“Children are a heritage from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” – Psalm 127:3
Parenting during the pandemic is a strenuous role yet it is also filled with joy and snuggly hugs. We connected with three Compassion Canada staff who are parents to walk us through their perspectives on parenting during this season.
On the panel
Karla A., Social Media Specialist, with her two kids: Hudson, 11, and Sterling, 7.
John M., Manager of Creative Services, with his wife, Megan and their two kids: Phoebe, 8, and Max, 6.
Christine K., Project Coordinator (Marketing), with her twin sons, 6.
How does it feel working at home with your children being at home with you?
Karla A.: It is super fun. It is interesting. This whole year has been challenging for everyone, and I think that Compassion has been so great about giving us flex opportunities and responding to our kids. I have never really felt that I could not be there for my kids. I feel very [supported by] Compassion. But then there are many days when you do not have as much as focus and concentration. You are just juggling two things all the time, and that is the way it is. It is a real-world thing. It was good for my kids to see how much we [need to] focus on our work. I think that it is a good thing for our kids to see that. It is also a good thing for us to see how much school requires them too.
John M.: It has been challenging to find a routine that works for the different school rhythms, work and life. I am sure everyone has experienced the difficulty of adjusting to the season, especially in a pandemic, and we are no different. Sometimes, I feel like remote work has had several unexpected advantages in my life, but I am keenly aware that it is not the same and not sustainable for my children as it relates to their schooling. I see how much more they come alive when they are [close] to their classmates and with their teachers. Remote learning has been different for them.
Christine K.: As a mother, it has been a real struggle to work from home, as I have felt constantly torn between work and being with my children. This is especially true when my boys [needed] my assistance with online schooling, meals/snacks, and then activities to keep away the boredom in the afternoon. However, now that summer is here, this multitasking has become [more accessible]—I can send the kids outside to play! And when all else fails, I can stop, pray, and feel the peace that God is with me always.
How do you balance working at home with your children?
KA: When the kids are in school, I try to make sure that I sometimes leave to check in on how they are doing in school, and make sure that they are getting on their Zooms on time. My husband also works from home, so we split that, so he will help in the morning because I work earlier in the morning. Now that it is summertime and they are out of school, [the kids] have a schedule and a checklist, and I feel like most days, they are motivated to accomplish that. It is a blend [of] independent things they can do like play in the background, chores and time alone to read. We have a little bit of childcare because my mom is here, so that is nice too.
JM: As far as a work-life balance, I do not have one (laughs). I have tried aiming for balance, but I think it is a very nice idea; it is like multitasking. It is something we hope for but struggle to maintain. When those urgent and [essential] things arrive at work or in the next room, I [must] respond or I feel compelled to respond. It is hard as a parent to want to give more time to your kids, especially when they see you and assume that they have your total full attention.
CK: Having a designated workspace has helped a lot. In addition, I have always communicated my schedule with my boys at the beginning of each day, especially when I have work meetings where I cannot be interrupted. Although it has not been perfect, they have both been pretty good at respecting “Mommy’s work time.”
What is the critical lesson you are learning during this season?
KA: To take time for myself and to be consistent with that. I try to get up before my family and do my morning routine, do some yoga and try to take a walk every day. Thankfully, when my husband is home, I can go for a walk during my lunch breaks. Also, teaching my kids to take moments for themselves is important to refuel us and survive this season.
JM: The critical lesson I am learning is that cutting back has not killed us. Having less on our calendars or less vying for our attention right now has given us more margin and unexpected joy together as a family.
CK: I know we have all read the scripture from Proverbs 3:5-6 to “trust in the Lord with all your heart” a hundred times, but it has brought new meaning to me during this season. When life has felt overwhelming, I recall this verse, stop, and pray for His strength. I have also allowed myself to admit when things get tough, it is okay to breakdown and cry or have that extra cup (or two) of coffee in the morning. Thank goodness His mercies are new each day. I am not perfect, but He is!
Can you share a funny moment where your children have disrupted your working schedule?
KA: The thing that interrupts me the most at work is my dog. I often get disrupted by my dog because he likes to sleep on the chair in my office. If he hears anything, he starts barking, which usually happens in the middle of a meeting.
JM: Yes, last week, in our staff gathering, I was called away to answer the door. Unbeknownst to me, my youngest was hiding nearby (not in his virtual class). He hopped in my chair, unmuted the mic and camera and proceeded to make himself very known and heard to my coworkers a.k.a. classmates. The best part was he ran off before I returned, and no one said a word to me until days later.
CK: A few weeks ago, during a meeting, one of my sons ran upstairs yelling, “Emergency! Emergency!” I immediately excused myself from my meeting to run and see what was going on. (I figured the cat was stuck somewhere or his twin brother fell outside, but to my surprise, it was none of those things!) Instead, I walked out to see a plate with two squished blueberries on it. My son explained that his twin brother thought it would be funny to start squishing the blueberries on his brother’s plate and that this was an absolute catastrophe. We have since discussed the true meaning of an “emergency” and when to properly use that type of language. I also did not buy any blueberries this week from the market.
How does it feel like working for a Christian child development organization, and how does it influence you raising your children?
KA: When I started working at Compassion almost four years ago, we sponsored a child, Pedro, who has the same birthday as my son. He is a year younger than my son, but they are close, so that is unique. We also started sponsoring a little girl, Jenna, who also [has the same] birthday [as] my daughter. I feel like my kids can understand what I do because of our relationship with our sponsored children, and they can relate. They often would ask me: “Did you talk about our sponsored children today at work?” And I will say “No,” because we don’t, but it is nice that they make the connection, and I love all the things Compassion puts out for kids. We always go through Explore magazine. Last year, the kids could pick a Gift of Compassion. It is great having relevant and child-specific content that I can show my kids. I think it makes the work feel more meaningful.
JM: Actually, some of the hidden values I am experiencing have been evident in the season. The fact that we love children, of course, I love my kids. We spend much more time with [our kids] in many ways, and not using ‘school’ as the substitute. I am thankful that we have a Christ-centered organization that understands that children are a challenge at the best of times, but raising them is essential, and notably for those of us who are parents.
CK: I love working for Compassion Canada and consider it such a true honour to serve His Kingdom in this place. Having seen poverty first-hand and witnessing how the local church is reaching so many children through Compassion’s resources is incredible. It has not only made me aware of how blessed my family is to live in Canada with all the food and amenities we could wish for at our fingertips, but it has also instilled in me a passion for teaching my boys to be grateful and always give thanks in all circumstances. This opportunity has also opened the door to talk to my boys about race and gender equality and how God has made each one of us unique in His image.
How has the pandemic affected your family life?
KA: I am having a more challenging time remembering what life was like before. It is incredible how our bodies and brains can adjust like that, so I think it will be exciting to try and reengage and reemerge out of this a year and a half. I think as a family, we have got a lot closer. It has given us a lot of quality time together, for which I am thankful. We were able to play more in the garden, learn more about the town where we live, read more and play more board games.
JM: The pandemic has undoubtedly affected our family life. We are much more thoughtful to what we say yes and no to. We are choosing to be present over perfect. Scheduled unstructured family time is a higher priority. Sometimes, a successful day looks like self-care, declining a meeting [or] going for a walk.
CK: Overall, I believe our family has grown closer than ever before. We have been able to have significant discussions that may not have otherwise occurred, and we have become more considerate of others, realizing the importance of showing love to our local community and beyond. Although some days inside felt a little stifling, I do not regret the time we have been given, and I am forever grateful for the beautiful family God has blessed me with.
Can you suggest some fun activities that you do with your children, especially during the hot summer months?
KA: We love day trips, and we have a little trailer that we try to travel no more than an hour away from our house in. We live in southern Alberta, so that means we can go to the mountains [and] rivers. We love nature. There are some gardens and lakes we love to visit. We like to explore, and we swim in the river in our town. We usually go to the river during the week because it is a five-minute walk away.
JM: On walks, I highly recommend bringing a list of things to discuss, look out for or discover. Geocaching is super fun. Both my kids are into life-hacks on YouTube, and it is fun to attempt unorthodox and sometimes better ways of doing something familiar in the same fashion. I see how these family discovery sessions have affected their ideas, art, crafts and generated a ton of laughter. It is also a way to promote healthy screen time.
CK: Swimming: Whether it is in our pool or at the beach, we love the water.
Painting rocks: We can spend hours searching for the perfect rocks, then painting them into dinosaurs for our “Jurassic World” rock park.
Walking the dog: We live on a farm and often walk through the fields with the dog. It is a great way to teach the boys to love and care for an animal while staying active.
Drawing: My sons love to watch “How to draw” videos on YouTube during rainy summer days.
Playing games: We love games and play Monopoly/Life Junior, Uno and Bocce Ball.
Which Scripture keeps you going and grounded with family life?
KA: Psalm 23:6 (NIV): “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” That is one of our verses we try to remember as a family. If you can take a bitesize piece of the goodness of God every day, I think you are quite full and satisfied. I think this season has taken away many of the bigger things of our lives, and so I am thankful for having a season of life to remember the small, good things of our life. It keeps us focused, curious, looking for that little bit of goodness every moment of life. Sometimes, we must teach our kids to [cherish] the [little things in life]. They are naturally born with curiosity. Right now, we have a branch covered with caterpillars on one of our trees. My daughter loves animals, so every day, she wants to keep track of the caterpillars.
JM: Psalm 25:1 (NIV): “In you, Lord my God, I put my trust.”
Proverbs 17:17 (ESV): “Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble.”
Matthew 6:34 (NASB2020): “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
CK: Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV): “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Tea or Coffee?
KA: Coffee JM: Coffee CK: Both. Coffee in the morning; Tea in the afternoon
Morning or night person?
KA: Night JM: Night CK: Night hawk
Summer, Winter or Fall?
KA: Summer JM: Summer CK: Summer 100%
When you were younger, what did you want to be?
KA: Teacher or Office Worker JM: Olympic Gymnast CK: I wanted to be a marine biologist (so I could swim with dolphins)
What is the title of your favourite book?
KA: East of Eden JM: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White CK: A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison
What is your favourite snack?
KA: Cheese and crackers JM: Gotta have Lay’s chips CK: Smartfood white cheddar popcorn
What is your favourite gospel music?
KA: All of Aaron Strumpel’s songs JM: Maverick City Music or Kirk Franklin CK: Lately, I have been listening to Maverick City
If you could travel to a country with your family after the pandemic, where would it be?
KA: Ireland or New Zealand JM: U.S. CK: This may not seem overly exciting to most, but I would take the family to Orlando, FL, to go to Universal Studios for the Jurassic World ride! It has been a long pandemic year—we need some FUN.