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Things I’ve Appreciated About Self-Isolation with a 2-Year Old

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Practicing social distancing with two parents trying to work from home while also watching a toddler has been rough. Between juggling both our conference call schedules alongside our kid’s needs, it’s been close to impossible to find the time or energy for writing or research.

I know there’s a whole swath of people grappling with what COVID-19 will mean for our industry. While I will definitely be exploring the broader implications of our current environment, first I just need to spend some time grappling with my own new reality.

There are a lot of things I personally miss: the ability to visit family and friends, enjoying restaurants and cafes, taking our daughter to the park without doing social distancing math, the ability to cough without worrying, not having concerns about loved ones in high-risk scenarios constantly simmering on the back burner.

Furthermore there are a lot of things I worry about for others: our collective societal health and how we will manage this crisis, people struggling to make ends meet, job prospects for people looking for work, people quarantined in unsafe situations.

It’s all so much.

I can mourn what is currently lost and fret about the world, but I can’t change it.

And so instead I’m leaning in to gratitude. Here are a handful of things I am grateful for in this time of upheaval.

Work

Better Communication

RedMonk has always been a 100% distributed team, but I love how we have made renewed efforts to find ways to remain connected whilst remaining apart. Partially this is because we won’t be running into each other at conferences this spring, and it is also a recognition that we’re all a bit more isolated from the world around us than normal. We’ve scheduled new meetings to catch up with each other, and we switched our conferencing system over to Zoom.

RedMonk long used UberConference, but we were increasingly running into issues with the platform’s reliability (e.g. not working from browsers other than Chrome, more audio issues and call dropping, clients struggling to connect behind firewalls). We had started exploring other platforms late last year, and this event was what finally pushed us to finish the migration.

Zoom has addressed a lot of our reliability needs, but the other benefit of Zoom is its popularity; its ubiquity means that clients tend to be more familiar with the interface and in our trials thus far we’ve had fewer issues of people struggling to use the platform. We’ve also had an excellent time with the virtual backgrounds and showing up for calls from some of our favorite locations (like Pai Men. or the Electricity Showrooms. or Hogwarts.)

While the switch-over hasn’t been entirely painless, Zoom thus far seems to facilitate an increased cadence of personal interaction both within RedMonk and with our clients, and for that I am grateful.

Experimentation

Our industry reveres the concept of the minimum viable product, and this virus’ impact on in-person events has created an industry-wide process to find a new MVP on ways to connect without travel. Thus far explorations and trials are still in early development, but I expect to see massive experimentation across the industry as people try to address these new constraints.

In particular, I’m excited to see how we solve problems like creating virtual experiences that can replicate an immersive conference experience, or how we can foster some aspects of the hallway track and the serendipitous conversations that happen at events in an online setting.

I suspect a lot of these initial efforts to host virtual events will be devoted to helping bridge existing marketing/sales budgets to match our current reality, but what excites me is that this period of collective experimentation has potential to create a lasting change. I especially hope that these experiments will help us address things like climate change or reaching broader audiences who are unable to travel to in-person events.

I’m looking forward to our industry’s iterations around how to host a well-executed virtual event, and I am grateful that we now have the impetus to make some changes to help us all collectively get on planes less often.

Family Values

I’m incredibly grateful to have a job I can do remotely and a company that is in a good place to weather an economic crisis. I fully recognize these are privileges that are not widely shared across our economy.

But what I especially love about RedMonk is our ‘family first’ philosophy. This is the company’s first principle and it has been on full display these past few weeks. I love that we have a team that is understanding of kids (and cats!) popping in on conference calls, of how we give each other grace as schedules are juggled, and how we pick up slack for each other where we can.

I am so thankful to work for a team that lets us bring our whole selves – and occasionally our toddlers – to work.

Toddler wearing conference call headset

(Her direct quote after putting these on was “‘Cuse me, mama. I have a call now. Will you shut the door?”)

Home

And since work is such a comparatively small part of the world these days, it’s also worth quickly listing some of the things in the rest of my life I am grateful for.

Better Communication

  • I also enjoy how video chatting has crossed the chasm as a method of socialization. It’s a great way to stay in touch, and even better: it necessitates friends sending each other calendar invites. “Calendar invitations for social functions” is one of my love languages.
  • I was already pretty good about checking-in with my parents on a regular basis, but I’m loving the increased cadence of phone calls with my siblings.
  • My husband and I now do daily standups (loosely imagined) to make sure we have childcare coverage and a general plan sorted out for the day. I appreciate when work practices transcend boundaries and help make home life easier.
  • I’m so glad I have a partner who adapts when our daily battle plan falls apart upon first contact with the enemy. I couldn’t do this without him.

More Time With My Family

  • I love this new opportunity to experience little moments of growth with our daughter. For example, it was such a joy to find out that she knows the word “buoy” even though neither my husband or I taught it to her.
  • We discovered our kid’s delightful new tendency to start questions with “shall we?” It’s really hard to say “no” to a cute little toddler asking “shall we watch Paw Patrol?”
  • In normal circumstances, there would be no time in our morning routine to make space for our daughter’s new insistence that she can dress (and then undress and then redress and then undress… ad nauseam) herself. I’m grateful that we are able to empower her to grow and learn new skills in a less time-constrained environment. (That said, I do hope we make it through this “‘shall we change clothes?’ a half dozen times a day” phase quickly.)
  • No work travel means no missed bedtimes. I’ve been given the gift of more dinners together, more toys in the bathtub, more stories, more songs in silly voices that make her giggle, more hugs and kisses. Sometimes getting through the bedtime routine can be so draining, but I’m trying hard to remember these are the moments I miss most when I’m on the road.

Odds and Ends

  • Screen time. My daughter’s iPad is one of our household’s most precious possessions at the moment. God bless the creators of Paw Patrol.
  • We now have no excuse not to use up the random things that accumulated in the back of the pantry. It’s not the spring cleaning I expected, but I’m counting it as cleaning nonetheless.
  • In some “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” gratitude, I have so much appreciation for the amazing work our daycare does. While I thought I appreciated her school before, I now acutely appreciate its normal role in our lives. We fiercely love and miss our daughter’s teachers.
  • We’re doing our best to support local businesses with to-go orders as they experience this challenge. We ran out of milk a day before our milk delivery day, and our local cafe sold us a pint so we could avoid the grocery store. They completely saved bedtime and will forever have my gratitude.
  • I am so thankful for the people who make our society run that are routinely overlooked. I am especially grateful for all the people whose work helps enable our society to shelter in place. Our healthcare workers are heroes.

I know this is not my typical publishing fare. Thanks for indulging me and letting me share what I’m able to given current circumstances. I hope we have a chance to resume regularly scheduled programming soon.

Until then, I wish everyone good health, existential security, and comfort. Be well.

2 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing Rachel! As a parent of 3 kids aged 16, 12, and 8 (with the two older ones largely independent at home) I have been wondering how difficult it must be for those parents with kids between the ages of 1 and 6. What you described is what I imagined…and more. Kudos to you for seeing the bright side of it all!

  2. I can relate…as I read this, the four-year old leaning over my shoulder keeps asking ‘I want to see the baby again’.

    The big question about switching conference software…would a robocaller be able to dial into Zoom and join? 🙂

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