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How COVID Changed the Workweek for Parents -- for the Better

By Brian Stoffel - Mar 10, 2021 at 5:00PM

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It's been stressful for parents. But there's a silver lining.

Parenting was hard before the onset of COVID-19 lockdowns. For many -- especially those with limited resources and support -- the difficulty of the job has increased exponentially over the past year.

But there's also been a silver lining. In this Motley Fool Live video from Feb. 23rd, Motley Fool contributor Brian Stoffel discusses this hidden benefit with Morgan Housel of the Collaborative Fund and Pete Adney -- better known as "Mr. Money Mustache."

Incidentally, Adney is a leader in the FIRE movement who retired at 30 to focus full-time on being a dad. As these three point out, while the difficulties of pandemic parenting will hopefully fade over the coming months, the effects of this hidden benefit could stick around for years to come.

Morgan Housel: It seems like in the last 12 months, there have been a lot of people, including myself, by the way, who used to spend a lot of time traveling for work, commuting to work, sitting in an office where you're doing work theater, you're just doing busywork to show your boss that you're working.

In the last 12 months, they've been detached from that. No more commute, no more work travel, no more work theater. A lot of people, if they sit down and do three or four hours of good productive work, they're done and then they spend the rest of the day with their family, going for a walk, going for a hike, hanging out with their friends. I think tens of millions of people, again, including myself, have had this awakening that was forced upon them to be like, "Now that I don't have to play the game anymore, I see what else is out there in a way that's really fulfilling. I used to travel a tremendous amount for work."

Virtually every week, I was going somewhere. I honestly like to travel, so it wasn't a burden. But obviously, that came to a grinding halt one year ago, and I haven't done any work travel since then. What have I done with that time? I've spent more time with my wife and kids in the last year than I did over probably the previous four years combined, and it's great. I've absolutely vowed that when the world is back to normal, I'm still going to go out and travel, and speak at conferences and whatnot, but probably a third as much as I used to. I would not have made that decision without the last year. I feel like my story is repeated tens or hundreds of millions of times across the world of people who have been forced to see a different light over the last 12 months in a way that's going to stick with them for a long time.

Peter Adeney: Wow. Well, good for you, and congratulations on that because to be honest, I'm surprised your wife let you get away with that before. [laughs] Who's taking care of the kids when there's only one parent? That's really, really hard to have young kids.

Morgan Housel: It was ridiculously hard. I think I've spoken about this as well. Before she became a full-time mom, when we had our second kid, she liked her career. As she phrased it, she said, "I like my job but I love my kids." That was the trade-off. A lot of that was because I was gone so much. I don't necessarily have any guilt about that because I liked my career, I'm proud of the career that I built, but that was the balance that we're looking at and it was tough. But in the last year, like I said, I've seen a different view of how you can do things.

Peter Adeney: Yeah, that's really good. That's one of my things that I write about, I try to guilt shame, but in hopefully inspiring way, other men who are dads to look at the whole picture of parenting and not just say, "Well, I'm earning the bread so my wife is going to be the mom, and that's what happens." It's not true.

When we were raising the young child, we have just one, and even then, for us, work was our treat adult time. That's your time off is your working, and then your parenting, that's the real work. If you've done your full 12 hours parenting or whatever, however, the breakdown works, six hours away time, then you deserve a break of a little bit of local work, no travel, no late nights. That's my hard line on parenting. If you can set your life up in such a way that you don't need a lot of income or your income is really flexible, then just take a step back, you don't have to be a superstar career person while you're raising your children because they're hard, man. At least some kids are surprisingly full-time jobs.

Morgan Housel: The other thing that I've noticed, and again, millions of people have noticed this, too, is how many times in the last year that I'm working from home in my office, and I'm actually working just like I normally would ever, and my son or daughter walks in, and says something funny or shares something with me that's cool. You multiply that 10 times a day over the course of the year, and how many of those cool experiences that add up to something really meaningful would not have happened unless people were forced to do their office work from home.

That again is just another example of being forced to see a different side of the world, that even if I knew that world existed before a year ago, I think you were able to do this independently, make the decision independently. I think some people, again, including myself, had to wait until they were forced into it. You saw it and you said, "I'm going to walk there myself," but a lot of people are like, "I need someone to push me into it." The last year was what really pushed us.

Peter Adeney: Yeah. I hope that has happened to other people. That sounds really good to me.

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