But I never have to stress about it. Here’s why.
The views expressed here are those of the writer. They do not necessarily reflect those of Working Mother or our parent organization, Bonnier Corp.
Kate Bedingfield is working from home, hoping to elect the next occupant of the White House. As deputy campaign manager and director of communications for Joe Biden’s campaign for President, Kate helps create the campaign’s media and message strategy, advises Joe Biden, and manages a staff of more than 100 on the campaign’s communications team all across the country.
She had been working from Philadelphia where the campaign is headquartered, but the pandemic forced the campaign to transition to a virtual operation in mid-March. Since then, Kate has been in Washington, DC, where she lives with her husband, David Kieve, who is also part of Biden’s campaign staff, and two children, Hugh, age 6, and Margot, age 2. Here’s what a typical day looks like working from home with kids.
9:15 a.m. It’s time for my daily check-in with the full communications team to go over the news of the day and everything the team is working on for the day. My kids are regular fixtures in the background during these calls. It’s a rare morning where I don’t have to mute my phone to gently ask one of them to “shush so I can listen to what’s happening today.”
On one recent call, my daughter asked me to read to her, and I forgot to go on mute. A few minutes later, I got a text from a colleague, saying she was impressed by how I transitioned from talking about Joe Biden’s clean energy plan to Daniel Tiger in one breath.
10:00 a.m. If the VP has an interview scheduled, before he sits down with a reporter, I will make sure he has what he needs for whatever questions he might be asked. Because I’m working from home, Hugh and Margot will often make an appearance on these prep calls. The fact that I’m talking to the former Vice President of the United States doesn’t faze them a bit. It doesn’t faze Joe Biden, either. He will almost always stop to say hi to them and wave. They wave right back.
I have never once worried when the kids Zoom-bomb a conference call with him, because if anyone understands the realities of juggling work and family, it’s my boss. Joe Biden has taken care of aging parents. And after he lost his wife to a tragic car accident, he was a single parent himself for a few years when his two sons were young. He reminds us all the time that family comes first in all things and that his expectation is that his staff will always put the needs of our families ahead of work. Even when that means kids interrupting Zoom calls.
On a media prep call not too long ago, my son climbed in my lap and started telling me about a book he was reading. The VP took the opportunity to ask for Hugh’s thoughts on his upcoming interview. Hugh told him he would do a great job. Later in the evening Hugh came into the room and saw him on TV and said, “There’s Joe Biden! He is doing a great job, like I said!” Hugh has a real future in this business, apparently.
11:00 a.m. My mom comes into town fairly often to take care of the kids–she is our hero and there is no way we could do this without her help. On the days when she is at our house, David and I sequester ourselves into our bedroom so we can get work done. That still doesn’t stop the kids from barging in to see what we’re up to, but having my mom as backup is such a relief.
David and I count ourselves incredibly lucky to have my mom pitch in, because that’s not a luxury available to many working parents. COVID-19 has exposed just how hard it is to live up to the responsibilities of a job while also caring for our loved ones. One of the things I’m proudest to have worked on for the campaign is Joe Biden’s plan to make the caregiving economy a key part of rebuilding America. As President, Joe Biden will make sure quality childcare is affordable and preschool is universal, which will give some much-needed relief to millions of working parents.
1:00 p.m. In the afternoons, if I’m not prepping Joe Biden for a televised appearance, it might be my turn to go in front of the camera. I’ve been a spokesperson for various political leaders and organizations throughout my career, but doing live TV during a pandemic is a whole new ballgame. My bedroom also doubles as my “studio,” and I know that at any moment, my kids might walk into the camera shot. It hasn’t happened yet, but I just know it’s coming. When it does, I’ll save that clip like a home video so that we can watch it as a family one day and remember how surreal 2020 was.
2:30 p.m. A typical day also includes conference calls with Joe Biden and the campaign’s policy team. One day, the team was discussing the VP’s roadmap for reopening schools safely. As if on cue, Margot came into the frame. The VP stopped mid-sentence and said, “This is why this is so important. Now think about the people who have jobs where working from home isn’t an option and how much harder it is for them.”
That moment was a great reminder for me of why I want to elect him. He knows that behind every policy, there’s a family. And families across the country need a leader who understands what they’re going through.
4:30 p.m. Before the coronavirus hit, I often took my kids with me to campaign headquarters. As they played near my desk, many of my officemates got to know Hugh and Margot. Now, as the afternoon winds down during our endless stream of conference calls, sometimes my colleagues will ask for photos of what my kids got up to that day. I’ll send a picture of Hugh playing living room baseball or Margot petting a dog she met on the sidewalk–or videos of them talking to my colleagues and telling them about their day. Those pictures and videos–and the stream of emojis I often get back from my colleagues–help lift the mood on a long day.
7:00 p.m. Evening is the most difficult part of the day. Campaign work never stops. At the same time, dinner, baths and bedtime can’t wait. It can be hard to know when to close the laptop and let an email go unanswered for a while and when to pause on bathtime to deal with something genuinely urgent at work.
But in those moments, I remember who I work for. Joe Biden is going to fight every day as president so parents don’t have to choose between doing our jobs and raising our kids, because we have the support we need to do both. I can’t wait for that day.
Until then, though, I simply do my best. And eventually, my kids fall asleep. I try to do the same for as long as I can. Because, in the morning, I’ll have more work to do–and a lot more Daniel Tiger to read out loud. All I can hope is that I’ll remember to press mute on my Zoom in between.
But I never have to stress about it. Here’s why.
Working from home with kids is interesting when your manager is trying to become the next US president.