How Do Kids Feel About Parents Working from Home?
Working Mother Media’s president wonders: What will the pandemic’s aftereffects be on the children of parents who worked from home?
Six months into COVID-19, people are still talking about the disparate burden on parents working from home with kids around, especially on moms. Homeschooling or managing distance learning while Zooming for their jobs, taking the 20 steps from the work area to the kitchen to make snacks for the family umpteen times a day, getting no downtime between work and home, and more. This is, rightly, getting broad coverage, and social media abounds with stories of how a working mom’s load has only increased since the pandemic, even when her male partner is also working from home. What’s not talked about as much: How do kids feel? What has it been like to not have play dates and other activities that used to crowd schedules? How does it feel to have your parent or parents be the only adults in your life—and be there all the time?
Take, for example, my niece’s baby girl who is a little over a year old and has mainly interacted with a very small circle of relatives—parents, one set of grandparents and one caregiver. She sees other family only on FaceTime. She is constantly engaged, entertained and responded to in ways that would not have happened in normal times. What will her life be like when her parents are back at work and she’s in daycare or preschool? What will the impact be of her not getting her needs immediately attended to? Or socializing with other children her own age? Or seeing her parents only in the evenings and weekends? Or having gatherings with a houseful of friends and relatives?
And even though her parents, and so many other children’s parents, are home more often than they had been pre-pandemic, if they’re working, they’ve been only semi-engaged with their families during business hours, perhaps longer. What will the impact be of constantly being around a parent who’s at least somewhat distracted? Whether it’s childdevelopment specialists, educators or the parents themselves, there is a lot of learning to be done to handle the pandemic’s aftermath on our children, from toddlers through middle schoolers on up.
Someone recently told me that the Spanish Flu pandemic was still raging in 1919, and 2020 has the COVID-19 pandemic—so look out for 2121. I know I won’t be around then, but I want to believe that 2020 has taught us some important lessons about ourselves and the world around us that will leave all people in better shape going forward. We’ve learned that what happens in one part of the globe impacts us all. We are seeing that solutions—such as vaccines and treatments, but also those that help working parents manage their multiple competing priorities—come more quickly when we collaborate and share resources. We’ve come to understand that corporate and societal conditioning around how work gets completed can be changed overnight—who imagined that so many jobs could be done remotely?
If we could be this innovative and nimble in these most dire of circumstances, I’m hopeful about this next generation. I’m optimistic that they will come out of this pandemic even stronger and more ready to adapt to whatever life throws at them. So I want to honor and celebrate who we’ll all become next year and beyond, and toast to learning, evolving and progressing.