Our Spence Families at Home series brings you the stories of Spence-Chapin families as they navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For this story, we feature one of our own staff members–Lauren Jiang, Director, Pre and Post Adoption Services. If you would like to share your family’s story, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lauren shares her experience at home together with her husband, Henry, and their twelve-month-old son, Ethan.
Describe who is in your family.
There are three of us – me, my husband Henry, and our twelve-month-old, Ethan.
What’s been the best surprise about spending so much time together as a family?
I’ve been surprised how comfortable it is to be in each other’s company 24/7. We’ve organically fallen into a balance of spending meaningful time together, giving each other space to work or relax, and balancing general upkeep tasks and daily chores.
The other surprises are seeing what Ethan learns each day. Since we’ve been sheltered in place, he’s reached many new milestones. He’s pulling to a stand, clapping, waving, getting himself into and out of the sitting position unassisted, and learning to communicate with gestures. It’s special being able to be with him for each of those “firsts.”
What’s been the biggest challenge?
When trying to work and parent at the same time, it’s easy to feel like you’re failing as a parent and failing as an employee. Fortunately, Spence-Chapin is a great place to work and is very family-oriented. I feel extremely supported by my supervisor, my team, and the whole organization. I know not all employers are as focused on the wellbeing of their staff, but Spence-Chapin has always ensured that employees and their families feel supported and taken care of. Even before COVID-19, this was evident when Spence-Chapin gave me tremendous flexibility when Ethan was unexpectedly in the hospital for five weeks. Even with a workplace that is flexible and family-oriented, it’s hard to feel like I’m able to give Ethan what he needs when he’s home and similarly hard to get the amount of work done I’d like to without sacrificing sleep.
What’s the funniest thing Ethan did or said this week?
He is learning to give kisses which right now looks like me giving him a kiss, then I’ll say “kisses,” then he’ll firmly place his whole face on my cheek and inhale deeply. I feel more like I’m getting smelled than getting kisses! It’s also fun watching him discover the magic of what he can do with his body. He recently discovered that he can spin in full circles while seated on the ground and has effectively made himself into his own merry-go-round. He cracks up every time he does it.
He has also perfected a style of tantrum that is a bit of a caricature. He’ll sit down, raise both hands up as high as he can, lean back so far that I’m surprised that he doesn’t fall over, and then he will suddenly fold forward so that he’s touching his toes. It’s a good reminder to me that it’s time to take a minute away from the computer and give him attention.
What’s your favorite spot to spend time alone in your house and how long do you typically get away with it?
My alone time comes after everyone else has gone to bed. I’ll usually watch my favorite show, enjoy a late-night snack, and put my feet up.
When you aren’t busy taking care of everyone else, what are you doing to take care of yourself?
Hiking! Hiking has always been a way for me to relax and clear my mind. I grew up in Colorado, so hiking was something I was exposed to early on and something we are sharing with Ethan. I’ll strap him into the hiking backpack carrier and take him along.
What’s a piece of advice you have for other Spence families who are maybe going a little stir crazy at home?
We may never have a time like this again to be with our children every day. Although the stress of this period is unparalleled, take time to make a genuine connection with your child each day. When work bleeds into homelife it’s hard to resist glancing at your phone or computer, but create at least one uninterrupted period each day to truly connect with your child. Allow yourself to take genuine pleasure in sharing moments with your children. Also, allow your home to be messy! My home has never been messier (and it shows on Zoom calls!), but there aren’t enough hours in the day and something has to give.