Welcome to the first installment of our Super Human Spotlight series! Katie Klein is our guinea pig and the topic is parenting. She covers pivoting in the moment, being comfortable in the uncomfortable, and embracing her sense of play.
Watch the video for a taste, then read the full transcript below. Stay tuned for more installments in the coming weeks!
Sarah Ashley: Today, we’re checking in and talking about the struggles of being a working mom and how you balance child care (and giving birth) with everything else you have to do. You know, really light stuff.
Katie Klein: Good, I did want to tell my giving birth story. Yeah, I am a mom and I work and it is a very wild time right now. My son is about one and a half. So, he’s not missing out on school, which is kind of a good thing, but also a challenging thing. I think every parent, no matter how old their child is, is very much struggling with trying to find that balance, because everybody has a different level of comfort with outside care. I have a lot of friends who are still doing day care because they have to. Some schools are open, some are doing the hybrid thing, and some schools are just completely shut down. Again, because my baby is only one and a half, he doesn’t go to school. So, he’s home. All. The. Time.
I’m very fortunate to have a partner who worked from home pre-Covid, so we were used to that. We’re basically just playing a game of volleyball with the baby. And we do throw him. No, that was a metaphor. We could throw him, though. He’s a pretty tough kid.
SA: What are some improv skills you found to be helpful in balancing work and parenting, both before coronavirus quarantine and during it?
KK: I think truly being able to pivot in the moment is invaluable. My husband and I go back and forth: he’s got this hour, I’ve got this hour. But then, as life would have it, that doesn’t always work. Things pop up and change. My client wants to meet at a different time or one of his students wants to meet at a different time. It’s being able to pivot really quickly. Especially over Zoom because I have to set up my camera and get everything ready and then it’s, “Nope! I have the baby now.”
I do honestly think that’s our training in improv, being able to pivot - and being okay with it. Not being frustrated by change is a huge part of it. I think a lot of people are able to make changes, but then you kind of have resentment or frustration that it didn't go as you planned. I’m very grateful that I have the skills - and my husband, as well, is a trained improviser - and he is very able to pivot and be totally fine with it. Just being able to roll with, “Okay, this is different!” Or, we thought the day was going to go this way and now we’ve got a tooth coming in, so the baby's in a different mood and we don't have babysitters anymore because of Covid, so we’ve gotta pivot. We’re fine with it because we’re so used to that.
SA: Have you experienced that with clients too? Are people that you work with also constantly shifting schedules or receptive to your schedule changes?
KK: Covid and the quarantine have really thrown everybody for a loop. I think some people who were very used to a rigid schedule and an hour-by-hour day are now completely thrown off. So, it has been fun to work with some clients who you can tell are really adapting to this. It’s also been really cool to watch someone’s face [on Zoom] with a child in the background or a partner pop in and you can see them kind of go, “Heh, heh,” but I think it’s really fun to watch people adapt to this because they’re trying to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Which is something we talk a lot about in improv. So, again, it’s been fun watching certain clients and friends have to figure out how to change up their day-to-day expectations.
SA: Will you say a little bit more about being comfortable in the uncomfortable? What does that look like to you?
KK: Yes, being comfortable in the uncomfortable is a big improv tenant and something we frequently talk about with Super Human in our workshops and events because it’s just so fundamental to being able to move forward. I think this whole life change that everyone has experienced since March has made everybody uncomfortable in three hundred different ways, every day, all day.
You kind of have two choices: You can either just sit in that feeling and be miserable and be terrified and frozen, or you can get used to that feeling of being uncomfortable and acknowledge that I’m anxious, I’m uncomfortable, this is different.
But, instead of going inward and freezing, we train ourselves to think about opening up and embracing it and saying, “I’m uncomfortable and so are you, so we might as well move forward together and figure it out.” This experience of the quarantine has really highlighted that feeling of being uncomfortable, even just being on Zoom and having to show your face in a way that you haven't had to before. People are really uncomfortable and we get to shine the light on that and see if we can start to be okay with and comfortable sitting in that anxiety.
"Instead of going inward and freezing, we train ourselves to think about opening up and embracing it and saying, 'I’m uncomfortable and so are you, so we might as well move forward together and figure it out.'"
SA: A lot of what you’re saying reminds me of just being vulnerable.
SA: For instance, you can see my home right now, and if i’m on a call with other professionals, we’re seeing each other’s home offices and sometimes even our bedrooms or kitchens.
KK: Oh, yeah.
SA: I’m interested to see how that vulnerability impacts what business looks like after this.
KK: Me too! I think something really cool coming out of that vulnerability and humanity is that a lot of people are rethinking the basic work structure. We talk about it all the time, that nine-to-five, forty-hour-a-week structure that everybody had for so long, and my hope is that this experience opens up possibilities to changing that up a little bit. Or working in a different way to really focus on productivity and excitement, rather than that schedule. Because people are being vulnerable and showing that like, sometimes on a Tuesday at 11 a.m., you have something else you have to do for your home life and that might be okay. And maybe we can move that meeting to a different time and still be just as productive.
SA: Well, what a crazy thought.
KK: Just something I made up.
SA: Anything else you’d like to add about balancing responsibilities in general or vulnerability?
KK: I think the only thing I would add is that I think some people are more comfortable asking for help and others are very uncomfortable asking for help. This time period has really shone a light on that. Some people are much more fortunate to have people and resources and money and other people don’t, but I think we’re in a really interesting time. We’re asking for help even if it’s just online from Internet resources. I think that's a really important thing right now. Acknowledge this is challenging. Even if you are fortunate and way better off, it is still challenging and it's okay to acknowledge that and look for help where you can get it.
SA: I love that. It is hard to ask for help. I hate doing that, but it’s nice when you get it.
SA: If you could give some improv advice to other parents who are balancing working from home and raising kids, what would you say?
KK: I lean into my sense of play constantly. I didn't really like having a teeny little baby. Having a zero- to six-month-old was really hard for me. But, as soon as that baby started being able to engage with me and make eye contact and smile, the whole world changed. Now, because we can’t go to classes any more, or story hour, we can’t have play dates (I’m very cautious about the virus, as I’m sure a lot of other parents are, and people without kids, it’s a pandemic), I’m really leaning into my sense of play I’ve developed from improv. I just say, “I’m not gonna have a meeting. I’m not gonna have my phone. I’m just gonna have this hour where I play with him.”
"I lean into my sense of play constantly."
Kids can escape everything because they don't understand the scale of what's going on. They don't understand the politics and the world and it is so wonderful to be able to just embrace that and put everything else away and focus on this child who is inherently exploring and using creativity and doing all the things we teach in improv, because he’s a kid! He doesn't know any different than to just trust his instincts and do what's fun and try something scary. Watching him makes me kind of chill out because I ride his wave of having fun and exploring for a little bit. We’re going to put everything else away for an hour.
So, play with your kids is what I'm saying. I know it’s hard. Work is real. Bills are real. It's all real, but you can also somehow finagle your schedule to really, really embrace playing with your kids. And I know for school-aged kids it’s very different and not everyone is a natural born teacher - you shouldn't have to be! This is an insane challenge for parents to all of a sudden have to pivot and home school and do all that stuff. So, I’m not saying people need to be good at that, but I think you can embrace the sense of play that we encourage in improv to just be a kid again. See if you can have some fun!
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