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How our industry is faring. At home. With work. And kids. And pets.
We’re not just working in—and writing about—the kids’ industry during our homebound quarantine, us parents are living it day by day. From learning and managing virtual meetings (we love you Zoom!) to dealing with little ones underfoot (put on some clothes!) to helping with homeschooling (what is an improper fraction, anyway?), let’s just take a minute to laugh, share and breathe. Here’s how some of our industry peers are faring, with or without kids:
Don’t know when the War of 1812 took place? Never fathomed photosynthesis? Numbed by new math? Many parents are struggling with their new homeschooling roles, managing and juggling assignments from math teachers, science teachers, even music teachers.
“Now our kids will all realize how dumb we are!” ranted one Israeli mom in this hilarious viral video. Some easy math: Take the number of kids you have, multiply by the sum of their ages, divide by the square footage of living space, and that’s the percentage your stress levels will rise.
“My husband just updated his LinkedIn to “Acting 2nd Grade Teacher” says Beth Goldstein, Industry Analyst, Footwear & Accessories/The NPD Group. Luckily, teachers (those who have figured out the technology) are doing what they can. “It’s a little stressful, but teachers don’t expect us to become teachers overnight,” says Heather Thornton, founder and designer of Whirlykidde, who has two kids aged 13 and 15, the latter with special needs. “It’s not that easy! But I was able to Zoom video chat with their teachers, which was reassuring.”
The Internet and our Instagram feeds are packed with downloadable schedules for daily routines, and while they are invaluable to establishing and maintaining routine, make sure to schedule in fun time too!
Many parents and people working from home find that the whiteboard is their savior. “I have four kids at home, ages 14 (Orrin), 13 (Thacher), 10 (Tallulah) and 8 (Ollie). All are currently being homeschooled, so my workload has more than doubled. This is of course, not possible, and yet we have to make it work!” says Aerin Nicole, CEO of Kickee Pants, who has taken to wearing a shirt that says Ringmaster of the Sh*t Show. “My kids have really stepped up and taken on the responsibility of education from home as a group. We have converted our dining room into “school” and we stick to a regular schedule and curriculum. I find that the routine helps them to be successful and creates a sense of normalcy.”
“We live in a 2 bedroom apartment in New York City without any outdoor space and we’re taking it day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute,” says Evan Hakalir, CEO of Andy & Evan. “On some level we are all working together to make it happen. I’m personally trying to be in the moment when I’m with the kids (which feels like every other 5 minutes), not sweat the small things, and to appreciate the fun moments when they happen.”
That can also mean easing up on screen time. “We have a schedule, but weekends are free,” says Whirlykiddes’ Thornton. “We are trying to just keep calm for our kids and keep a sense of normal to their daily routine with meals and school work and some activity. Thank God for technology! My kids definitely use it for free time and I’m ok with that.”
Let kids (safely) let loose a bit more on playtime, too, so parents can get work done during the day, and make it family time at night. “We have dance parties several times a day, snack time every two hours and a LEGO competition every night,” says Irene Kwon, Marketing Manager of Twelve Little about her three kids aged 1.5, 6 and 8. “I’ve always worked from home but it’s a whole new challenge with a stir-crazy toddler and two kids who need to be homeschooled. Business is still open for us and people have actually been taking advantage of sales and buying bags… probably doing some retail therapy!”
It bears repeating: exercise helps with health and immunity, lowers stress levels, and can also bring people together, be it through family workouts, virtual exercise classes with friends, or even planks with co-workers!
Earnshaw’s publisher Noelle Heffernan has always been an exercise aficionado, and hasn’t let this new normal slow her down. “I make sure to do a lunchtime yoga break every day, and today I escaped from my apartment to act silly on Park Avenue, get some sun on my face and see human beings… at social distances of course!”
NPD Group’s Goldstein is working out with co-workers on Zoom, a welcome break from scrambling to provide clients with industry data during the coronavirus. “A few years ago when more of us worked in the same location, a team member started group planks every afternoon. We’ve brought that back and are now doing it daily via video conference! It gets us out of our chairs for a few minutes, and others in the household are welcome to join as well.” Since she’s co-working with her husband in a high-rise apartment, he has taken to running the building stairs during these periods.
If one good thing comes out of all this, it’ll be that we’ve all become decent home chefs. Cooking isn’t just calming, it can be a creative family activity, and no one can complain they don’t have time to cook. “The hours I save because I’m not commuting means more hours to be productive, and I’ve used some of that time to cook more,” says Rita Polidori O’Brien, VP Licensing and Marketing, United Legwear & Apparel Co. (ULAC). “Last night was homemade marinara sauce with sautéed shrimp over linguine, and a bottle of red wine. I can start cooking at 6pm, when I’d normally be leaving the office.”
The trick is to save the leftovers! “I’ve been using this time to get back into baking,” says Jessica Turlick Vincentz, Operations Manager, Trendy Toes. “It’s mentally refreshing to bake again, though hard not to eat it all!
Working around each other 24/7 also adds stress to couples and families. The trick to surviving? Find an imaginary co-worker to (passive aggressively) blame things on. “Cheryl keeps leaving her dirty water cups all over the place and we really don’t know what to do about her!”
Pro-tip for couples suddenly working from home together: Get yourselves an imaginary coworker to blame things on. In our apartment, Cheryl keeps leaving her dirty water cups all over the place and we really don’t know what to do about her.
— Molly Tolsky (@mollytolsky) March 16, 2020
Our pets have always played an important role in keeping us sane, now more than ever! One, they’re just so darn cute, and two, they can give kids a welcome diversion when parents need to get work done… or just need a break.
Pets can also push us to exercise. “My non-fitness routine now is the same as when I’m working in the office. I never have time to work out and being home doesn’t change that!” says ULAC’s P0lidori. “Walking the dogs is the only exercise I get.”
Whether you do this with or without your kids, art can have an exceptionally calming effect. Polidori has amped up her commitment to calligraphy.
“I practice calligraphy at night. It’s a wonderful stress reliever!” says Polidori.
You know what’s probably less of a stress reliever? Cutting your own hair, but desperate times require desperate measures. “Will we be turning to YouTube to cut/dye our own hair and paint our nail indefinitely? I will never take my nail lady and hair guy for granted again!” says Earnshaw’s Editor-in-Chief Emily Beckman. “With salons closed, we’re all about to learn some hair and nail skills pretty fast!”
Are your kids complaining how hard it is to stay inside all day, lounging on the couch playing video games with friends? Add “Little House on the Prairie” into your family streaming TV time. “My 10-year-old has been charmed by the Ingalls family’s perseverance, amazed by the kids’ endless chores, impressed by Ma’s sewing/cooking skills and Pa’s house-building and violin abilities, and boggled by the outhouse (no bulk toilet paper from Costco there!). Yes it’s a TV show but it’s a reminder how hard generations worked before us. We really can’t complain!” says Lauren Parker, Earnshaw’s Executive Editor, who has taken this extra family time to (finally!) teach her son piano.
While sequestered in our homes, we are scrolling, posting, texting, emailing, Zooming, IM’ing, DM’ing, and yes, some of us are even making real phone calls. The world is connected like never before, and it’s keeping our spirits up and the volume of “catch-up” work down.
Virtual conferencing has particularly shone during this period, connecting co-workers, classmates, friends for happy hour, even providing options for virtual retailing. The key is to have a sense of humor for the inevitable disturbances, from dogs grabbing squeaky toys during your presentations, to kids interrupting non stop. “I was on a Zoom conference with my entire company and my daughter walked in naked asking me to ‘sign for a package delivery,'” laughs Andy & Evan’s Hakalir. “It was a well-needed moment of levity for everyone.”
Take a moment to recognize everyone who is risking their health to keep us well, educated and well-fed while we work at home. “We have such an appreciation for teachers and health-care providers, as well as grocery store workers, delivery workers, sanitation workers, everyone that keeps everything running!” says NPD’s Goldstein. “They are all putting their lives at risk to make sure people are able to take care of themselves during this difficult time.”
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It’s important to stay abreast of what’s happening, but a stream of cable news blaring in the background all day and night isn’t going to calm anxiety. Dr. Amy Cirbus, the director of clinical content for online therapy platform Talkspace, advises people to turn off Breaking News and other notifications and just check in at specific times of day. “I’ve been getting my information from direct sources such as CDC, WHO and US Government websites,” says Kickee Pants’ Nicole. “It’s allowed me to avoid becoming confused.”
And finally, enlist your team for some creative messaging, like Twelve Little did, featuring everyone from sales to graphic art to operations to marketing.
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From our #TWELVElittle families to yours, Stay home, enjoy your family and be safe! ❤️ Inspired by the #bloggercommunity, we had a lot of fun creating this message collage at our own homes. 🏠 . Also a great chance to introduce our team, starting from the top left to right: 1. Julia – Chief cheerleader 2. Cassandra – Sales Master 3. Se – E-commerce Guru 4. Elaine – Design genius 5. Mayra – Logistics helpmate 6. Jinny – Graphic artist 7. Janael – Operations zookeeper 8. Hannah – Multitasking perfectionist 9. Irene – Marketing Maven . We are a group of determined and kind women, and so thankful to have each other during these tough times! 🥰 . . #stayhome #besafe #wfh #wfhlife #teamwork #smallbusiness #smallyetmighty #thankfultohaveeachother #letsbeatcoronavirus.