Advice, Engineering Manager, Women in Tech

4Ls Retrospective Of Working From Home and Homeschooling as an Engineering Manager and a Mom

There are so many resources out there on remote working and working from home (WFH). Likewise, there are so many tips and so much advice on homeschooling children. I’m no expert in either of those topics, but I decided to write this article to share my experience after a week of working from home and homeschooling my 7-year-old daughter, who’s in third grade at the moment.

I will structure this article using a popular retrospective format — the 4Ls: loved, learned, loathed, and longed for. The reason for using this 4Ls format is to highlight positives (loved and learned) as well as negatives (loathed and longed for). Because let’s face it, there are always goods and bads to a situation, no matter how optimistic or pessimistic a person is.

So without any further ado, my 4Ls.

4 Things I Loved About WFH and Homeschooling

I get to have an hour or two of quiet time in the morning, usually from 7 a.m.-9 a.m., without having to rush to get out of the house. I use this time to really set intentions and goals for the day — for my work, my daughter’s school curriculum, and our well-being.

I look forward to getting out of the house as soon as my husband comes home from work (his work hasn’t started WFH yet — hopefully soon). We go for a lonnnnnnng walk, which usually takes an hour to an hour and a half. Don’t worry, I take social distancing seriously and keep at least 2-3 meters distance from other people. It helps me clear my head and appreciate simpler things that life has to offer, such as fresh air, a blue sky, and feeling breeze on my face.

I’m not snacking nonstop at my desk anymore, and I’ve been cooking a bit more, which means my family is eating a bit healthier. We still have McDonalds one night and KFC the other night — so two takeouts in a week — but they’re much-needed carbs!

I love that I’m now more connected to my daughter’s learning and progress. I get to really understand what she’s learning and what her school curriculum is like.

4 things I Learned About WFH and Homeschooling

Back-to-back Zoom meetings are more tiring than back-to-back in-person meetings. And even with Zoom, I’m still late sometimes because it takes time to end one Zoom call and dial into the next one.

Managers don’t have all the answers; the best thing we can do during times like these is to listen and to empathise. Some people like to stay productive to stay sane, while some people need more personal time to process what’s happening. Some people really just need to talk things out. Those managers who can adjust and be flexible enough to accommodate each person’s needs are much needed now.

Homeschooling is also improving my general knowledge. Who knew people should eat insects like grasshoppers, crickets, and silkworms because they’re environmentally sound and contain a lot of vitamins and minerals?

I’ve learned to trust more — trust in others, trust in the process, and, most of all, trust in myself. For example, I was a bit skeptical about homeschooling my daughter. I was worried she’d just want to watch her iPad all day. But before we started, I took a piece of well-known advice when it comes to working with children: I explained to her that I’d be her teacher during the day. I’d try my best to teach her, and I needed her to try her best to learn — and then she could have a few hours iPad time after school is out as a reward. It’s worked well so far.

4 Things I Loathed About WFH and Homeschooling

I loathed meetings. I understand meetings are an essential evil for managers, but I really need to get better at managing meetings when working remotely. I’m attending more Zoom meetings than I was when I was working in the office. Maybe I don’t need to be in all of the meetings. But how do I show my support and provide insights if I’m not present in meetings and people can’t see I’m still at work and I care?

I constantly have to remind myself that I can give myself and my daughter a little bit of slack. It’s not the end of the world if I didn’t finish everything I wanted to do for the day. My daughter isn’t going to fall behind her academics if she didn’t put her heart and soul into one of the drawing exercises, even if she loves drawing. The most important thing is we’re all alive, healthy, and safe. I know all this, but I still find it hard to accept it.

I don’t like not knowing what’s going to come next or when we can get out of this pandemic situation. As much as I like routines, WFH and homeschooling are going to get tough if I have to keep going for months. I don’t know if I can keep up with it. I hate that I’m thinking about the uncertainty of the future when I should be focusing on the present.

4 Things I Longed for While Doing WFH and Homeschool

I miss my commute time. It was the time to really wind down, and and it acted as a bridge between my home and work life. I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but, yes, I’m missing my commute time.

I miss the free lunches and healthy snacks my work provided and the barista coffee from the cafe. These days, I’m trying hard to make good friends with instant coffee.

I wish I had limitless brainpower and energy to be creative and to do the other side hustles I want to do. I find I’m so tired by 6 p.m., so I can barely do anything else. I miss my maker time.

I long for intelligent conversations with colleagues and friends that’s not so much about what we’re working on, how we’re tracking with various projects, how we’re feeling, if we’re healthy and safe, etc. I also miss being just a mother and knowing my daughter is learning whatever she needs to learn at school and enjoying her time at home. Now I’m a mother and a teacher, responsible for both her well-being and learning.

Final Words

I actually don’t have any final words or advice. Just like you, I’m continuously trying and experimenting with what works for myself, my family, and my team during a difficult time. However, if I were to leave you with something to help you put things into perspective, I’d like to leave you with this quote from Charles Darwin:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Stay safe!


If you enjoyed this article, you might like to check out my latest book on engineering management. It's a practical guide for engineering managers at tech companies.

The Engineering Manager’s How-to Guide is very targeted for engineering managers, and in this book, you won’t find generic advice like having regular 1:1’s, giving feedback, etc. Yes, those things are absolutely important, but they are not specific to an engineering manager’s role. It’s my goal to make sure this book provides a concise and actionable guide for engineering managers, the specific and niche content for engineering managers that you won’t find in other leadership and management books.