For many parents, even helping our children with nightly homework is sometimes a challenge. And, now, amid unprecedented times – many of us are not only having to change how and where we work, but we’re also having to add becoming a ‘distance learning teacher’ to our resumes.

Jodi and Lincoln smile together.

Luckily, through Cisco’s technology and culture, I’ve been able to work remotely during my career. Cisco not only places value on work/life integration, but also the need to focus on our families – ourselves – and when (and where) we do our best work from. That looks a little different these days, and it’s changed for many of us.

Recently, like so many others, I went from being a working parent (I’m a Cisco Project Manager Delivery Lead for our Customer Experience teams) and “Lincoln’s Mom” to, additionally, a middle school teacher for the forseeable future to my son – all at the same time. I couldn’t even spell parallelogram, let alone teach 6th grade math! And while it was another time commitment I hadn’t planned on; I knew this role would be one of the most important.

As a single mom to a boy with anxiety – the critical question quickly became how to balance my load and his.

The #1 key to my success though has been working for a company where I feel supported. Immediately, my leadership and team at Cisco were ‘all in.’ Not only did they understand that we might need time to adjust to our new routines, but they were also there to help as best they could. My manager wasted no time in telling me, “Do what you need to do, we’ve got your back.” And during one meeting, she even said, “Everyone bring your kids out, let’s meet them!” (This is something that’s happening throughout the company, too.)

In addition to that, my teammates have stepped up in a way I could never imagine. Some have offered to help Lincoln with the parallelograms I don’t understand or have told me, “I’m an English-Lit major, I can help Lincoln with reading class.”  A co-worker sent us our favorite movies as a gift – reminding us to have some downtime. And another even offered to do 200 jumping jacks with my son over Webex.

This means everything to me because all these virtual interactions, not only show how incredible my team is, but they bring a much-needed smile and a moment of relief during a stressful time.

Here’s how I’m using technology to help teach my son:

Selfie with Jodi holding a goat over Lincoln's head.

1. Cisco Webex: Sign your kids up with a Webex account right now, because it is free! This week Cisco’s CEO Chuck Robbins said that there were 5.5 billion meeting minutes used on Webex. Why not start developing your child’s skills in virtual meetings now? They can use Webex to do homework with their friends or, perhaps, you can have family or friends jump in as a virtual teacher on a subject or assignment you might not understand yourself.

2. Technology – I think all of us can agree that teaching kids’ technology sooner rather than later can give them a great jump start in their career. Cisco’s Network Academy is a global platform that inspires students and instructors while putting theory and hands-on-experience into practice. This goes great with Lincoln’s coding class too!

If you need to entertain your kids while you work, have them watch Cisco’s Global Problem Solvers.  It is an animated show where they get to watch a team solve real world issues.

3. Health & Wellness – This is a great opportunity to bond with your child! My workout routine has gone out the door, but he has gym class. So, we are doing it together by including some online videos so that we can learn to dance together. Dance prevents dementia by 76% (my benefit) and you can burn over 500 calories an hour (we both benefit). There are also many great yoga and kid workout videos online, and I’ve even incorporated a daily meditation for kids using an online app.

4. Music – I let him sing his heart out to music while he works. Not only is music soothing for the soul, I know I need noise in the background to focus on working and he works best this way too.

5. Write the teachers and thank them for being superheroes! Most of them are available to help your child virtually, and now – more than ever – we see the superpowers of these daily educators who treat our kids as they are their own. So, sit down with your kids and write them thank you notes!

A homemade 'Get out of trouble free card' Jodi made for Lincoln as a reward.

6. Reward vs. Consequence: There’s not a lot of tech here, but it’s been working for us – so I wanted to add it. For every argument, he must go to bed 10 minutes earlier. For a job well done, he earns reward buttons that I call “Cha-chings” – when he earns enough rewards, he can trade them in for a fun prize. The ultimate reward at the end of all of this is that he will get a handmade “Get Out of Trouble Free” card. Trust me parents, this is always his favorite of any reward!

7. Post your tips and what you’re finding success with on social media – ask for people to share theirs as well. We all grow in this together. The more we share, the more success we’ll have.

In this stressful time, I know my son feeds off my energy. So, it is even more crucial for me to remain as calm as possible. Easier said than done, I know. On day three, I locked myself in the bathroom for 10 minutes as I tried to come to an agreement on how we would send the homework to his teachers.

This is a journey. I know I am not going to get it right all the time and I realize I need to cut myself a break as much as I need to cut him one too. But, making this journey slightly easier, is knowing that my Cisco team – and Cisco tech – are there when I need them most.

With just two minutes before I have to hop on a call, Lincoln walks out, “Mom, before you get on a call, can I negotiate one thing with you about my homework?”

It will be my most challenging negotiation of the day, but for now I suggest a hug with 30-minutes of game time later in the day – we can negotiate after.

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Jodi Swanson

Project Manager Delivery Lead

Commercial Experience Team