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Working remotely while caregiving

Over the last few weeks, I have been working from home while caring for my toddler as my partner has worked outside our home as an essential worker. For the most part, I feel incredibly fortunate. My family is healthy, and my partner—although essential—has very limited exposure to other people in his daily work. I have a job and a home and a pantry full of fruit snacks for the demanding human that runs my life these days. Moreover, I have a team and supervisor that have demonstrated repeatedly how valued I am. 

When toddlers are ready to take calls

Yet still, despite the security I have and the support I receive, there’s this personal failure I feel often. It isn’t every day, and it isn’t all day… but at least a few times a week there is this tightness in my chest when the scales won’t balance and my to-do list is somehow longer than when I woke up. And I lie down to wallow. And my toddler thinks it’s play time and uses my stomach like a trampoline. I can’t even wallow in peace, I think to myself. Rationally, I knew I wasn’t alone. Each funny meme or story shared from another caregiver on Slack or social media felt like a respite from my exhaustion. So I’ve sought out others in and around Expedia Group to share their funny stories, their resilience, and their hard moments. I hope they offer respite to you too.

Rozenia Stanford, Senior Business Manager

Being a caregiver during this time is in a word: stressful. We have two children, ages 5 and 2, and are balancing working, homeschooling and being a barely functioning daycare facility. To balance, my husband and I take shifts to work. I typically take the mornings and he takes the afternoons, and then I take evenings. This helps the other focus completely on work, effectively participate in meetings, and limit the distractions. I am also learning the power of patience and kindness when interacting with my peers. It can be embarrassing to be on a Bluejeans call with children asking questions, crying or throwing things, but hey – we will get through this.

Despite the everyday challenges there are definitely some bright spots for my family of four. The time together is invaluable. We have slowed down and are able to teach the kids more life skills including cleaning and some manners we have missed over the years.

Claire Evans, Client Services Manager

Pre-COVID-19 chaos, we were very lucky with childcare. Like all families in the UK right now, our routine was thrown into complete disarray. We now find ourselves working full-time from home with the added bonus of a lively one-year-old who has recently decided she doesn’t like daytime naps. If anyone asks how I’m managing, my stock response is ‘fine’. But if I am honest, I am struggling to balance working and parenting full time, at the same time. My partner’s job as a journalist is very unpredictable and means we can’t set a routine to split our time as each day is so different. So each new day is met with uncertainty – will this be a good day, a bad day, or (most common) a ‘meh’ day? The most difficult thing for me is the guilt I feel – guilt of not being able to fully commit to work each day and not being as productive as I was, and the guilt that I am not providing my one-year-old’s developing brain with enough stimulation and attention throughout the day. Some days are better than others, and some days I feel like I’m failing at both.

Claire puts her baby to work

I am lucky that my managers and colleagues have been more supportive and understanding than my 1 year old (who angry screams in my face and throws a variety of hard toys at me with surprising force when she wants attention).  Of course the most important thing in all of this is that we stay healthy and well and keep others safe. Focusing on this makes the temporary difficulties we face now much easier to bear.

Nicole Rodriguez, Program Coordinator

I’m very fortunate to have help through this difficult time. It’s still not easy but we are figuring out what works. My daughter is seven and has to attend school, 1-2 hours a day. This turns into several hours due to having two full-time working moms who need breaks!

Nicole with her family

This brings me to my saving grace, breaks, when one or all three of us need it. I start the day by reminding my daughter about feelings and ask her how she feels today, happy/sad/mad/frustrated/confused and explain it’s okay to feel all the above. This helps when I’m feeling overwhelmed and I communicate to my daughter how frustrated mommy is and needs a break. Then she gets “free play” for a bit while I gather my thoughts/focus on work, whatever I need to do. Everyone deals with things differently through difficult times, it’s important to figure out what works best for you. For me, I needed to figure out what helps because if I’m not okay, I cannot support my daughter with coping strategies if I’m unable. So, put yourself first at times, kids will always be happy to play while you need time to yourself.

Camille Frankenfield, Associate Market Manager

Once my roommate decided to leave NYC, I really felt like I was missing a support structure that was needed to get through the stay at home orders. Both of my parents work at a hospital in Pennsylvania and my cousin is currently living with them so I also felt like going home would let me be a support structure for my family as well. Being accountable to other people is really empowering at a time when so much feels like it’s out of your control.

Camille came home to support her family

There was definitely a transition period as everyone had to adjust to a new normal. My mom in particular had to figure out how to navigate the changing stresses and emotions at the hospital and then coming home and to a very different environment. At the end of the work day, I’m energetic and just want to move while she’s emotionally pretty drained. Finding a ‘new normal’ has been super important for everyone and I think seeing how things are in a hospital really puts things in perspective and makes you so grateful that your family is safe. We’ve definitely settled into a groove! Red Cross had to cancel thousands of blood drives across the countries at a time when our hospitals need it the most. I can’t make masks or hospital gowns, but I can contribute this thing that is always in low supply. It’s really cool to see that they are looking for ways to keep blood donation centers open in a way that’s in line with social distancing measures. They’re operating by appointment only so they can control the flow of donors and ensure everyone’s safety. I’m thankful to be healthy enough to donate blood and that I can contribute in some small way during this time to those people that are working so tirelessly every day and those who are battling COVID19 or other illnesses.

Swendy Tromp, Team Leader Service Delivery – EMEA

Being a single mom working from home and simultaneously being a teacher to a 9-year-old (Jayla) and a caregiver to my mom is not easy. Being patient is not exactly my strongest quality.

Whether it’s Jayla interrupting me during my meeting asking for snack or my mother calling because she needs me again or using my lunch break to help her get ready for dialyses. This roller coaster I’m on has me multitasking, multitasking & multitasking. And next to this I’m managing a household on my own grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and laundry etc. However, for me to not crack under pressure an assessment had to be made on my behalf: What are my strengths and what are my weaknesses? How do I use them effectively? Being in tune with yourself and knowing exactly what you can and cannot handle, helps you let go of some stuff. This way I won’t feel like I’m failing all the time.

Swendy and Jayla

My goal is never perfection but simply to get through the day checking off one thing at the time without losing my sanity. I must remember that at the end of the day I’m still a mom and a daughter to these people. I try and keep love in all I do even though it’s not always easy. Frustration has a front row seat and is just waiting to be called on stage. I try to not to forget that they also have feelings. How are they feeling today? Or how are they coping today? We are all in this together. I’m a very open person so when I hit my breaking point (which hasn’t happened yet), I just let it be known to my daughter. Being open about my emotions helps her do the same. She is also struggling and trying to convert her home, relaxing/Zen ‘this is where I can be me’ place into a school environment and trying to keep a focused attitude which isn’t easy. Because you know it’s ‘Mom’ (and not the teacher). Whilst discussing my own personal struggles with my team and seeing other parents on Slack. I’ve come to realize that I’m not the only one trying to balance it all. I think it’s amazing to see all these parents also trying to do it all and the support we give one another. I guess the important thing is that we are still here, trying and giving it our all every day. Our children don’t expect to us to be perfect; they just expect us the be there.

Adam Furgison, Talent Acquisition Manager

When I went out of the office a few weeks back to spend spring break with my wife and our 3-year-old, I couldn’t have predicted what would happen that week and beyond. My wife and I closed on a new house and were moving in the same week. The news that week kept getting worse to the point I stopped watching. Then we received the email about working from home. 

Adam encourages monster truck breaks

That is when it hit me that I needed to adjust my daily routine as a father and husband. Currently my son walks by my office at least 5-7 times a day asking me what I am doing or just to wave. Hopefully that explains my random waving on BlueJeans. I am so thankful for my wife who is staying at home to take care of our son. Now more than ever she has taken on so much with keeping his schooling going, taking care of him and supporting me working in my office. I know that these can be challenging times for all of us with uncertainty and some of us the added pressure of taking care of loved ones. The thing I keep telling myself is “it could be worse,” I have a job that empowers me to be able to work from home, a roof over our families head and a my partner without me asking has picked up so many more duties to keep our house running. I know it can be easy for us all to stay inside our homes and watch the latest Netflix documentary but try something different today. Take the time to talk to your partner, play monster trucks with your child, pick up the phone and call (don’t text) a friend or family member to see how they are doing, I promise it will fill your heart and will mean so much to the other individual in these times.

Genevieve Diamond, Associate Market Manager

My husband and I have a nearly 2-year-old boy and are currently renting a 120-yr-old farmhouse in rural Vermont. So what does COVID caregiving look like for our family? Part of it was saying bye (temporarily) to our fabulous nanny, Kelly. While we’re still compensating Kelly and keeping in touch; I don’t think I could fully wrap my head around what full-time child care and a full-time, remote job looks like (until we were in the thick of it). We’re now coming to the end of our 5th full week and while we’ve found a groove in many ways, I’m still amazed at the delicate dance these times require. Being able to nimbly flit from a present, dedicated and nurturing ‘Mama’ to jumping on a call with a partner who is panicking because her 521-room hotel is closing until June; I’ve had to flex reserves of energy and stamina that I haven’t used since George was a newborn!

What is perfectly clear to me is that none of this would ‘work’ if I didn’t have an involved, helpful, capable, strong partner to co-parent with. Pete and I have carved out a schedule that nine times out of 10 works seamlessly: Sunday evenings we sit down and chat about our upcoming week, what meetings we have and whose on “George duty” so we’re dialed into the calls we need to be on. Taking turns getting up with him, preparing his and our meals, changing diapers, reading books, cleaning up toys, bathing George, laundry, dishes, Pete and I have dominated navigating all new territory in our relationship and as a family. What amazes me, is how much just happens without pre-planning and negotiation – we’ve done really well at knowing when and how to step up to help especially when one of us needs a break.

George, Genevieve, and Pete

Just this morning Pete knew he had to get George out of the house on a nature walk, so I could have some space to breath, work and chip away at my Friday to-do list. Pete and I celebrate 10 years this October and I cannot imagine a more amazing co-partner, parent and baby daddy. And while all of this present time is unknown, scary and stressful; we’re still finding time to cook new recipes, relax in front of the fireplace, binge our fave Netflix shows and enjoy craft beers on our porch overlooking the West River in the Green Mountain National Forest. In many regards, we’re doing just fine – thankful for our health and each other.

Iliana Reyes, Senior Program Developer

We live 7.2 miles away from the nursing home considered the initial epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. I have two daughters ages 14 and 10, a small dog named Sammy and a husband who works in technology.

I can’t remember when I first became aware something different was happening. On Sunday, March 2nd, we gathered with friends to celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday and this was the last time we enjoyed a warm gathering with friends. Suddenly after that, my husband and I were working from home, schools where closed, store shelves were getting empty, and more and more coronavirus cases were being reported. And surrounded by all of this, I found myself adding teacher, germ police and mental health coach roles to my online resume.

Some days, I feel I’m inside a movie and fantasize this is not really happening but then the news bring me back to reality. A reality where the best work I can do is stay home with my family, pay close attention to my peers at Expedia and try to help anyone that may need some additional support.

Iliana’s daughter Elena taking her first morning class, in her PJs, covered with a warm blanket and supported by their dog Sammy.

Today, we are living our new normal. In Washington state, the coronavirus cases are decreasing and the store shelves are full again, but shopping still feels as a surreal expedition that requires gloves, face masks and being far apart from everybody else. My husband and I feel very fortunate to be able to collaborate with our teams remotely from home and are optimistic and confident that all this will reach a good end.

Our daughter’s schools have transitioned to online learning and although we are worried about the amount of time they spend in front of a screen, we appreciate the fact that they can continue learning supported by wonderful dedicated teachers. They ask questions, and miss their friends, games, and going out. So, to compensate, we try to teach them to cook, art or spend time on video chats with friends and family. And of course, they hug Sammy more than normal!

Everything is so different, but we know it will pass. We just hope that happens soon, and people around the planet don’t suffer anymore, and we can all come out and play again, shake hands again, and travel again, and tell our stories in person.

I’ve learned a lot about myself as a parent, as a partner, and—most surprisingly—as an Expedia Group employee during these last several weeks. I’m not sure how I would be coping if my manager and team weren’t as supportive. In the last few weeks, my team members have:

  • Led with humor and humility in a time of instability and uncertainty
  • Tagged into a presentation I was leading when my child refused to be ignored
  • Explicitly reminded each other that signs of home life during work calls are entirely expected and welcomed
  • Shown vulnerability about personal situations and stressors
  • Held space in team meetings and 1:1s for socialization and team building

I am tired, and I don’t know what the future holds. However, I know that I am forming a deeper appreciation for Expedia Group, my family, my teammates, and my own personal resilience—and our collective resilience—during this time. – Joi Torres

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