June 24, 2020 - by CSCS

Angela Schneebeli(AS), Stefano Gorini(SG) and Victor Holanda Rusu(VH) are three parents working at CSCS. Their kids range in age from 24 months to 5 years. Normally, they rely on the valuable support of daycare staff and grandparents during their workdays. But when lockdown measures were introduced in March by the Swiss Federal Council, these care options were no longer available.

Now they share their perspectives on the challenges of parenthood in this new context.

What does a typical day of working from home look like?

(AS) Since lockdown, both my partner and I work from home and share the childcare responsibilities. We work in shifts and try to keep a kind of routine. For example, there is a walk with our dog and the kid two-times a day.

(SG) Since early March, both me and my wife have worked from home and shared the joy of parenting duty. We tried to organize shifts, but unfortunately, due to the nature of our work, it was impossible. So, we had to improvise day by day. This required extra effort in terms of continuous role switching; but on the other hand, it was nice having more time to enjoy every step of our kids’ lives.

(VH) In a typical day, my wife and I share the responsibilities. Débora takes care of Caio while I am at work, and I am responsible for the childcare during the remainder of the day. In the beginning, the transition to working from home was challenging, because Caio didn’t understand that Dad was at home but was also working. Now he understands much more and is able, in general, to allow for a smooth work environment.

What are the biggest challenges in your daily lives currently?

(AS) It is definitely a challenge to find a balance among everything: working, caring for children, cooking, trying to keep the home clean, etc. It’s really hard work. Moreover, I find it difficult sometimes to find a way to be 100 percent focused on what you are doing. While I work, it is a challenge to be 100 percent focused on this and not be distracted by something else; and when I am with the family, the challenge is to be there with them without thinking about work or other stuff that needs to be done. 

(SG) The biggest challenge has been finding the new balance. Trying to keep our kids in a nice and healthy routine while we are still running work duties as before (VC, meetings, and staying focused while trying to write important reports/emails).

(VH) The biggest challenge is to define when the work starts, when it stops, and when to take breaks. Sometimes it is difficult to accommodate both Caio’s mandatory daily breaks and also my meetings, especially with external partners. Days filled with meetings are quite challenging.

Which rules and structures have you implemented in your family to master this demanding time?

(AS) My husband and I discuss daily our work schedules so that we know when we have time for meetings, for work that requires concentration, etc. 

(SG) We try to optimize our schedules using early morning and late evening when possible, which means daily coordination with my wife to try to find a good balance depending on the schedule we both had.

(VH) Débora and I talk about the planned meetings that I have for the day, and we attempt to coordinate video calls with family members during those hours. This way we can tell Caio that he is also in a meeting like Dad.

What do you miss the most in this extraordinary situation?

(AS) I mostly miss the human contact — being able to drop by someone’s office to discuss a matter in person or take a break with the colleagues and do our rebus game. I also miss child-free time.

(SG) Definitely the social part that comes with the life in the office. Most of the work can be done from home, but the face-to-face added value has been missing, especially in dealing with team coordination duties (a nice challenge I had to learn to address differently).

(VH) I miss the interaction with people, especially with those that I normally do not interact with directly in my daily work, like the administration and infrastructure personnel. I also miss the random encounters in the corridor that allow for a quick chat with someone you do not normally see.

What do you like about working from home?

(AS) I don’t have to commute and I am more flexible, which is very helpful with a small child and a dog.

(SG) Well, avoiding the commute gives me extra time I can spend with my family, and indirectly it also means more flexibility in work duties that can be done even late in the evening if necessary. 

(VH) I like the fact that a simple break to drink water can be accompanied by a huge hug and a kiss from Caio. I like to have all meals with my family, and also to be able to help my wife in those turbulent moments of childcare.

Do you, as parents, feel supported by ETH Zurich? 

(AS) Yes, absolutely. I am very thankful for the understanding and the opportunity to work from home and be able to take care of my family at the same time. 

(SG) ETHZ has been supportive, and this is something that made this period much easier from any aspect you want to analyze it. 

(VH) For sure! ETHZ has supported me immensely in many different ways. I am very thankful for their understanding that working from home with a small child is not exactly the same as working in the office.  

What do you do to stay positive in this situation? 

(AS) I try to stay active: I run three times a week, do some yoga and some workouts.  

(SG) I try to save some personal time (for workouts, reading, etc.) and also fun time for all of us together, for example family cooking or walking sessions. 

(VH) I try to look at the bright side, and I attempt to appreciate what I have gained from all this. I think that this situation has allowed my family to grow stronger, and it also allowed me to follow my child’s growth even more closely.