Work and parenthood can be a difficult balancing act at the best of times. But throw in the COVID-19 global pandemic that saw schools closed and many having to become part-time teachers, and things got a whole lot trickier. Keller colleagues share how they coped with parenting in a pandemic.
Miguel Sanchez Guijarro
HSEQ Manager, Iberia-Latam
Lives in Madrid, Spain
I live with my wife and three children: Mercedes, who’s 13, Miriam, 11, and Miguel, 7. For us the lockdown began on 15 March with no one allowed out. Just recently, adults have been permitted to go for a walk during the day, with children only allowed to go out between 12pm and 7pm with one parent. Even then it’s only for an hour and we can’t go more than 1km away from the house.
I’m still visiting sites and the main challenge is being in contact with our people there from a distance. Two or three days a week I go to the office (we’re allowed out to go to work if necessary) and stay there until 3pm, then come home and keep working until 7 or 8pm.
Before the pandemic I used to travel a lot; now I can spend more time with my family and be part of their daily routine. We’ve tried to shelter the children from the situation as much possible – we think it’s best for their minds when so much of the information coming from outside is not positive for them. When I’m at home I try to help my kids with their home schooling, but I’m terrible at it!
Area Manager, Keller North America
Lives in Annapolis, Maryland
I live with my wife, Cornelia, and our two children Gabriela, 17, and Stefan, 14. Our state has pretty much been shut down for over a month now, although just recently things have started to loosen up.
Construction is considered essential, so I’ve been going into the office three days week and working from home the rest. The days at home have been challenging.
My wife’s a stay-at-home mom, a former professional in the environmental sector and very well educated, so she’s taken the lead with the children’s learning. My daughter’s school was very well prepared for online, so she tends to sequester herself away. Stefan’s in a middle school that was very unprepared, so in April he was thinking, hey, summer vacation’s started early! We quickly put a halt to that.
They’ve been frustrated like everyone else, but we’re supporting them. My son wants to go out with his friends and my daughter should have had her prom recently. She’s now starting to think about college. We’re trying to guide her to carefully consider what subjects and career path to choose, because a lot of industries are going to be hurting for a long time.
For Keller, we’ve continued to see high demand in public and private infrastructure projects, and it’s been very difficult given the situation to meet that demand. I’ve recently started to travel a little bit further afield. We’re taking every precaution on these visits, but obviously it’s a concern. But as I say to my friends when they ask me why I’m going out to work, these are essential projects that keep our society functioning.
Marketing Manager, Keller Australia
Lives in Victoria
I live with my partner, Amos, and three children: 13-year-old Chelsea, Cameron, 9, and Amelia, 5, who’s in her first year of primary school. We’ve also got three dogs to add to the mix!
The kids love ‘iso-life’, as we call it here. For them it means arts and crafts, board game nights, walks and rides, cooking, cubby houses and lots of quality time in and around our home. It’s really advanced their creativity, but they do miss their friends and other family members. We’re a blended family, so for half the week the kids aren’t here, and I can get more work done.
We’ve spent eight weeks at home since the lockdown began and it’s been a real emotional roller-coaster. I love people and enjoy going into work to see my colleagues. I’ve struggled through anxiety, stress, loneliness and the general question of what can I do to cope today? I’m also not a natural homebody. Before Covid-19 our social life was largely outdoors, full of camping and adventures.
On the positive side, I’ve been able to influence and witness my children’s successes in their school work and I’ve contributed to their learning, which has been so rewarding. And working from home has many advantages, like no travel time to the office or school.
Homeschooling has been challenging. We’ve adapted our house so we all have a place to sit and work, but we’re in a small area. Plus you have to set up and use a range of online source materials from three different schools, while trying to remember who has meetings today, at what time and using which platform!
Amelia is learning to read and write so all her work is assisted and requires incredible patience. Cameron is about 50 percent assisted and needs a quality check as he might have hoped to get away with a minimal response in some of his work. Thankfully Chelsea is almost completely independent. She’s been such a great help to me and an inspiration to her younger siblings.
Fortunately I work for an amazing, understanding company with awesome people and I’ve only ever experienced considerate working conditions as a parent.
HR Manager, Keller North America
Lives in Baltimore
I live with my husband Aaron and we have two sons – Brody who’s six and a half, and Landon who turns four on 31 May. We’re going to be having a pandemic birthday in the house!
Due to the stay-at-home order, we can only leave our home for exercise and essentials. Some days are really good, my husband gets work done and the boys are relatively well behaved. Some days it’s a disaster of tears and whining – they ask daily when will they get to go back to school and see their friends.
My husband and I work full-time, so at the beginning of our week we talk about our schedule, then every day each of us gets half the day in the home office, uninterrupted. The other half is still working, handling calls, emails etc, plus teaching kindergarten, feeding them countless meals and taking them out on our street to play.
I’ve learned a few things, such as my Wi-Fi reaches four houses down so I can bring my laptop outside, and my kids only seem to yell and scream the moment I get on a call. And I miss working in the office with my co-workers immensely.
Pre-Covid I used to say there weren’t enough minutes in the day and I’m missing time with my boys. So despite the challenges, the situation has given me time to be with them during this short childhood period. For a working mom, this is something I never thought I’d get.
PA to Directors, Keller ASEAN
Lives in Singapore
I live with my husband and two children: Jayden aged 11 and Charlotte, who’s nine. In Singapore, everyone except essential workers are working from home, with one person in the family allowed out to buy things.
As a family, we’ve been doing fine during the ‘circuit breaker’ – our restrictions are not widely called lockdown. We just stay home and go out to get groceries once a week. The children are now on school holiday after almost a month of home-based learning, which has made things easier. During term time every morning we had to log into the online learning system, help the kids set up their video meetings, then help them with their questions, check their answers, submit work, etc.
The main challenge has been the endless household chores. With children around, the house keeps getting messy, so we’re constantly cleaning up after them. Also, Singapore has really hot and humid weather, which means multiple changes of clothes daily, so the laundry’s really adding up! I’m training them to wash dishes, but they’re often still dirty!
Balancing work and parenting hasn’t been too bad. On the bright side, I feel that we spend more time together. On the days that I can’t finish my work during the day, I just work later at night. The fact I don’t have to rush home after work to pick them up means it’s more flexible.