Balancing parenting and professional responsibilities during this pandemic has been an adjustment. I imagine that many of us can relate to helping our kids with a math problem during the workday right before our next virtual meeting starts. Just as is the case with parenting, there are no formal guides to help us successfully balance both during an unprecedented time. What I have realized as we near the end of 2020 is that this year has given me great insights into being a parent and a working professional at home.
For the first time in my 25-year career, I have been able to consistently start the day with my family and be with them again in the evening for dinner. Balancing an executive role virtually has created significant opportunities for spending focused time with my family and created new flexibility for how and when I get my work done.
Consistent Family Time
Instead of commuting or heading into the office early each morning during the week, I am now able to start my day by waking up my two children and getting them ready for their virtual school day. I see my kids early in the morning and then also see them during lunch to check in on how they are doing or even eat lunch together. My lunch hour in the office was previously filled with catching up with colleagues, grabbing a quick bite from a local restaurant, or returning phone calls. Eating lunch with my kids has been an unexpected but welcome change in 2020.
As I wrap up my workday in the evening, I no longer worry about traffic heading home or leaving the office too late to be able to enjoy dinner with my family. Most of my career has been spent traveling or filled with evening work events to attend. Knowing that I will be there with them every night for dinner has been another change this year that I could never have predicted but am so thankful it came about.
The Importance of Having a Balanced and Flexible Work Schedule
Now that I see my family more each day during the work week, I am also able to spend focused time over the weekend for work. Prior to the pandemic, I used to fit in as much work as possible Monday through Friday by working early morning until late at night. I find that spending a little bit of time over the weekend to do strategic thinking has been a huge and beneficial change. It has given me balance and flexibility to help ensure I am growing and doing my best personally as a father and professionally as an executive.
On the weekends, I do strategic work or email responses only. However, if I reply to emails, I do so in draft and send them on Monday, so I am not sending emails to employees over the weekend. I am a big believer in paying attention to your “shadow as a leader,” meaning that if others see I am working they will feel like they need to respond. What works for me to ensure balance and flexibility does not work for everyone.
Communication with Kids
While I think most parents would agree full-time virtual learning is not ideal for kids, there have been great communication achievements that my wife and I have made with our kids related to their learning. For example, my fourth-grade daughter’s teacher emails the upcoming weekly schedule and focus learning areas in advance. I read this email closely, which then provides a great opportunity to check in with my daughter on what they have covered in class. I also ask about fun things they do like virtual “lunch bunches” with smaller groups of kids on certain days of the week. During our family dinners I bring up her “lunch bunch” session or another topic they have learned, and it is a fun and special way to stay engaged in her learning, while also having meaningful dinner conversations.
Parenting during this pandemic has been anything but ordinary, but I appreciate the new insights it has given me, while also helping me balance my personal and professional life. How are you balancing being a parent and your professional work during this pandemic? I would welcome your thoughts and things you have learned.
Don Antonucci serves as Senior Vice President of Growth for Blue Shield of California. He has more than two decades of experience in the health care industry and is the host of “Healthy Dose of Dialogue” podcast available on Apple iTunes or Spotify. The monthly podcast invites healthcare leaders to share fresh perspectives and engage in healthy dialogue about marketplace trends and industry insights impacting health care today.