Photo Courtesy of Cox.
Gilda Albarran-Cabiya’s workdays begin with a bark. Her German Shepherd, evidently eager to start the day, serves as her alarm clock each morning and signals that it’s time for work and school to begin. “His bark echoes in the valley and I feel very bad for any neighbors who are trying to sleep in,” Gilda said.
It’s a fitting commencement to a noisy workday. Working remotely from Puerto Rico, Gilda supports Cox Automotive’s Manheim auction sites in Florida while homeschooling and parenting three boys, ages seventeen, seven, and five. The pandemic in the US — approaching 12 months at the time of this article — has stretched parents like Gilda to their limits as they work, teach and parent under quarantine restrictions.
“My hardest thing to juggle is the constant ‘in and out’ mindset from work to teacher’s assistant,” Gilda said. “Our five-year-old just can’t seem to stay still and focused on his class. Both my seven- and five-year-old seemed bored now and I must find new ways to keep them engaged…when it comes to my work, when I start a task, I must finish it to make sure I have not done a mistake and emails are answered when read.”
Early rising is a common practice among Cox’s working moms: all the parents who contributed to this story start their days hours before 8-9 am so they have time to check emails, exercise or simply have some “me time” before breakfast. Another commonality is the anxiety about background noise during meetings, missing messages and accidentally making mistakes amidst the distractions of working with kids nearby.
“I have a lot of moving pieces and meetings throughout the day, so it can be a lot,” said Bryce General, a data analyst at Cox Communications in Atlanta, GA, a grad student and a single mother to twin 13-year-old boys. “Answering IMs, troubleshooting issues and getting tasks done in a timely fashion can be overwhelming.”
Cox’s flexible work policies have been a source of relief to employees during this time.
“I think Cox has supported me more than most companies would,” said Agnes Kuo, a billing operations analyst at Cox Automotive in Burlington, VT and parent to a 15-month-old daughter, Rylee. “I’m able to create a work schedule for myself and my family versus working a traditional 8-5 schedule.”
“My leaders never question if I need to hop off the computer to take care of a kid situation, and there is never pressure to work through the evening when that is my ‘family time,’” said Jamie Folkner, senior manager of marketing at Cox Communications in Atlanta and parent to a 20-month-old son, Henry. “They trust me to get work done on my terms, and Cox created a partnership with Care.com to help provide childcare in unexpected situations when childcare may be unavailable.”
Finding support…and giving it
Jamie is the creator of Parents & Caregivers at Cox, an employee initiative that supports working caregivers within the company. The mission of the group is “to develop an inclusive network that supports working caregivers at Cox by offering tools, community and resources to manage the evolving circumstances of working through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”
“I wanted to help people,” Jamie said. “Cox has such a giving culture and I know parents and caregivers were really struggling with the unique circumstances of COVID. It felt like the timing was right to pull a group of people together to help one another.”
Compelled to take action, Jamie reached out to Cox’s Inclusion, Diversity & Equity team, as well as some of her mentors and leaders, and pitched the idea.
“Everyone was very supportive and wanted to jump in to help,” Jamie said.
And so, Parents & Caregivers at Cox was born. It spans across the company (parent company Cox Enterprises as well as its divisions, Cox Communications and Cox Automotive) and is open to any employee, regardless of gender, who serves as a caregiver. That doesn’t just include parents of children, but also employees caring for elderly parents and other forms of caregiving. Additionally, it provides support to employees in unique parenting situations such as caring for children with special needs or caring for foster children.
The group provides articles, discussion boards, open conversations, parenting and schooling tips and fun events – like a virtual visit from Santa for employees’ children in December.
Karlene Holt is an Atlanta-based analyst at Cox Communications, parent to a four-year-old and a founding member of Parents & Caregivers at Cox. She said that being part of the group has opened her up to a wealth of resources, partnerships and friendships.
“Many of the parents have also become a larger support network for me and we still bounce ideas off each other of give advice and share now that our kids are a little older.”
“The group is such a great resource that I use for my hurdles with parenting that I have suggested it to almost a dozen of my coworkers,” Gilda said.
“It’s been so absolutely rewarding, and I learn every time I participate in an event,” Jamie said. “I feel like it’s made me a more empathetic employee and don’t feel as much of the ‘mom guilt’ as I know others are going through the same thoughts, struggles, obstacles. Parents & Caregivers at Cox has created a safe environment where people feel open to sharing their stories and are leaning on one another through some of the toughest moments in their life.”
“The dishes can wait”
In a year filled with stress and worry, Cox’s working parents found moments of joy and connection.
Agnes, a first-time mom, is grateful that she was able to spend so much time with baby Rylee.
“I was able to be there for most of her firsts, which were very special to me.”
Bryce said that COVID has brought her family closer together.
“Pre-COVID, I was doing my life according to a “normal” schedule,” she said. “Up early, drop the boys at school, go to work, pick them up from their activities, dinner, bed, and repeat. The boys have been home since March 2020 and honestly, I feel truly lucky to have this moment with them. We talk more, cook together, laugh more and love more…of course, we get on each other’s nerves, but it is not lost on me that in five years or so they will be off to start their lives, so I am soaking up this time with them.”
Karlene said that she has become more intentional about spending quality time with her family as well.
“During lunch, I would take my son to the park and we would have a picnic,” Karlene said. “We would spread a blanket in the back of my SUV and munch on chicken nuggets and fries while chatting about all sorts and now it’s our thing. New experiences as simple as this have certainly made me more resilient, thankful and patient navigating through the uncertainty that accompanies these times. Being a part of an organization that cares for the wellbeing of their employees makes all the difference.”
“I try to get my 30-minute wellness walk or Openfit class in at some point during the day as I kept forgetting to get up and move around and realized I needed to step away to maintain better health,” Karlene said, adding: “I am a more patient parent compared to when this all started and much kinder to myself in the process realizing that I can’t get everything done now…so maybe doing the dishes will have to wait.”
Like Karlene, Bryce said that she has adopted a “go with the flow” attitude during her time working from home.
“Before, I was very type-A about our schedules,” she said. “I’ve pivoted to making sure homework and school is done, of course, but we team-clean our house 3 times a week and try to make more time for the things we enjoy. It makes things less stressful as these times are stressful enough.”
Cox Enterprises is a global company with a singular purpose: to empower people today to build a better future for the next generation. Through Cox’s divisions – Cox Communications and Cox Automotive – employees are creating a world that is inclusive, connected, mobile and sustainable.
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