iTHINK | Reflections from my time as work-from-home dad

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That’s my youngest daughter giving me one last gift to close out Fathers’ Day 2020. I’ve had the pleasure of watching a few world-class acts in my life, but this has got to be the most heartwarming so far (and yes, I’m shamelessly biased).

I’ve been a girl-dad for the last 13 years, having had the joy of helping raise two high-spirited daughters with my lovely wife.

We have what I’d like to think is a fairly common set-up among modern Filipino households. My wife and I both have full-time corporate jobs, while the kids attend a Catholic school during the day.

Work admittedly takes up most of my waking hours, and I don’t almost always make it home in time to enjoy dinner with my girls, so my wife and I came up with a system where we’re both able to spend quality time with them.

Since my office is a bit farther from our home and traffic gets pretty bad if I leave after sunrise, I give the girls a ride to their school which is just a short detour away from the fastest route to the office. My wife, who goes to her workplace 2-3 times a week, makes it a point to eat dinner with them during school days.

Given the early hour of my daddy-driver duties, I usually ask the girls to spend the time catching more sleep before I drop them off.  Waking them up and walking them to their school building gates serve as my daily dose of happy pills.

I’m extra thankful for the days when one or both of them have had enough sleep and are exceptionally bright-eyed in the morning, willing to engage in some lighthearted conversation during the drive. But, awake or not, I like to believe that the simple act of personally taking them to school gives them a sense of security and bonding with me.

Of course, that routine was all in the years BC (before Covid-19).

For the past three months, since we’ve been put on varying forms of community quarantine, I’ve spent a significant amount of time at home with my family. With today’s technology, my work can fortunately be done remotely, so I spent most of the first month of lockdown working from random rooms in our house.

No doubt that technology is playing a crucial role in keeping our society functional in a time of lockdowns and quarantines. But as someone who thrives in a collaborative workplace where we could all just bounce off each other’s ideas and creativity, I have to admit that adjusting to video calls and communicating almost exclusively via email or messaging apps was a challenge.

Not having a designated home office added to my challenges, as our dog liked to make her voice heard during video calls, and my daughters would also occasionally make an appearance – which was always a big hit with my team.

In a highly divided world, I think we can all agree on one thing – the Covid-19 pandemic is an incredibly painful disaster that must end soon. It has taken so much from so many people – lives, jobs, experiences, and milestones (I know of at least two weddings that had to be cancelled). The human toll of this pandemic has been incredibly high, and it has swept away so many established ways of thinking, working, and living.

It’s almost too easy to just write this entire year off as a period best left forgotten, and I cannot wait for the day that a viable vaccine is finally announced and made available to all so everyone can focus on building back better.

But then I look back at the weeks I’ve been able to enjoy every meal of the day with my wife and daughters – of seeing their smiles and hearing their fantastical plans for life after quarantine (some of which I have been convinced to commit to help execute) – and can’t help but feel a bit wistful about the eventual end of our work-from-home arrangements.

The more stressful things get, the more we become reliant on the people and things that make life worth living. No matter how dire things may have gotten, I am thankful that every day, without fail, my children give me a reason to smile.

I’ve seen countless tributes to fathers and how they’ve taken on extra roles and responsibilities to cope with the challenges of Covid-19 for the sake of their families, and deservedly so.

However, I’d like to turn things around a bit and close this out with a message to my girls: “Thank you for giving daddy the best reasons to keep going. I love you.”

The author is the vice president and head of corporate affairs & communications of BPI and is concurrently the executive director of BPI Foundation

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