Home CommunityCommunity Features The #wfh experiences of community mums and dads

The #wfh experiences of community mums and dads

by Aiden

How they navigate this careful balancing act.

By Jasnam Sachathep

This last year has created so many new world norms: so much of life was turned on its head, and working from home suddenly became an expectation, which was specifically challenging for mums and dads. Not all homes are set up with a working desk, let alone a space isolated from kids who suddenly find it exciting to have their parents at home, especially the younger ones, who think mum or dad being present equates to the weekend or a holiday. Being home also means balancing expectations from family, who don’t always comprehend what it means to actually be ‘working’ from home. It’s safe to say that the challenges, the humour, and the adaptations that parents had to go through were nothing short of an adjustment.

We sat down to talk to some parents from the community, who’ve shared their work from home experiences in the last year, the ways they succeeded, and the adventures they faced in doing so. As we can see, the entire concept of working from home gave rise to new possibilities, and everyone managed to figure it out because they had to!

MANMEET THAKRALFather of two Founder & CEO of Arawana Hospitality Group

WFH duration: Three months during the first lockdown;
two months during the recent one
WFH setup: For the first spell, it was very makeshift – mainly just working from the dining table and running up my phone bills. For the second stint, I was a bit more prepared and had converted most meetings to online calls.

As part of the hospitality industry, how difficult was it to transition online?

Because the nature of my work involves a lot of site visits or being physically present at the property, it was challenging. The most difficult part was probably convincing the team that a property can be managed remotely, by using technology.

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages you faced when working from home?
The main advantages for me were getting to spend time with my kids, and also not having to face traffic. A definite disadvantage was the frustration of not being able to be at the site as often as I would normally be.

How did you deal with one child learning from home, while having a newborn to look after?
We had to split roles where I had to take a more active role in the online school sessions, while my wife looked after our newborn.

Funny anecdote:

I was in a video call and I heard someone moving a chair. I turned around and Miri, my elder daughter, had climbed on the chair to join the meeting because she said, “Daddy always joins my class!”

KEERT KAUR JASBIR SINGH, Mother of one Punjabi Tutor at FunjabiWithkeert

WFH duration: Beginning of lockdown until now

Was it easy to transition into online classes?

Setting up for my classes wasn’t a biggie for me, as all I needed was a laptop and a quiet place to teach. However, there were difficulties, as everything had to be shared on the screen, and I had to make sure I kept it fun and engaging for the kids so that they would sit with me for the full hour. At the beginning, I did have my ups and downs as it was something new for me, but soon enough, I got the hang of it and was able to understand how to best teach each kid online. As all mums out there would agree, when it comes to kids and online learning, loads of patience is needed. However, overall, I enjoyed the experience; it’s a challenge but a fun one.

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages you faced with online learning?
One of the many advantages I had was time. With online classes, I could cater to more students than I have before, as it used to be challenging to match the students’ time preferences with my free time. A disadvantage was having to divide my time between being a mum and a teacher. Who said it’s easy being a mum boss? Another disadvantage would be the limited resources that could be used with my students online, but I still managed to keep it fun.

How did you deal with your child learning from home?

This was the biggest challenge for me. When my daughter started her online school, I had to be there with her as her teacher, have classes of my own in between her classes, and manage the rest of my classes after her school hours as well. It was a challenge getting her to be a little more independent, but I was lucky enough to have my nieces at home who would help out with her online classes when I was busy with mine. Slowly, things became much easier for me to handle.

Biggest takeaway:

Nothing is impossible; there is always a way out if one door closes. I’ve learnt so many things, the main one being that my own family will always be there for me, as they were during this this pandemic, be it helping me out with my daughter, helping me prep for my classes, or feeding me whenever needed. I’m so blessed.

NEESHA KAUR, Mother of one Kindergarten Teacher

WFH duration: Around six months. Although we were asked to start coming in during that time, no one felt comfortable doing so.
WFH setup: Separate rooms for my son and me (who was doing online school as well). I had to inform everyone what my schedule was like so nobody would come knocking on the door.

What was your biggest struggle during online classes?

People telling me, “oh you’re online, that’s so easy!” The amount of preparation a teacher does for an online class is double of a normal class – we can’t give the children hands-on activities or social skills experiments. You need to be overly prepared; if they finish the activity, you can’t just say, “okay bye.”

How did you balance your own online classes with your child’s?

This was probably the trickiest for me as I had to figure out both my schedule, and my son’s. As soon as I was done with his morning class, I would head straight into mine. It meant having to opt for teaching more afternoon classes, so I could be there for him as a mum. Plus, for any child, if you see mama at home, it means she’s available, so I had to explain to him that I was working. Occasionally, he would join in on my classes and be my little helper, and that was a great way for us to spend time together too.

Biggest takeaway:

Unfortunately, COVID is here to stay, and we should learn from kids to adapt as the world keeps changing.

VORASA PALSINGH, Mother of two
Tax Director, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Jaiyos Advisory Co., Ltd.

WFH duration: On and off for the past two years; on a continuous basis, close to four months.
WFH setup: I created an office space at home where both my husband and I work together; we have two desks and our own laptops and monitors. It was a proper office area so we could separate our home life and office life.

What were some highlights and low points while working from home?

The biggest advantage for me is being able to see my baby grow, which I didn’t get to experience with my first child. With my second baby, I’ve been able to witness all his milestones: his first meal, him sitting up for the first time, etc. The reduction of travel time is another major advantage.

In terms of disadvantages, I have to know when to cut myself off from work, and really create a balance of work and family life. It’s hard because sometimes, you don’t know when to stop working, and you’re not really moving around.

Were there difficulties in transitioning online, especially as it relates to the industry that you’re in?
Overall, there was no real difficulty because everything at my office has always been digital. We have proper internal computer systems set up, and videos across the globe. However, we had some hiccups because when you do consulting, you work together in a large team and have face-to-face discussions. Meetings are shifted to phone and video calls, so it becomes more systemic and the human interaction element is removed, especially when some people keep their cameras off. It’s also a lot of being on the phone, which is tiring and difficult.

What has it been like having a young child with online classes, as well as having a newborn at home?

I have to say that I have been very lucky in this aspect. I’ve had a lot of help: I’ve had my mum over to help take care of my firstborn and help her with online learning; I have a nanny for my newborn; and my housekeeper is also acting as a part-time housekeeper/nanny for my first-born, so there are three adults at home managing the two kids. For the evening and night shift, I take over and put my kids to bed.

Funny Anecdote:

Because I have a newborn, I am constantly pumping while working. For moms who know what that is like, not only is it super loud but it also means that I’m constantly only half dressed. I sit that way in front of my laptop and a lot of times, people would question what that noise is…

AEI CHINTHAMMIT, Mother of one
Deputy Managing Director, Thai Flour Industry Co., Ltd

WFH duration: 11 months since January. I plan to continue until my son enters nursery, if possible.
WFH setup: We are using one of the living rooms as the work from home area. I normally work in my bedroom for the first half of the day as it’s easier to take care of Arnon, my son, then in the afternoon we are normally in the working room.

What were the pros and cons during this time?

The best point would have to be that I can spend time with my baby and see him grow and develop daily, all while in comfortable clothing! It also allowed for better management of work and meetings, as there’s a reduced need to meet up. The cons would be that for a single message to be sent out, I have to call orWhatsapp/LINE, then follow up with an email for mutual understanding. It is very easy for colleagues to misinterpret intentions as most work is done through emotionless texting and email. Many times, they can be taken wrongly as keeping emails short and precise can make communication a little harsh.

How do you balance work with the needs of a small baby?

As I both work and raise Arnon full-time, I take him into every meeting with me. I set up his bed right next to my working table, and often his head would just show up onscreen. I start my day with meetings, and follow up with work that has already been delegated the night before. Then the whole day would be spent attending meetings, coordinating work with different departments, and e-signing documents. At night, I review information and work on my management project.

Biggest takeaway:

When you work from home, you’ll realise that you’re more capable than you realised: for example, I can attend meetings, review work, have a meal, talk on the phone or on WhatsApp, shop online for baby things, soothe and feed my baby, all at the same time. Not to mention all the online shopping!

VORAVIT (WICKY) SRIKURUWAL, Father of two CTO at FlowAccount.com

WFH duration: Since the start of COVID until now, with a brief period in between when I was back in office
WFH setup: I have a desk in an ad hoc room, which is now growing into a home office.

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages you faced when working from home?
The major advantage was not having to travel, which meant more time spent with family. Working from home also meant that I could be more asynchronous with all the work that goes on in the company, as there were plenty of productivity tools to choose from. Communication with visualisations and written-down material makes communication clear, unlike sitting in meetings and talking only.

The disadvantages were that it was chaotic at times, because home is where I am ‘renting’ an office and it feels like I am intruding on the system of the house, not vice versa. The dynamic of sitting at an office and having a Eureka moment is reduced, and you’re stuck with a screen or on call almost every minute of the working hour. The energy to push and create is missing, since the dynamism of human gestures and interaction is just not there

What was your biggest challenge with your kids learning from home?

Dealing with their boredom – their basic need for socialisation is unfulfilled when all playgroups, parks, and family visits are off the table. They’ve got such energy, with very limited outlets!

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