Two sides: Coming home early

Every story has two sides. Nowhere is that truer than when you’re dealing with working in your home, with your children. There are so many topics that, from one point of view are so clear but taken from the other view immediately become complicated. This time we tackle the topic of parents returning home earlier than expected.

Every story has two sides. Nowhere is that truer than when you’re dealing with working in your home, with your children. There are so many topics that, from one point of view are so clear but taken from the other view immediately become complicated.

At Poppy, we’re privileged to have the opportunity to see and empathize with both sides. There is no judgment, only an attempt to help one side appreciate the experience of the other.

So we’ll dive into some of the most common situations that we find the greatest differences in perspective. Things like tidying up, or cancelation fees when kids are sick or higher rates at high demand times.

This time we tackle the topic of parents returning home earlier than expected.

Amy (parent):

“Fridays are my day to work for a couple hours, run errands, and maybe get a workout in. I booked Clara for 9am to 2 pm, which would cover me for all of that. I included a bit of a buffer because I didn’t want to run over on her or have to come home before I finished everything. I was glad to have Clara, who Isabelle loves and who knows our family, which makes morning transitions so much easier.

But this on this day, one of my meetings canceled and I cranked through my work faster than I expected (when does that happen?!). I was also feeling a bit guilty about not spending a lot of time with Isabelle this week because I had needed to hit a deadline. So I figured I’d skip the workout and head home at noon so I could take her out for a fun afternoon adventure. Plus I’d been spending a lot of child-care this month and I figured our budget could use the relief even if it was just a couple of hours.

When I got back, Clara and Isabelle were mid-adventure. I could hear the laughter from outside and that always makes me happy to know she’s having a great time when we’re not there and when I saw they were playing Forts and Pirates I could see why.

Clara was surprised to see me but when I told her why she said she understood and grabbed her things. She seemed a little quieter on her way out but Isabelle was already talking to me about what she wanted us to do, so I just said bye.

The living room was a bit of disaster with pillows and blankets everywhere and a snack was left out on the counter. I was a bit annoyed because now I’d have to spend a bit of time tidying up but Isabelle had had such a great morning that I figured I’d just mark Tidyness on the feedback form and leave it at that.”

Clara (caregiver):

“I’m a grad student at Seattle U, studying to become a teacher. My coursework can be intense but I don’t have class on Fridays so they’re the perfect day to earn as much as I can. Being a student in Seattle is tough just with all of the expenses but I find that at least with Poppy I can fit in as much work as I need around my school schedule.

When I saw Amy’s request, I almost was going to decline it because it was only until 2pm and I usually need to work the full day. But I really love their family and Isabelle and I get along so well that I figured I’d make it up with another booking later.

Everything was going great until Amy got back at noon. I was definitely caught off guard. We had made a big fort, running over to the kitchen island” for snack treasure” and when she got home the place was a disaster, which I felt horrible about. But she seemed eager to take Isabelle on their afternoon adventure so I didn’t get a chance to tidying everything up or even do the full Caresheet. I hate leaving the place a mess but there wasn’t much I could do.

And most of all, it was really frustrating because now, not only was I not working the full day, I was only going to make half of what I was planning to for the day. Instead of making $153 if I had chosen to work a full day, I’ll only have made $51.

I still love that family but if that’s going to be a regular thing I don’t think I’ll be able to go back.

Poppy’s take:

Like most situations, it’s easy to empathize with both sides. But it does bring up a couple of questions.

What time should be booked?

Amy (the parent) thought it would be more thoughtful to book a time with buffer and not run over on Clara (caregiver). That’s usually what we find parents do and that’s a good bet (especially because caregivers often do have plans after and running late can sometimes be worse). But she didn’t consider the impact on her earnings.

Parents: Book your best estimate of the time that will be needed and budget for that as well. Usually coming back 15 or 30 minutes early is not as big a deal, but just be aware: it might not seem like a lot but it can add up for caregivers that are counting on these earnings. Just know that for the vast majority of Poppies, the income they’re making isn’t just for pocket money, it’s to pay bills.

Either way, communication is your friend if you know you’ll need less time before the booking starts, feel free to ask Poppy to adjust it so then at least caregivers know and can plan accordingly (eg. Poppy could have sent Clara another request for the afternoon). Also then Clara would have planned the time differently and Amy wouldn’t have come home to a mess.

Caregivers: Be aware the parents aren’t always able to know what time they’ll need. They gave up control of their time the minute they became parents 😉 They will try to estimate as best as they can.

What to do if the parent is running early?
Parents: If you do find yourself with extra time, our suggestion is to either find a way to make the most of it (using it to run extra errands, have a quiet coffee or even finish up some things at home while the kids are occupied). Or, failing that, consider compensating the caregiver for at least most of the time booked. It’s not a requirement, but it’s more than appreciated.

Caregivers: If parents do come home early, be aware it’s rarely something they’re doing as a sign of disrespect but rather constantly shifting plans. Budgets are also usually tight and they’re counting every dollar.

If it’s something that has happened, feel free to bring it up to parent directly, or if that is understandably awkward, then to Poppy so that we can help mediate. But certainly address it before deciding not to return to a family because of this, especially if it’s a family you really enjoy. Chances are they’re just not aware and would rather change things to keep working with you.

Have something to add or a different point of view? We’d love to hear it. hello@meetpoppy.com

Are you discussing these 5 questions with your caregiver before you leave?

The sitter is supposed to be here in 3 minutes, I’m still not ready and I haven’t had a chance to write down all of the “instructions”. The girls know we’re headed out, tipped off by the frenzy of our last minute preparations and are now super clingy.
The door bell rings. 
Great. 
Somehow I never get the chance to present the calm, “got-my-s@*#-together” front I always dream about in my head.
“Come on in! It’s a bit crazy right now…” I trail off with that little crazy laugh that says “when is it sane, but please go along”.
And as I realize I’m going to have to wing the walk-through, I wish I had a handy checklist that I could just cover off.
I’ve lived through this scene countless times and never got around to actually creating that checklist. It wasn’t until I started seeing how every parent suffers from the same problem that I could see exactly what points are most helpful to cover off to make sure everyone is happy at the end of the day or night.
At Poppy, after helping with thousands of bookings, we have seen how important clear communication and expectations are at the beginning of both every relationship but also every handoff. We’ve used those learnings to come up with different ways to communicate household rules and routines and help facilitate that conversation.
But there are still some important questions that is helpful for every household to make sure everyone has the same clear expectations. After all, great caregivers are experienced and can handle a range of situations but I’ve learned that sometimes as parents we can forget that they’re not mind readers.
So to help, here are 5 questions to make sure you cover:
1. How do you want to communicate, and how often? Some parents like myself, like to check in every so often and I love getting pictures of what the kids are up to. Doesn’t matter if it’s date night or a regular work day. Others prefer the “no news is good news” policy. Whatever your preference, just let your caregiver know.
2. Is there any thing specifically off limits? Screentime, snacks/food, outdoor play, areas in the house. This is a biggie but probably the most overlooked in most walkthroughs. We parents are so focused on what should be done that we forget to communicate things that are off limits. Kids are wily and will try to get away with all sorts of things if the caregiver doesn’t know they’re not allowed. So things like screentime or snacks or if you’re okay with kids going outside (and what are approved outdoor spaces) or areas that are off limits in the house. Again, the objective is to highlight some of the house rules and expectations that are super important to your family so the caregiver can seamlessly enforce them as well.
3. What things are really important to you today to get done? This is something similar but a bit less critical. These are the specific schedule things you need to be done while you’re away. Like dinner around 6pm or lights off at 8:30pm or bath and homework. These expectations help the caregiver plan out the time using these as the milestone markers. Try to pick only the few most important ones and trust an experienced caregiver to be able to fill in the rest.
4. Where can you be reached if the caregiver can’t get through on your phone? While you likely will and should exchange phone numbers, we’ve seen all too often phones that run out of battery or no answer if the parent is in a meeting. If a caregiver needs to reach someone, give them one or two other options – ideally a neighbor nearby and a spouse/ other family member.
5. When do you want the caregiver to reach out or consult you? 
This is a tricky one but is really important if the caregiver doesn’t yet really know your family. Like communication, some parents trust the judgement of an experienced caregiver to make the right call – whether it’s getting a child to eat or going outside for a walk. Other parents prefer to be consulted if there are any questions at all. For example – say a caregiver is changing a diaper and the notes say to use diaper cream but the caregiver can’t find it. Some parents are okay if the caregiver uses the vaseline that’s there and others would prefer you text/call and ask where the cream is. No judgement on which way is right – it’s the preference of every family. But communicating that expectation upfront makes it easier for everyone so that you’re not irritated by questions asked that you find trivial or you’re not frustrated when you find your detailed instructions weren’t followed to the T.
Bonus: many parents these days may be sticking around the house to work or do errands. In this case, an important question to cover is: How do you want to handle being in the same space?I’ve learned this one the hard way because I used to work from home. And as much as I wanted to pop in and say hi whenever I wanted, I quickly saw how this undermined the authority of my nanny and how inevitably when I would need to leave again, I would be handing a crying mess back to her. That wasn’t fair to her and it confused the kids. So now I set clear expectations that I’ll be working in my office and if I need to come down I’ll text to give her warning to move the kids somewhere else. The point is, the more you discuss how you’d like that to work, the more the caregiver is able to effectively do their job.
It’s no surprise – all of these questions are rooted in basic expectation setting through clear, honest communication. I’ve personally found that while it felt a bit awkward in the beginning, now it’s second nature to discuss these things and everyone is happier.
What questions have you found helpful to discuss?

True customer service ain’t pretty.

People talk about customer service like it’s this beautiful, shiny thing. Pleasant and friendly, with an accommodating smile on it’s face.

It’s not.

Real customer service – the kind that makes a difference – is ugly and hard-working and a get-er-done sort. It’s resourceful and unyielding and never stops trying. It’s not pleasant at all on the company side. It takes pulling minor miracles every single day.

Being known for customer service and really excelling at it is one of the hardest things I’ve learned to do. It’s also the thing I just assumed would be natural and easy to do because it’s one of the things I believe in most fundamentally – never stopping until the problem is solved for the customer and then keeping our promises made.

But when it’s Saturday morning and a caregiver calls in sick 30 minutes before a booking you have a couple of choices. Option 1 is that you let the parents know that unfortunately, “due to reasons beyond our control”, the sitter wont be coming.

We’ve all been bailed on by sick sitters so it’s understandable.

But not for us.

Option 2 is to let the parents know and say we’re going to try to fill it with another caregiver as best we can. But when that caregiver inevitably can’t be found to fill in, in less than 20 minutes, you let the parents know “we tried everything we could, but I’m sorry we just couldn’t get anyone”.

This one can be the reality sometimes, but it’s still not good enough.

Option 3 is to spend those 30 furious minutes with your whole team throwing their Saturday mornings aside, trying to find a suitable replacement in time. But when you find a someone who could do it but can’t make it there for 40 minutes and unless you cover an Uber there and back, you see the opening for that minor miracle.

That was this very morning. While one of our team continued to communicate with the parent, another gave the caregiver a call to prep them and yet another volunteered to head to the family’s home to fill in the 30 minute gap between when the parents need to leave the caregiver can make it.

It’s a furious 40 minutes of action but the whole team is focused on making that miracle happen. And when it comes together, everyone is exhausted but exhilarated. It wasn’t pretty by a long shot but it allowed us to live up to our standards of customer service – do everything we humanly can to uphold our promise. Having someone literally tell their family on their Saturday morning, I have to go fill in for the next hour and a half and then go and make it happen, that is no easy thing no matter how “Hollywood-esqe” that might sound. To build a team that actively volunteers to do these things, that’s also no small thing.

And I’m not going to lie – not every situation ends like this. We try desperately and frantically every single time. But sometimes we don’t have someone from HQ that can go or a caregiver than can fill in. Sometimes every effort ends in failure and disappointment and frustration.

But our one salvation is to always know we tried everything possible.

In this moment, when I am incredibly proud of our team and what we’ve built customer service to mean at Poppy, it needs to be recognized how this is not some sleek, strategic air game, but a brutal, grinding ground game.

It takes an open mind and a never say never belief.

It takes the ugly and the impossible to keep promises.

We try never to forget that.

2016: the moments that stood out

Year in reviews – such tidy little wrap-ups to the year. They have been at everywhere over the past week, covering every highlight of 2016 imaginable. When I look back on year, I am thankful that we have our share of those. Going through Y Combinator, which led into closing our seed round of funding, which enabled us to build out our team and move into our very own office space. And we ended the year with the recognition as one of this year’s Seattle 10.

But for me 2016 was more about the little moments. The things that happened in the “between”. I’ve always found those to be most worthy of reflection and review.

So these are my top 5 moments of that so fully captured the year.

  1. PoppyHQ family holiday.
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    Last year there were only 3 of us and not a lot of money to spare, even for the little celebrations. So we didn’t have a holiday “party” or anything close. We were just gearing up for intensity of YC and the holidays were spent getting ready. But I promised myself that next year we would not only do something but that we’d include our families.

    The thing that often gets overlooked is how much our families sacrifice for us who choose to work on something as intense as a startup. And it’s not just the hours. It’s bringing work into every part of our lives – from weekend hikes to soccer practices. It’s telling our husbands to take the kids during Sunday brunch so we can help a caregiver that’s woken up sick but has a booking later in the day.

    I took this photo when it hit me that we were actually able to do it – to get our families together for a weekend of fun and rest. That we had not only doubled the team, but that we were now in a place that we could say thank you and celebrate a great year properly.

    2. “This is where Mama works.”
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    I feel like every day is “take-my-kids-to-work” day because in this business, I’m always wearing my “mama” hat. And when I work from home, my girls are in and out of my home office. But I rarely bring them into our PoppyHQ offices and this moment captures the first time I did.

    It was a Saturday and we had just finished one of our caregiver meet-ups. The girls were more interested in the screens and pens on the desks than anything else. But it was a big moment for me.

    Because 2016 was a tough year to reflect on from a “work-life balance” perspective.

    I was in Mountain View for my first-born’s 4th birthday (something she still likes to remind me). Our nanny has watched and dutifully recorded many a “recital” and class activity. My parents have stepped in to rescue us on countless occasions.

    I sometimes wake up at 3am panicked that, in the quest for making other families moments easier, I’m missing out on all of their little moments.

    Anyone who asks me about the topic knows that I don’t believe in the balance but in choosing to do one thing well and just alternating what that thing is so the overall appearance is “balance”. I am the last person to give any advice on the this because it’s a daily struggle to be startup founder fighting for the life of her company every day while also being the mama and wife I want to be to my girls and husband and the friend that I know that I’m not to all my friends.

    But to have my girls just be in that space, to have them be in the place that takes me away from them for so many hours, that was a biggie for me. It’s important to me that they understand the work that I do. That it’s important that I do it. That they know I am good at it and I’m proud of it.

3. Partner in crime.

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The first job of a CEO is to build the team. I’ve learned that many times over but it was the most true when it was just me and I needed to find the right cofounder. Yes someone that had the engineering skills to build the product that I know Poppy could and will be. But more than that, a complement to me and how I see the world. Someone who shares the vision and the passion but brings their own talent and flair to the table. Miraculously I found that in my cofounder, Richerd. No more than acquaintances when we mutually decided to give this a go, we’ve been though quite the journey in the past 15 months.

This photo was taken at the Adele concert – tickets he generously treated me to, to celebrate our one year mark. It had been a particularly hard day and I hadn’t felt really like celebrating or even being out. But Richerd’s unending optimism and generosity (and let’s face it, Adele) were a surefire solve to any bad day. This moment captures my gratitude in finding someone that was willing to take a chance on me and my dream and make it something we could build together.

4. The first annual Poppies.

Working with kids is incredibly difficult but wonderfully rewarding. I know this just as a parent but also now as someone that looks for those that have the talent and the experience to be a caregiver. Our Poppies (as they refer to themselves) are a crazy diverse bunch. Nannies and therapists and teachers and camp counselors and swim coaches and dance instructors, these women and men epitomize the special group of people that were meant to be engaging with our kids. I have been so blown away by the talents of each, and it gives me renewed focus to make sure they’re being treated well and fairly in their every interaction.

This picture was taken at our first annual “Poppies”. It was an award brunch we put on for our caregivers to recognize and thank them for their service and dedication. This event was one of my personal favorites of the whole year because it went so far beyond my wildest expectations. You can’t imagine the amount of energy that can be held in one room when all of these young (and young at heart) people get together to just connect and celebrate. We gave out smaller recognitions of gratitude to each Poppy and also bigger awards for those that exemplified our core Poppy values. The whole morning proved again to me what is good when you invest in the people that invest in your kids.

5. Home sweet home.
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I love our offices. It sounds silly because there is nothing really special about them (except for our awesome Poppy teal wall) and I can’t explain it. When I stand behind my desk (yup – we splurged on those IKEA standing desks, all $200), in that corner of the office, looking out on Mt. Rainier on a clear day, all I can feel is hope and optimism.

Because after a year of working out of my home and cafes and co-working spaces, we finally had a space to call our own. We finally had worked hard enough and grown big enough to justify it. 

It’s a reminder to me in the most tangible of terms of what hard work and persistence can get you. This is the space that most of the mundane but vitally important work is done. Where our whole team toils in a multitude of little moments that allow us to have the big moments.

So I want to always remember what this view means.

Bonus: The people. Always the people.

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I love this picture so much. Because these are the crazy people who have chosen to be on this wild journey with me. They are talented and dedicated and wicked funny (all in their unique ways). They are family to me. It ain’t pretty every day, but we push each other to do things that none of us thought were possible. This picture says it all for me.

There they are. Five (plus one!) moments that captured the essence of the whole year. Not particularly pretty or significant in their own right. But they tell the story of Poppy for 2016.

Now as we look forward to 2017 I hope for more of the same: Focus and persistence and tenacity. Daring greatly. Pride in the small wins. Humility. Trying, always trying.

And the chance to have one more day to change the world a bit more.