How are moms coping during the pandemic? For working parents, especially moms, COVID has been the great disrupter. Smriti Rao and Jessie Wei join Win(e)d Down Wednesday hosts Jeffery Tobias Halter and Amanda Hammett for a candid conversation about their experiences at work and at home. Bring your favorite beverage and join the discussion on career transitions, parenting during a pandemic and getting it all done from the kitchen table.
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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
The Transcript - Parenting Panel: Part I
Jeffery Tobias Halter: Yeah, well, happy Wednesday. Can you believe it's Hump Day already? Is that even a relevant term? We're all working 24-7. This panel today is going to talk about parenting in a pre-and post-pandemic world. And does Wednesday even matter anymore? Is it just another day of the week? So as always, I'm really excited to be here with my co-host, Amanda, and we've got two special guests. And so I'm actually going to let them introduce themselves and their background. And then we will talk about what our beverage of choice is before we jump into our subject. So, Jessie, would you like to start, please?
Jessie Wei: Yes, of course, Jeff, thank you for having me on the podcast. It's really great to be part of a panel to share my experience as a working parent. My name is Jessie Wei. I'm a senior manager working at EYs audit practice. I'm actually in transition. So I'm relocating to Charlotte, North Carolina. Next month, actually in a month, I will be moving to a new house. I'm a mother to two little boys. They are six and eight. My older son is Henry. My younger one is Preston. I'm having a struggle mom moment this week because my oldest just told me that I can no longer call him a baby anymore. So I'm struggling as a mother emotionally that he's no longer a baby. And my beverage of choice today is just sparkling water. That's a good one though.
Smriti Rao: Hi, everyone.Thanks so much for the opportunity. So my name is Smriti, which is pronounced exactly the way that it is written, and I'm actually Jessie's kinda-sorta neighbor. I live in North Carolina as well, and I lead a team of content and editors over here at Red Hat based in Raleigh. It's been an interesting sort of time so far. I'm happy to talk all about it. I have two young children. The younger one is two. She just turned two and the older one is seven. Lots of adventures during this pandemic dive in. I'm sure I'm not the only one.
Jeffery Tobias Halter: So thank you for that. And what's your beverage of choice this afternoon?
Smriti Rao: Yeah, so usually I love a good Pinot Noir from Oregon, but I just got back from a wine trip. I'm all kind of tapped out and I'm going to stay, stay close to caffeine, and have a steady drip of caffeine in my veins.
Jeffery Tobias Halter: As I did the podcast I want to kick this to Amanda now. Amanda is usually the co-host, but you're also a parent, a working parent. So give us that background.
Amanda Hammett: Yes. So my name is Amanda. If you've been on the podcast before, my name is Amanda Hammett.
I'm the founder and CEO of a company called Core Elevation. I'm actually better known as the “millennial translator”
because I am an expert on generations in the workplace. My little boy is now as tall as I am. He is 14. He has had a major growth spurt during the lockdown in quarantine. He grew 10 inches during that time. Yes, no longer a little, but he's 14. And we had a very interesting experience of quarantine as well. Today though, my beverage of choice is a lime Perrier with lots of extra lime. So yeah.
Jeffery Tobias Halter: And you know, me, I'm Jeff and I'm actually enjoying a Sauvignon Blanc from Monterey, it's called Sunny With a Chance of Flowers. It is a no sugar Sauv Blanc and so it fits in your Keto diet quite nicely.
And so go out and enjoy a bottle, something about me and this parenting panel. I have grown children. But both of my children have children of their own. And so, my daughter has a four-year-old named Harlan.
And my son has a now one-year-old named Alexandra Cadence. And so they are both working parents. It's just fascinating to see what goes on today. And one of the things I want to do when we kick off this panel, realizing that this is going to be going out to a corporate audience and in my work at YWomen, one of the things I try to do is just get senior leaders and specifically, men to ask a simple question, what's going on that I don't understand? What's going on in your life? What's going on at work. And I guarantee you many senior leaders do not have the exposure to the challenges and just day-to-day issues that women are facing in just their normal lives. And so I would just love you to spend a couple of minutes and walk me through a day in the life from the time your feet hit the ground until you basically pass out at night and get it up and started again. So, Jessie, would you like to start?
Jessie Wei: Of course. That's a really great question to ask, like, Hey, what's going on in your day? What's happening at home? How are you doing? Simple questions, really, and really meaningful during the pandemic. And it means a lot to everyone, men and women. My day starts when I would get up super early. I'm a 6:30 in the morning person and my alarm will go off and I will do my self-care. My meditation, I'll get up and exercise and then get my coffee ready. Then I'll try to work for about an hour before my kids are up and running and you can hear them throughout the house. We'll do breakfast together. I used to be able to drop them off at school. During the pandemic, they're just staying at home with mom. I'm actually fortunate. I was able to work from home actually about a year before the pandemic started in March 2020. So the working from home transition for me wasn't a huge difference in terms of me working and having my own set up in my home office already. The biggest difference is what am I going to do with the boys? Because I never had to plan their entire day. I felt a lot for our teachers and I still don't know today how they do it because they were able to plan activities and lesson plans. So I went into Mom mode of trying to manage their every hour at the beginning of the pandemic before summer. Trying to do that with them and trying to work. And then every hour, Hey, you got to watch this drawing. Oh, there's this like Zoom meeting with your teachers and your classmates. It was just a lot trying to balance all that and get them ready. And my kids are six and eight, so I have to get the computer up, I'm making sure that they know how to log on. So a lot more hands-on on the day-to-day for them. I don't have after-school care anymore, I didn't feel comfortable with having the nanny there.
So they're actually at home with me all day, and it's really challenging for me to be able to do my calls. I used to be able to close my door. Or Only one at home and do my calls. And now my kids are constantly coming in, Hey Mommy, can I do this?
Hey, mommy, I needed help with this and break my legos apart. So I juggle all that during the day. I have to say I'm blessed.
My mother actually lived with me and came in to help during the pandemic and she's still here and she'll do the breakfast, she will make the food and that takes a lot of stress out of my day to day, not having to figure out what am I going to feed them? Boys are hungry all the time. So you have a steady stream of food you have to keep coming. But you know, my work doesn't really stop at five, but I make a point to stop by six so that we can eat dinner. There are very scheduled parts. And there was I, 6:30 is dinner time You got to come and do dinner. We'll do dinner, we'll do nighttime activities, we’ll read, we’ll clean up, do their bath time and I'll watch TV or watch them play games. And now put them to bed at nine and read them their bedtime stories. They still enjoy that today. So I'm trying to do that. And after that, I go back downstairs to my home office and do more work because I felt really bad that I haven't been able to get through a lot. So I'll work until I'm really tired and realizing, okay, I'm staying at that email for five minutes. It's not going anywhere. So I'm going to go to bed and now get ready for bed and try to go to bed and start my day again. So that's how my day went.
Jeffery Tobias Halter: And on average, how much sleep do you get a night?
Jessie Wei: I would say less than seven hours, so it's not the recommended number.
Jeffery Tobias Halter: Alright, well, thank you for that. Thank you for sharing. Smriti?
Smriti Rao: I mean, hearing Jessie speak, I'm just the does the opposite, which is kind of, which is kinda weird to see because, and also I think hearing Jessie's speak, I just feel like there's so much in common and so much that we do differently as mothers. Right? I'm also pretty fortunate. My mother lives with us. So there's that extra benefit of not having to think about food or what will the children eat, there’s someone else thinking about that. So I'm able to offload that. But for the most part, it is similar to the extent that, you know, from the time you wake up, the children are always front and center of your mind. I think it's something that women tend to do a little bit more than men. I think what has been interesting for me to see during this pandemic is how gendered our roles are. My husband's really supportive. He's a great dad. He's a great husband, but when he goes to work, he goes to work, he's in his office at home. He's fully focused. He's in there. Whereas when I go to work, I'm constantly thinking about did the children need, is there, you know, my older one was in virtual class for the whole year. She was in first grade. Is she logged in? Did she get her snack? Did she finish her homework? I think the amount of multitasking that mothers do is just, I think, that just is greater than the dad. This is not a knock on any father whatsoever, but I just think that during this pandemic, what I realized was how gendered our roles were. And for me personally like looking at my day, it was, yeah, very much similar to Jessie's right? Like the kids need to be fed, they need to finish their work and they need to go to bed on time, which was another important thing for me. But yeah, I think, I think it's just been, it's just drawn into sharp relief, the way we behave as parents, as, men and women. And I think that it's just been interesting to see.
Jeffery Tobias Halter: Yeah, it's interesting. I have a colleague David Johnson, and he talks about the fact that women should go and ask their significant others for a spousal employee review around how supportive they are at home because what the research is showing that men are stepping up, but women are stepping up X plus plus plus, and so it presents an interesting dynamic. So I wouldn't ask you to rate your significant others. But I think for our listeners, it's kind of a fun, easy, element. So Amanda, what about yours?
Amanda Hammett: I would agree with what Smirti said about the gender roles. My husband is phenomenal. We have worked from home pre-pandemic, so we didn't have the issues getting set up like Jessie mentioned earlier. However, when my son was all of a sudden home from school, dad would go into his office, but my office has been, you know, the island or the kitchen table, or because I was usually on client sites or traveling.So, you know, my office was more fluid and so the constant what am I going to eat for snack? I'm hungry, I'm hungry. And I was just constantly like, okay, I've got to move out the kitchen. We had to build out and put up barn doors in our open office or open house concept, uh, so that we could, I could shut him out. And even that, he does not seem to understand that a closed-door is there for a reason, but it, you know, it was a constant, is he logged into class? Did he get everything turned in? Did he do what he needed to do? And it was a very constant thing. Now he did not go and ask these questions of my husband, which I found interesting. And I would ask my son, why are you coming to me? Why not your dad? Well, he's working. What am I doing? You know, it was a constant, it was a really interesting conversation to introduce to my son and my husband actually started becoming much more aware of, Hey, mom's not the only one here. Like, come to me. Ask me. I make decisions here too. So it was, it was interesting to say for sure.
Smriti Rao: You know, which reminds me, Amanda, is that I was on a call with a colleague and I had to keep ducking in and out of that call. Cause I had to go pick up a prescription and come back. And in that moment I was running late to a call and I was just like, you know what? I have never ever thought about this, but I am a working mom. I am working plus I am a mom. Like it's just that term like never resonated more strongly than at a moment. I was like, oh my God. Like, I can't shut one thing off and be the other person because I have to do both at the same time. You know,
Amanda Hammett: I felt like this experience grew my to-do list exponentially. Yeah, yeah.Yeah.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. You were now more worried about classes that you didn't think about before, so yeah.
Jeffery Tobias Halter: So, as we now go back to a new normal, and there is no more new normal, what does this look like? What does this look like for you all, for your companies? Where's this going to go?
Amanda Hammett: Smriti, why don't you start?
Smriti Rao: Oh, that's, I've been thinking a lot about this. I have been fortunate in the sense that when I moved to the Raleigh area to work for my previous company, they were like, Hey, can you move here to take this job? I was like, sure, we'll move. But then I immediately got put on a team that was based in Europe. And so my first team was based in Europe. My second team, my manager was in New Hampshire. So I've always had the experience of working remotely. And as I moved to this other company that I'm working for, for now, it's continued. My team is mostly remote. So when I see the conversation about returning to work, I think that for me personally, it doesn't make any sense because my team is remote, but, as I kind of think more deeply about this, it is, such a complex issue for companies to deal with. Like what is the new normal? And the fact is that is no new normal. Like this is normal right now. The hybrid work culture is the normal, and it's interesting to see companies saying hey, you know what we know, you guys are all eager to get back to work. And then this is our start date. Everybody comes back to the office like they're trying to reset the clock back to whatever pre-pandemic was. And that's not how time works and that's not how people work, you know, people adapt, people move on. And then when you find something that works for you, people are very hesitant to let it go. So I think it's going to be interesting to see how corporations navigate this, how senior leaders really reach out to their workforce to ask them for their input on what is it that will make you productive. And what is it that will help the company reach its bottom line and goals? I think senior leadership should be paying more attention to how the workforce wants to work and build in those mechanisms so that they're productive, but I have a lot of thoughts about this clearly, but it's just, uh, I just think and I cannot stress this enough, which is I think senior leadership, or it also depends on the makeup of senior leadership, right? So if you have mostly men in your senior leadership, the view that they're going to get out of flexible workplaces, or how employees should work, it's going to be very different from if you have women in your senior leadership and how they're going to view what women in the workforce are going through and how the hybrid-like flexible work culture is more important. So I think that there is no new normal, at least in my sense, this is the normal, this is how we need to be. And I do think that. Corporations have a hard task at hand, and that is no one size fits all policy that works for us as we think of returning to work. So, Jessie, what do you think?
Jessie Wei: Yeah, I think you brought out a few good points, thereof what, what you seeing in the market and what I'm seeing as well, that everyone and every company and people implement strategies differently, at different times, but this time around everyone is implementing and trying to implement the same strategy. How are we returning to work? And what does it mean? I think there's a new definition. What does work mean, what’s working environment mean? I am pretty fortunate that EY just rolled out our new way of working. We called it the EY Wow. We have an acronym for it. It's building on three guiding principles or concepts. It's rethinking about where you work, the break model, the one of the Bs, and then behavior. Right? We’re talking about how we historically wanted everyone to come to the office for meetings. Everyone goes to the client all the time, five days a week. Is that really the behavior we want? What is this kind of collaboration, a teaming that we're trying to get out of it or return to? Right? Which is collaborating, but it's not every single day in person, it’s not every hour in person anymore. How do we change our behavior a little bit? And then the last B is the bytes, the technology. We have spent so much money on technology this past year and a half. How do we capitalize on it? Because we cannot un-spend that money. So companies that implemented Zoom, implemented Microsoft teams or whatever technology it is. It's really continued to utilize those. I would say there's really like Smirti mentioned, there’s no one size fits all. For me, my team, I have a huge team right now and I have to collaborate with my client, who's thinking about the same thing. Historically, my team always traveled to the client about five days a week, and it's an hour's drive outside of Charlotte. So, um, one way, so no one is really excited about that commute anymore including the client. So we're really in a unique position as well as having a great opportunity to rethink how they want to work with us and how we’re returning to work. So I’m in a very great position to actually help influence that process as well as I'm making plans with my client on how they want to work with us so I can come up with a plan, collaborate with them and my team so that we have our plan that fits our team's needs and our client. And it's only for our team and our client, all the teams in the US and around the globe are going to be doing something different. But I think we have to not be afraid to go back to the drawing board if this is not working. And I think that's one thing, most companies rolling out the plans, but we need to probably think about how do we put in measures along the way so that, hey, let's go back to the drawing board because it's not working. Like, let's, let's go back and also we don't know what's going to happen. In a few months, hopefully, everything that we will get past this and move on. But if we have to go back again, how do we, we adjust that, you know, how do we continue to do this and keep everyone kind of mentally, I would say mentally, healthy and taking care of themselves, all those programs that we rolled out due to the pandemic to support parents in general. Or those caring for elderly parents or family members. We continue to need to expand on those because those cares exist. No matter if you're working in an office or working from home, we really need those programs. And for all the working parents, so that we can feel like we can do the work at work and do contribute to work. And also not having to worry a lot about the home until we have to. So I think having that level of support will be very helpful for all working parents and the company to really think about expanding that benefit.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.