Instead of “Hybrid” or “Remote” Let’s Call it Strategic Flexibility
Jessica DeGroot and ThirdPath Institute were recently featured in the Society for Human Resource Management’s newsletter.
Here’s the link to the full article, or read on for an excerpt that helps illustrate how we as change agents, can make the most of this moment in time.
DeGroot has seen the power of strategic flexibility in the community of leaders her nonprofit supports. Long before the pandemic, these leaders were experimenting with remote work as one of the options offered to employees to develop an integrated approach to work and life—one that allowed them to be successful at work while having time and energy for life responsibilities. This paid off during the pandemic. At ThirdPath’s recent Leadership Summit, DeGroot discovered that, unlike many businesses today, none of the participants had lost a disproportionate number of female employees during the pandemic.
Unfortunately, she has also heard a number of less-progressive stories, including those that illustrate outdated thinking by HR. “Too often, HR sees itself as rule enforcers for the way things have always been done,” she said.
DeGroot shares the story of an engineer who had successfully worked remotely a few days a week his entire career. During the pandemic, he and other team members were laid off, but his confidence in his ability to work remotely inspired him to apply for a position that was physically located a four-hour drive from his home. It was a company he had been following due to its groundbreaking work, and since its employees had been working remotely for a year, he saw it as an opportunity to join the organization.
When interviewed by one of the company vice presidents, the engineer was told, “HR’s policy is that you cannot work remotely. There’s nothing I can do about it.” But then the vice president confided that he had two team members who worked remotely long before the pandemic, one living even farther away than a four-hour drive.
DeGroot believes HR can be instrumental in creating strategically flexible workplaces. “This includes messaging to current employees and potential new hires, partnerships with managers to help them develop the skills to manage remote work teams and revising job descriptions,” she said. In this way, and with the support of senior leaders, “HR can make a major contribution to their organizations’ success,” she added.
The article then goes on to share the story of how Delta Emerson, one of our amazing ThirdPath community members, used strategic flexibility to transform her workplace.
As Delta explained, “We had some old-school leaders who couldn’t imagine the kind of workplace we were envisioning,” she said. “Over time, however, as positive results became evident, resistance dissipated.”
The article concludes with this powerful truth: “Because of the pandemic, numerous organizations that had never contemplated strategic flexibility before have had to adjust. Now, rather than returning to the old ways, let’s take advantage of this otherwise disastrous event to rethink how work is done.”
GOOD NEWS! Delta Emerson will be joining us for the launch of our new season of Thursdays with ThirdPath webinars. Stay tuned!
Take A Vacation: It’s Time To Recharge Your Batteries
Taking a vacation is good for you, its good for your family and it turns out its good for your organization!
Here’s what we at ThirdPath have learned about the importance of vacation time over the past 20 plus years of advocating for doing work and family differently. You can also listen to our Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar where we discussed this topic by clicking on the SoundCloud player.
However – some of us might need to challenge a few work norms to make this happen: the fear of being perceived as an under performer; the pressure to see it as a win-lose proposition – either we meet our client and customer needs or our own personal needs; or the worry that maybe there’s no point to take a week off given the demands to be available while away and the difficulty transitioning back upon return.
But there’s a lot to gain when we push back at these norms.
– Time off can have several health benefits like reducing risk of heart disease, stress and depression.
– Seeing new places (even if it’s only a short car ride away) and experiencing different things can have a positive effect on our overall outlook on life, providing a fresh and new perspective.
– Time away from work can also help us remember that work is just one part of who we are and remind us that we have friends, family and other life interests.
Here’s a list of ideas to help increase the enjoyment of your time away and maximize the benefits upon your return. For the full list, click here.
Vacation Check List:
- Plan vacations around the “seasonality” of your work. Try scheduling longer trips for less busy periods of work and “long weekend vacations” when work is busier.
- Block off pre and post “quiet” work days. Avoid scheduling meetings and phone calls the day before you leave and the day you return to allow for the “unexpected” and for catch up time when you return.
- Create a “what can wait” list. A week before you go, create a list of things that you can wait to get done after vacation, versus tasks that must be completed before you go.
- Decide how “connected” you want to be. If you need to check email or voice messages, plan ahead around what’s least disruptive.
- Carefully define emergencies. Think ahead about what challenges could arise. Clearly define emergencies to avoid everything becoming one.
- Keep track of what worked well. Create a list you can refer back to of helpful ideas for planning your next vacation.
And don’t forget, creating vacations that really recharge our batteries may also require us to change how we approach vacations as a family. Two parents working together as a team to plan and make the most of a vacation, makes it a better experience for everyone. (And while you’re at it, don’t forget to plan a romantic getaway for just the two of you!)
Want to learn more? Join our OMG 12-call series to help you develop 21st century work-life integration skills.
Renegotiating Remote Work for a Post Pandemic World
When remote work is working for you but everyone else wants to head back to the office, how do you convince your boss to let you stay at home (at least some of the time)?
To learn more, read our guest post by Heather Cluley, Associate Director, Graduate HRD program at Villanova University. Or click on the YouTube video to listen to the great advice from our April Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar.
Step 1: Get clear about what’s working and what you want
The first step is to objectively assess your remote work experience and think about adjustments that will improve your productivity and communication with your colleagues and clients. Before the pandemic threw us all spontaneously into remote work, these types of arrangements were proactive and well-planned affairs. And that was a good thing because that meant productivity could be optimized, teams could better coordinate their efforts, and managers expectations could be better managed.
An example of just how organized these arrangements can be can be found in the 40-page Guide to Telework in the Federal Government. It spells out exactly the conversations that would need to be had between employees and their managers when a telework arrangement is requested. While you may be well beyond this conversation now, this survey tool, developed by my friends at the ThirdPath Institute, can help you (re)assess and recalibrate your remote work plans. This will help you think through how your continued remote work arrangements can benefit you, your work, and your team, as well as how to improve the arrangement (now that we’re not in crisis mode).
Step 2: Frame your request from the managing up perspective
Now that you know what works best for you, you need to honestly reflect on what works best for your boss and your organization. Taking this bigger picture view will help you figure out how to frame your request for continued remote work in a way that will make it harder to say no to. BTW, this ‘managing up’ approach can also help you at work generally. When it comes to your manager, think about their goals and perspective. What are their plans and pressures? Also, what is your boss’s communication style and decision-making style? Does your boss prefer written or face-to-face communication? Do they want to know all the details and all the options, or do they just want your recommendation for moving projects forward? A boss who values face-to-face communication might be more open to an arrangement that is part-time remote work versus one that is full-time.
You will also want to frame your request with an understanding of your workplace’s culture. For example, a split schedule – where you’re working some hours during the day and some in the evening – might work well in a 24/7 work environment because it can allow you to be responsive to those evening requests. But a work arrangement that is more 9 to 5-ish might work better in a work culture set by more traditional business hours. Try to meet your own needs while also staying within the framework of the organizational culture and your boss’s work style.
Step 3: Make the request using the triple win
“Hey boss, I want to continue to work remotely after the pandemic (sometimes, all the time, on Wednesdays…). I have thought about how to make this work for me and my work, for you and the team, and how it can be really great for serving our clients. Let me tell you about this triple-win proposal…” Honestly, if I am your boss, I’m all ears in this conversation. If you can truly lay out a plan that is a win for all stakeholders, you’ll be well on the road to a yes. A few other tips to seal the deal: consider pitching this proposal as a trial or pilot test. Suggest it as a time-limited experiment. Then build in advance a timeframe for review – when you will discuss what’s going well and what adjustments are needed. Then spend the trial phase doing an awesome job, so there is no question when that review time comes around, that things are going well. Competent work (being predictably good) and great communication are two key ingredients to building trust.
I’m going to use this post-pandemic opportunity to rebuild my life into a life I want, not one that is shaped by outdated ideas and needless inefficiencies. (Ok, I’m probably also going to end up back where I started when it comes to running a child around to way too many activities.) For me, I’ve been in a pretty good situation for a while. Nearly ideal. The remote work arrangements and flexible schedule I’ve enjoyed used to be unheard of in many organizations. But now is the time to start making work more fun and less stressful by building on what we have learned about the possibilities that seemed so untenable until now.
Heather Cluley, Ph.D. is the Associate Director in the Graduate HRD program at Villanova University. She also happens to be one of ThirdPath’s AMAZING ILAs.
Prioritizing Time Alongside Money
As a society, we have been trained to believe that more money is always better. People in the ThirdPath community have turned this assumption upside down. Instead they ask, can we design a financial solution that allows us the time we want, not just the money we need?
By getting clear about life priorities, being intentional around spending, and creating financial buffers, there really is a way you can create more time for the things you love.
The way to do this, Matt Becker would argue, is by following a “life-centered approach” to finances. Matt is the founder of Mom and Dad Money, and he talked about this on one of our Thursdays with ThirdPath webinars. Click on the YouTube recording and you can listen to his insights right now.
While discussing these ideas, Matt encourages parents to think about the time they want for different things — family, partner, your kids and other highly valued non-work activities — then to use these “life goals” to become more intentional about how to manage earning income and spending to achieve them.
For example, being conservative around spending can help you afford to use time in a way that is most aligned with your values. It also helps you better manage unexpected changes in employment, or the need to temporarily reduce the number of hours you work.
Members of the ThirdPath community apply the life-centered approach to family finances in a variety of ways.
As one mom explained, “Live at or below your means, but never above your means.” Another father told us, “Avoid the assumption that the person who earns more should work more. Instead, find solutions that advance the family’s needs, and each parent’s professional goals, as a whole.”
Just as there are different “North stars” there are also a wide range of ways ThirdPath parents “balance” the competing needs of time and money. (Learn more about this by downloading a *FREE* of our ThirdPath Leader Guide.)
We all need money to live, but the exact amount depends on how much we spend, how much we save, how much debt we have, and what our values are. With the right amount of reflection, conversation and visualization, each of us can find our own unique life-centered financial equation.
What’s the right “life centered approach” to finances for you?
Black Career Women and Strategic Mothering
Once again we will have Riché Daniel Barnes join our Thursdays with ThirdPath webinars this month. Her amazing book, Raising the Race: Black Career Women Redefine Marriage, Motherhood and Community taught me how much the Black professional mothers in her study have in common with our Shared Care families.
Her study reinforced how the dichotomy between work and family isn’t working for anybody.
To challenge this, these Black professional mothers had adopted a more flexible approach that provided a wider range of options to meet their responsibilities around work, family, community and marriage.
When I asked Riché what prompted her to begin this study, she explained, “I was in grad school, so I had time to take my daughter to the library a couple times each week and I kept on noticing the same Black mothers who were there as well. Every Black woman I knew had always worked. But this group of women were showing up week after week. Some of these mothers were taking time for family alongside their careers. Some were not planning to go back to work. Some were planning to go back, they just weren’t yet sure when.” And all of them, Riché pointed out, were doing this without any role models.
Riché uses the concept of “Strategic Mothering” to describe what she observed.
This is an approach Black women have used for generations as a way to strengthen their communities through their work as caregivers, culture bearers and community builders. Whether flexing a full time job, working reduced hours, or temporarily stepping away from their careers, these Black professional women were searching for ways to break down the dichotomy between work and family.
In a previous interview, when asked how their more flexible approach to work and family was an example of “Strategic Mothering”, Riché answered, “In the time span that I interviewed these families, only 2 have ended in divorce. These women saw having an intact family as important to the community. Family life is devalued. Marriage is devalued. The majority of black children are being raised in single-parent households. These women saw what they were doing — by staying together — as ‘raising the race.’”
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However, as Riché clarified, these mothers hadn’t arrived at these answers just by choice.
Their strategy was based on a history that included slavery, Jim Crow and systemic racism. This historical context helped illustrate why, as Black women, it was assumed they would combine work and motherhood. It also underscores how the ongoing racism Black families face – including Black professional families – makes it extremely risky to rely on just one parent’s income.
Riché explained, “These families knew they were making a precarious decision. Even as professional families, most were just one generation away from not having had anything. And because their financial circumstances were often dependent on an employer – they knew they had to put other types of financial solutions in place for themselves.” For many, this meant having some other type of income producing activity on the side, whether it was real estate, something entrepreneurial, or something else.
Riché points to the need to create better public policy to address this problem.
Riché argued, “We are putting more responsibilities on families to take care of themselves, and we’ve eroded the safety net that so many of us have worked hard to create.” Going forward, we need to create good public policy and good workplace policies. Unfortunately, Riché concluded, our country does not seem to be going in this direction. “We need to pivot our conversation and recognize that families can’t do all of this work themselves.”
Check out the above YouTube video to listen to our first conversation with Riché. Then register to join us on 1/14/21 @ 1pm ET to learn more about this important topic.
Every few months we feature one of the pioneers that make up the ThirdPath community … Read on to learn about Sergio’s journey as a non-traditional father and husband.
The Essence of Sergio Rosario Díaz
Yet, despite his pride, Sergio hasn’t always opened with the military part of that description.
Why not? It seems that many folks have a very specific idea in mind when they hear the term “military spouse.”
As Sergio says, “I can be a good spouse without solely being defined as a ‘military spouse’ . . . your roles are defined by who you are, your essence, not by where you work or what you do.”
Sergio recently joined ThirdPath’s team as a Marketing and Social Media Associate. He is going to help grow ThirdPath’s social media presence. And like all of our employees, he has a multidimensional spirit that we benefit from.
In addition to working for ThirdPath, Sergio is the director of Proyecto Piquete, a band focused on folkloric rhythms from Puerto Rico and oral history through music. He manages Soy Super Papa, a community whose mission is empowering fathers to focus on highlighting their roles in society and within the family.
So “who” Sergio is can be many things. He is an educator and an entrepreneur. He is a community leader and a drum instructor. He is a doting dad, caring husband and supportive spouse. That is his essence.
Sergio met his wife, Lyn, in Washington, D.C. She was working as an attorney in the U.S. Army and he was employed by a large family services organization.
They had a daughter, Stella, who they started in full-time childcare. But childcare was expensive, and it made for a stressful start to their life as a family. So they talked about it. “I think,” adds Sergio. “The most important part of the story was the communication throughout the whole process.”
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Then, two big changes were made. They moved to North Carolina, and Sergio left his job to become the primary caregiver for Stella. However, it turns out that the concept of being a stay-at-home dad is often met by the same antiquated notions as military spouse.
“It’s very hard. When people first meet you, the first thing they ask is what do you do for work? Instead of asking, how are you? Tell me your story. The first thing they want to talk about is work. And living in D.C. or other big cities, it’s even more that way.”
“If you are thinking about doing something less traditional, you need to have good communication. And when stressful situations come, criticism from the family, from friends, from relatives, the first thing that needs to be done is to communicate with your significant other, just let them know how you feel.”
It’s also about support, both personally and professionally.
Sergio was able to focus on his professional identity through drumming, entrepreneurship and educating, while Lyn pursued her goals within her military career. Depending on the circumstances, they would prioritize different roles.
“In my case, when it’s about the military community, I tend to shift to a supportive role. When we are in the musical and cultural community, I take the lead in the role, and my wife is a supporter. So we each feel important in our own communities, but we also both support each other.
Sergio and Lyn have an incredible partnership where they see each other as very capable of caregiving and very capable of having their respective professional identities.
They also understand each other’s responsibilities. “When we sit and watch TV, it’s because we both have time. So we respect each other’s chores, duties, exercise time, all these things. Musical time, when I’m recording, she respects my time and she goes and does her own thing. So it’s about balancing those chores, those responsibilities.
We knew when we first met Sergio he was the right guy for the job. Not only does he bring great skills and a passion around involved fatherhood, he and his wife also have a great team at home – and we’ve certainly learned how all of these things help develop a more creative and committed employee for the long run.
All year long our Thursday webinars will explore new approaches to work and family to help you find a more sustainable solution during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. Here’s where you can find out what’s happening next.
Or, click the above YouTube link to watch this season’s opening webinar. Sergio joined us along with two exciting book authors as we explored how to rethink the mental load as an important step to creating more sustainable solutions (and greater gender equity too!)
10 Proven Ways to Balance Family and Work
Does it sometimes feel challenging to create a team approach at home?
Listen to our recent Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar to discover how you can strengthen your partnership at home as you navigate work and family through the pandemic. Our guests were Catherine Aponte and Rachel Allender, both long time ThirdPath community members who work with couples.
Researchers at Colorado State University studied 47 middle-class, dual-earner couples with children to identify key strategies for successfully managing family and work balance. Here are the 10 ways these couples found to balance family and work.
1. Valuing Family. Successful couples stress the importance of keeping family as their highest priority. They create family time such as “pizza night” on Friday, or bedtime stories every night. It is not uncommon for these couples to limit work hours… or make career changes… to keep family as the number one priority.
H (Husband): …Every night, one of us reads with our son for about 20 minutes.
W (Wife): …David was going to go to medical school…. creating eight-plus years of being an absentee father…. we said no…. we needed to pursue something else.
2. Striving for Partnership. Being partners means being equally valued.
H: …My job is both earning and caring, and so is hers.
H: …If I win and she loses, then we both lose.
W: …We continue to talk about career…where do we want to be?
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W: …We both really like our jobs…they’re stressful at times, but we…feel good about what we are doing.
H: …I get a great deal of satisfaction from my job.
4. Maintaining Work Boundaries. Successful couples make a commitment to maintaining control over work, not allowing careers to dictate the pace of their lives.
W: …We both like our jobs, but, when it’s quitting time, we’re out of there.
W: …When you’re at home, you’re at home; and when you’re at work, you’re at work.
H: …We’ve always said “no” to jobs that required long hours…weekends, lots of overtime.
5. Focusing and Producing at Work. Being productive at work is important to successful couples. Setting limits on their careers has not adversely affected their productivity.
H: …We both pull our weight at [our] jobs. [No one] has felt we’re slacking off or getting off easy because we’ve got kids.
W: …I don’t mess around. When I’m there, I’m working.
6. Prioritizing Family Fun. Successful couples use play and family fun to relax, enjoy life, stay emotionally connected, and create balance in their lives.
H: …I think a lot of our family bonding revolves around these excursions, going on lots of hikes or bike trips…sometimes fishing, concerts…the three of us.
W: …Once in a while, we’ll just try and do stuff off the cuff; one night we had a camp night in front of the fireplace.
7. Taking Pride in Dual Earning. These couples believe dual earning is positive for all members of their family and do not accept negative societal message about their family arrangement.
W: …Of course [children] fulfill you, but they can only fulfill a certain part of you.
H: …One of the nicest gifts that Patty has ever given me is to go to work and to bring home a good income.
8. Living Simply. These couples consciously simplifying their lives.
W: …We don’t go out to eat. We don’t need cable. We don’t need to sit in front of the TV anyway.
H: …We don’t use credit cards. We can’t have fancy cars where the payments just eat you up.
9. Making Decisions Proactively. Being proactive in decision making is most important. Successful couples are vigilant in not allowing the pace of their lives control them.
W: …If you define success as what you do at work, then that is all you will do…if you define success as having a happy family and a happy marriage and [being] happy at work, then you make all those things happen.
H: …We talk a lot during the day…[about] anything from getting the oil changed in the car to who is bringing plates over to mom’s house. There’s not much I don’t know about.
10. Valuing Time. Successful couples try to remain aware of the value of time.
W: …I think you are almost forced to make better use of the time that you have together by the nature of the fact that you work.
H: …We try to do a lot of our [house] work during the week, so that the weekends are free.
To learn more about this study, find the full post on Psychology Today.
A Team at Home Makes Tough Times Better
By Janna Cawrse Esarey
A couple weeks into the Covid-19 pandemic, with schools, businesses, and fishing closed—my husband LOVES fishing—the mood in our household turned bleak. I got sighy. My husband got grumpy. And our two daughters, ages 11 and 14, got zombified by TikTok.
We needed to regroup.
But now, a few weeks in, our sweet moods were turning sour. Money stress. Anxiety about the future. Social withdrawal.
After a preliminary huddle with me, my husband called a family meeting. We needed more structure to our days, he explained to our girls, a routine that promoted health, productivity, and joy for each of us.
We made a huge rambling list of possibilities: activities we wanted to do (theme dinners, read-alouds), skills we wanted to learn (photoshop, carving), habits we wanted to develop (meditate, exercise), passions we wanted to pursue (aerial silks, dog training), home improvement projects we could finally knock off the to-do list (weeding, hang art, save the amaryllis). Some of the activities were frivolous (watch every Star Wars movie in the so-called correct order). Some were serious (read half a dozen memoirs to help me hone my writing craft). But all ideas went on the board.
Next, my husband wrote up a Plan of the Day that included various buckets. We figured if everyone could try to do something from each of these categories daily, pandemic life in our house would be much better. Heck, life would be better.
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Work/School—I rise early and write every day before heading to work to deliver meals. That leaves my husband Zooming on business while overseeing the girls’ distance learning through their public schools. We’ve told the girls their number one lesson in every subject right now is self-direction. It’s a legitimate and valuable lifelong skill; what an opportunity to learn it.
Home—Kids are often more capable than we think. I was surprised when my husband taught our youngest to iron at age five. I taught the kids to do their own laundry around that age, too. These days they’re tackling more than just the basic chores (clean bathrooms, vacuum). They’re also trimming hedges, hemming curtains, power-washing the deck. When kids contribute authentically to housework alongside adults, they know they’re part of a team.
Exercise/Nature—Where we live we can still exercise outside, thank goodness. Even just walking the dog counts as much-needed time in nature. In addition to us each trying to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, our youngest is in charge of the Daily Exercise Challenge. Our eldest won the wall-sit contest. My husband won at plank. I always win at Most Likely to Laugh Hysterically While Competing.
Skill/Passion—These buckets are often the best parts of our days. They’re self-chosen, self-motivating, and, therefore, the best way to get our kids off the screen. Or, if the skill being learned is screen-based, photoshop, say, at least they’re giving TikTok a break.
Eat—Our school district is making sack lunches and breakfasts free for all students, a huge help for us financially and logistically during this stressful time, so that just leaves dinners to plan. Normally, my husband is the chef, but now each of us is taking a turn. The girls came up with the idea of International Night twice a week; two people cook and the other two present fun facts about the country.
Morale in our home has improved. We don’t accomplish every bucket every day, of course—and we still experience a good bit of cabin fever—but we’ve had some pleasant successes and fun surprises.
Janna Cawrse Esarey is a writer, mother, sailor, and school bus driver on an island near Seattle. She is the author of the travel memoir The Motion of the Ocean and is working on a new memoir called MATE about how navigating modern parenthood is more perilous than sailing the Arctic. She knows; she’s tried both. Visit saildogbark.com where you can drop her a line.
Want to discover more about how parents are creating a “team at home” to manage the unique needs of their families, adjusted work responsibilities and time to recharge during this period of crisis? Listen to the above YouTube recording of our recent Thursday webinar.
Every few months we feature one of the pioneers that make up the ThirdPath community … Read on to learn about Julian’s Shared Care story, or watch our YouTube interview with Julian.
Graduating from college in the early 1980’s having studied social work and childcare Julian found it difficult to find work in his chosen field given the state of the economy at that time. He was newly married, had a young step-daughter and a new baby on the way. As a result, Julian took a job in building maintenance working double shifts to help make ends meet.
After the birth of their third daughter, Julian was at home with the girls during the day until he left for his night time maintenance job. Then Debbie would take over, making dinner, bathing and putting the three girls to bed. This arrangement lasted for almost 10 years until their youngest daughter reached 3rd grade.
Some would think a schedule like this was problematic, but Julian treasured these years. Walking the girls to and from school each day and attending school events and trips, meant everyone could see what an involved father he was.
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Julian remembers some of the challenges as well. To begin with there were many days when a full day of parenting, followed by a full shift at work was exhausting. In addition, money was always an issue. They rented a house to keep expenses low, and when the car died, they used public transport, not buying another car for years. But both parents new the time they had with young children was finite. Once when Julian was offered overtime at work, he turned it down. He knew the extra money would help, but he preferred to have the extra time for family.
Julian knows his decision to be an involved father was influenced by his own childhood. “My dad was not there for me in my life and that affected me. It made me want to be in my girls’ lives.” He continued, “My mother was at home with us when we were young, but eventually she became a single mom. She made many sacrifices for us. She had seven kids and she leaned heavily on the older boys, as there was just one girl. We boys were the babysitters, and we learned early that being a parent meant sacrificing.”
When asked about the impact of the decision for both parents to share in the care of their children Julian explains; “We were able to take advantage of an open door. This schedule wasn’t planned, it just worked out for us, and my daughters and I forged a strong bond as a result. If I had not been at home all those years, I probably would have had to work much harder to have those relationships.”
Today Julian is the director of a childcare center for a vibrant community church. As he reflects on his story he said, “Hopefully now I am in a position to help teach and guide parents. When we have problems in our families, we have to take a deep look and ask ourselves, what can we as a community do to help?”
Want more inspiration? Tune in to our next Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar to meet more inspiring pioneers doing work, family and leadership differently!
Virtual Visits with Grandma
By Diane Mangano-Cohen
For twenty-five years I have had the privilege of being a grandmother to six amazing individuals.
Until recently I have enjoyed weekly visits with my two youngest grandchildren, but social-distancing has changed all of that. There is no more once-a-week childcare for my adorable twenty month-old granddaughter, and no more special time with my curious kindergartener-grandson.
After a few weeks of social-distancing, I realized it was time for a little creativity. I missed my grandchildren and our routines, and I knew their parents needed a break from the constant supervision.
The answer I came up with? Finding virtual experiences that my grandchildren and I could share using the internet.
To design our virtual visits, I used what I knew about my grandson’s current interests as my starting point. I made suggestions and then we brainstormed together on virtual trips to cities, museums and animal habitats. At my grandson’s request, our “visit” to Paris included showing him where Lafayette’s tomb is–he is a big Hamilton fan! I had not known that Lafayette was buried in Paris and together we learned that dirt from Boston’s Bunker Hill is in his burial plot.
I also learned when visiting one of our travel locations it’s a great way to talk about the world and local customs of the people. I share how far away the location is and how long a plane ride takes to provide some context. This is a time-intensive process, but with my own social-distancing, this is a great way to keep me busy and keep my mind stimulated.
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Some visits include art projects after watching the specific artist’s techniques, giving us both a creative outlet. Sharing our work at the end allows us more interaction. For our “Mondrian” project I used pre-cut black construction paper and crayons and my grandson did an amazing job using only Legos.
When researching a recent topic, I do a Google search by typing in, for example: “Best place to virtually see spiders.” This search resulted in a huge variety of websites and YouTube videos. I selected several videos to watch to find the one I felt would best hold my grandson’s interest. I am learning a great deal by viewing these videos to find the age-appropriate and interesting presentation, and have found the whole process very engaging.
Timing my visits with his sister’s nap means both parents have extra time to work or just be off-duty – truly a win-win-win.
Technology has been key to making this happen, and we are fortunate to have both computers and iPads available. We have used both on almost all virtual visits. I can see his face and I know when I need to re-gain his attention with a simple, “Buddy, you still there”? What my grandson needs most is company. We have conversations; but sometimes I’m just a trusted, reassuring voice while he plays with Legos, magnetic tiles or draws.
Video-visiting with the twenty month-old is very different. She tugs at my heart strings when she hugs or kisses the screen. We dance, sing, read stories, eat meals together and just look at each other.
Last night I also video-visited with my oldest granddaughter who is about to turn 25. Working from her apartment in Dallas proved to be too confining, so she is now staying in a Tiny House in the Mountains of Colorado. I also send her a daily “Good Morning” text, which I can tell brightens her days.
I’m really pleased with all the different ways my “virtual grandparenting” has evolved – and like any activity done from the heart, it has provided me with more benefits than I give.