to be established.  If it’s an emergency, then it should be communicated that way. “
  • Heather Zamora: “I have found one way to keep my toddler preoccupied when I need him to be is changing out his toys every few days. This keeps him thinking he has a new toy to play with all the time when in fact it’s the same old toy he’s had for the last six months.”
  • Randy Sheffer: “We’ve had family conversations about how everyone in the family has a “job”. Dad’s job is this. Mom’s job is this. You need to do ‘your job’… Honestly, my older son is my greatest resource for this. He has always been a tremendous support, especially with his younger brother. His help is invaluable. So I guess I would say it would be ideal to find a good buddy system.”

While there are many varying tips and tricks from one person to another, it seems one common theme is to stay organized and stay ahead of the challenges.  While entire families are all working from home alongside each other, it seems that a “team” mindset can help keep everyone working together so all get their respective work done.

Handling the Stress

In an era where the day drinking jokes are constant and memes of parents hiding in closets are countless, mentally “checking out” can be a daily temptation.  We asked our team how they are successfully handling the additional stress of this season.

  • Shannon Stewart: “I read a lot and I cherish the quiet time whenever I can. I am generally the last one awake in the house, so I turn off the TV and reset before bed.”
  • Leo Maya: “I have incorporated morning stretch routines with Hawaiian music playing in the background, 10 minute breaks to stretch or take a walk, and not working to much beyond normal work hours, if possible.”
  • Brian Graham: “Riding my bike a lot more has helped clear my mind. We also got a new pup, so taking her for walks is helpful too.”
  • Jeremy Richard: “We all try to make sure we get to enjoy our time with each other on the weekends and recharge from that.  We spend a lot of time outdoors on the weekends.  We want to start the week rested and restored… and no one aggravated with one another.” 
  • Randy Sheffer: “I have really tried to be intentional about spending time together, preferably outside. I know it seems as though we are spending a lot more time with one another, but we are not always “present.” Scheduling rest or “off” time with the family has seemed even more important to me.”

An extra emphasis on good mental, emotional, and physical health choice seems to be a common thread right now.  Now more than ever, stress can compile quickly, and it would seem our team has found the need to focus on regularly and intentionally eliminating it.

Design West Engineering wants to thank our working parents who participated in this survey and all of our working parents who continue to show up each day and give their best despite the new sets of challenges each day brings. It’s because of this awesome team that we can continue to deliver top notch service and real excellence in our engineering.

Our participants…

  • Steven Johnson – Director of Mechanical Engineering and dad to two elementary schoolers.
  • Leo Maya – Director of Electrical Engineering and dad of a middle schooler and elementary schooler.
  • Heather Zamora – Engineering Assistant and mom to a toddler and two teens.
  • Randy Sheffer – Quality Control Manager and dad to two teens.
  • Shannon Stewart – Marketing and BD Manager and mom to two elementary schoolers.
  • Jeremy Richard – Director of Business Development and dad to a middle schooler and two elementary schoolers.

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