Managing roles as father and educator in remote-working conditions
Thirty-five-year old Judon Bowden is adjusting to a new life of balancing his job as human resource business partner at Red Stripe, with developing an appropriate environment for homeschooling his five-year-old daughter. Conforming to the new realities of remote learning, Bowden is conscious of the need to ensure that his child does not suffer any setbacks in what is a crucial period in her development.
The Kingston resident has been working from home and managing his daughter’s studies, along with his wife, which he admits has not been easy. “Trust me. It, ideally, is not what a young professional would want, and, in fact, it started out as a disaster trying to figure out how we were going to do this. It was a lot because it felt like we were trying to do too much all at once,” he said.
Bowden said he initially had difficulties manoeuvring the new learning format from in-person to remote operations. He said it was especially challenging for younger children, pointing out that he is compelled to be physically present during lessons to help his daughter maintain focus.
“She will move from the table that she is assigned and wander off to her room, or she’ll go to her toy box and just disappear. It’s only natural for her to do that because she’s at home, and that’s what she’s used to doing at home,” said Bowden.
The father, now turned part-time teacher, says it is also hard for his child to understand his more business-like approach to the teaching and learning process. “Sometimes it’s not easy to help her understand that we’re not in daddy-daughter mode right now and that I have to be a little bit sterner with her. For a child so young, that kind of adjustment is a work in progress.”
Bowden acknowledges that actively participating in the development of his child is more important than ever before. Like thousands of other parents across the island, he notes that it is now important for him to get involved in the academic aspect of his child’s life, which starts with effectively dividing responsibilities between work and home.
“My foremost duty is to see to the full development of my daughter and ensure that she’s developing at the pace she is meant to. I’m always keen on ensuring the environment is set up to where it is most fulfilling for her, and even though I tend to be a workaholic, I always remember the reason I work is to ensure her future is safeguarded as best as possible,” he said.
After the initial ‘disaster’, Bowden says with the help of the school, he has been able to settle into a pattern that balances work and home life. “The school offered the option of a morning or afternoon session. She does school in the afternoon, and that allows her to sleep in so I can do my main work duties from seven in the morning to one in the afternoon then really focus on her needs from three to five when she’s in school. After that, I can complete any work-related tasks I have left.”
Bowden also credits the effectiveness of his new routine to the reasonableness and flexibility of his job, which allows for certain concessions. He admits that this kind of transition takes much planning and discipline, balanced with an understanding manager and colleagues.
“Our employees are the entire reason we are able to function efficiently and optimally, so it is imperative that we implement a corporate philosophy that allows them to thrive and excel at their professional responsibilities. We can appreciate the newness of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, so it’s important that we exercise flexibility when working with our staff to determine the best course of action. We have a robust employee support network that provides our staff with necessary resources to navigate this new situation while still delivering top performance on the job,” said Jesús Martínez, Red Stripe’s head of human resources.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
While it is not a perfect system, Bowden understands that the current measures for remote learning are necessary for the time being. However, he believes that for young children, like his daughter, this method of learning is not sustainable. Though things may not completely go back to normal, Bowden anticipates a hybrid society where persons will need to observe some of the safety protocols currently in place but are able to physically interact with each other. For this to happen, Bowden thinks personal responsibility is key, and parents must help their children adjust to the times going forward.
“We can reclaim some of what we have lost to the pandemic if everyone does what they are supposed to do and help move us past this initial phase. Also, we shouldn’t downplay the fact that a young child’s brain is ripe for learning, so adapting to this new normal should be a part of what we’re teaching our children. It is often the younger generations that adapt fastest and are the ones that push forward and force lasting change.”