Amazonian: Tiffany Spatafore
Title at Amazon: Head of Brand Development, Amazon Music
Child: Jack, 4 years old
Tiffany and her husband, their son Jack, and two big dogs have been living, working and learning together in their small Seattle home since the pandemic started. “It’s been chaotic to say the least,” says Spatafore.
But she and her husband, who is a teacher, worked to bring some order to a disordered time. They met on Sunday nights to plan out the schedule for each week. “We’d go through our work calendars and see who can manage having a kid while they’re on a call and who can’t and then we worked out a schedule.” Her husband had to be live on video with his students in the mornings, so Spatafore took the first shift. Then, he took over in the afternoons when Spatafore clocked in for her job at Amazon.
They even attempted to replicate Jack’s preschool by creating activities tied to different days of the week, scheduling outdoor play time and free time, and ordering lots and lots of books. On Fridays— if Jack had listened well over the course of the week—he’d receive a small treat. “I’m definitely a planner,” says Spatafore, “so making a schedule helped me wrap my head around things and gave me something I can control when there is so much I can’t.”
But, of course, plans in a pandemic often go south. “Our days were hit and miss,” says Spatafore. “We had the best intentions every week, and there were days we accomplished things and days we didn’t get anything done, and Jack watched TV all day.”
But Spatafore felt lucky to have a boss and colleagues who had a lot of empathy for what she was going through. “I would try to block off mornings and say, ‘sorry, I’ve got kiddos and I’m not available till noon.’” She put her phone away during those hours, to just focus on him. Then she would work from noon to 6 and after Jack went to bed.
In September, Spatafore’s husband had to return to the virtual classroom full-time to teach his students, which would have left all the child care to her. And they were both concerned that as a very social only child, Jack’s mental health was beginning to suffer from his isolation. “He started talking to the neighbors who didn’t have kids, because he was so desperate for socialization.” So they weighed the pros and cons again and again and decided to send Jack back to his preschool, which now has smaller class size and tight COVID-19 protocols in place.
“It was a tough decision and we still go back and forth on the risks,” says Spatafore, “but decided it’s best for him to be back in his class.”
Though the nerves of him being inside with other kids come and go, Spatafore says it helps a lot when he “comes home and says, ‘I love my friends. I love school. I can’t wait to go back tomorrow.’”
Spatafore and her husband have also enjoyed being able to focus on their work, have a little bit of time before school pick-up to be together with each other, and then shutting down when they pick Jack up, and focusing on him.
“It’s nice to have that focus back on my job and then not feel like you are letting down this poor little being left and right,” says Spatafore. “It’s definitely been a huge stress reliever for us. Although I do miss having him at home a little bit. It was really sweet to have that extra time with him as a working mom.”
She adds, “Jack learned some invaluable lessons caring more about others during these hard times.” She and her husband dedicated some of their own at-home preschool lessons to talk about wearing masks to protect others and making donations to food banks and homeless shelters. “We tried to use the time to really educate him on human kindness,” says Spatafore.
She says her family is closer and that the whole experience helped her put her priorities back on the ones she loves and keeping them safe. And she tries to go easy on herself when she thinks about the tough times during the five months the whole family spent under one roof 24/7. “Was I the best parent I wanted to be? Absolutely not,” says Spatafore. “But I do my best to go easy on myself and remember that we did the best we could.”
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