Let’s be honest—parenting, on a good day, is hard. Parenting in quarantine has brought to light a whole host of new challenges (as Dr. Sanjay Gupta outlines with such raw empathy in his new Audible Original, Childhood, Interrupted). Our colleagues across Audible share the frustrations and silver linings of being at home with our families 24/7 while also trying to do our jobs and do them well. And, because we’re listeners, we’re sharing the listens that are both helping us cope and keeping our kids entertained.
Sean, Content Acquisition, Audible UK
What’s parenting been like for you these last several months at home? Parenting alongside a full-time job has been very difficult. With two daughters, ages 4 and 1, there is a constant switch between work and child care. While they are not old enough to be homeschooled, they require constant attention, and with two parents working, we constantly have to find new and innovative ways to occupy them during the workday.
What title are your kids listening to that they really like? Is there a favorite part of the performance that appeals to them? Our 4-year-old daughter recently fell in love with the Winnie and Wilbur series, by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul, as well as Laura Owen, and narrated by Amy Enticknap. We know that she is fully engaged with the stories when she tells our Alexa to turn the story up when we ask her a question! Both children yell out the infamous “Abracadabra” with the narrator in each story.
Is there a listen that’s been helping you cope as a parent? We have found that audiobooks are a great break from screen time when both my partner and I are on work calls, but the newfound strategy for putting both to sleep is now playing an audiobook for them at night. Not Winnie and Wilbur, because they may never go to bed, but a more relaxing fairy tale will always do the trick, allowing us to get a moment of peace after a very hectic day.
Courtney, Creative, Newark
What’s parenting been like for you these last several months at home? Parenting has definitely been a challenge. Navigating work, spending quality time with the family, and creating boundaries around the two was difficult at first, but we have gotten into a groove. It’s been especially difficult for my son, who just turned 6, to not have the dedicated attention from his parents during the day while we work. What has worked for us had been to carve our moments in the day to listen to a book, play a card game, or just go outside and play for a few minutes.
What title are your kids listening to that they really like? Is there a favorite part of the performance that appeals to them? My son loves Pete the Cat. Any story is a winner for him. We have been using Pete the Cat books to learn to read and have been complementing that with the audio versions. My son especially loves the book “coming to life” with the sound effects offered in the audio version: the ocean waves when they are at the beach or the sounds of the train when on a train trip.
Is there a listen that’s been helping you cope as a parent? I am loving Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu. I’m realizing I don’t need to hold on to unrealistic expectations of myself. She gives you permission to embrace the fact that juggling all the balls in the air and doing it perfectly is not reality.
Graham, Market Research, Newark
What’s parenting been like for you these last several months at home? My wife, two girls (8 and 10), and I have been incredibly fortunate these last four months. While our northern New Jersey town has lost one out of every thousand residents to COVID-19, we’ve managed to remain healthy through strict social distancing and mask wearing. That said, these months at home have not exactly been stress-free. Trying to play the roles of teacher, dad, husband, and market researcher often feels like spinning plates. I can’t count how many times a message from a colleague popped up at the same time one of my kids called to me from another room; sorry to my colleagues, but the kids always won. This time together has allowed us to have many deep, important conversations. It’s been incredible to see that the same kids who love fart jokes so much (can I say “fart jokes” in the work blog?) also have the maturity to understand things, like why we are skipping play dates and the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement.
What title are your kids listening to that they really like? Is there a favorite part of the performance that appeals to them? My children love books and my 8-year-old is an avid listener. She always manages to say, “My dad works at Audible,” within the first 30 seconds of meeting a new person. She is currently loving The Baby-Sitters Club series, and listens to it every night at bedtime. While she’s younger than the characters in the book, I think she likes to picture herself right there with Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, and Stacey.
Is there a listen that’s been helping you cope as a parent? Audiobooks are my escape. With all the stressors in the world right now that have me glued to the news, I need my pandemic listening to make me laugh. As a lifelong fan of The Simpsons (who has now passed that love on to my children; parenting win!), the audiobook Springfield Confidential by Mike Reiss (who has been a writer for the series since the beginning) hit the spot. He talks about every detail of how an episode gets made as well as the origins of many of the most iconic scenes from the series. This book wasn’t on my radar till I saw one of our members talk about it in the Audible Facebook group, Hear For It. Big thanks to the mystery member who mentioned it!
Lisa, Talent & Entertainment, Newark
What’s parenting been like for you these last several months at home? Parenting at home has been a bit less challenging than I would have anticipated. Thankfully, our 11-year-old twins are relatively self-motivated and were able to complete their remote learning with minimal parental involvement. The more vexing issue has been finding things to interest and occupy them while we are working. Like many parents, we’ve become far more lenient with screen time than we typically are. But on the positive side, we made outdoor activity a priority, and at the end of nearly every day went outside as a family for long walks, bike rides, Frisbee, and games of four-person kickball. I’ve also enjoyed having plenty of time to talk to our children about the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, the looming election, and many other topics, which hopefully has helped them process this crazy time. I feel fortunate to have so much quality time together.
What title are your kids listening to that they really like? Is there a favorite part of the performance that appeals to them? My daughter, Gillian, has been listening to The Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan. It’s a four-book series, and her favorite is The Tyrant’s Tomb (Book 4). She also read the print book, and says that narrator Robbie Daymond portrays Lester/Apollo really well, bringing the character to life almost exactly as she imagined him.
Is there a listen that’s been helping you cope as a parent? The recent listen that’s helped me cope best is David Sedaris’ Calypso. Of course, his humor is most welcome right about now, but the honest way he talks about his relationship with his siblings and parents is intimate and moving. Listening to it made me think more deeply about the family I was born into, my own family, and how important they all are to me.
Erin, Original Content, Newark
What’s parenting been like for you these last several months at home? Challenging, rewarding, frustrating, entertaining, and humbling. I think it’s fair to say all the various contradicting emotions of parenting are just heightened in lockdown. My son is 2, so it’s been amazing to watch his progression—before we started socially distancing (months ago), he was barely talking. Now he’s ordering us around in full sentences! And because we’re all forced to be at home, I’ve been able to witness almost all of it. The other side of that is that I get to witness all of it. Without our normal coping mechanisms—being able to see friends, go to the office, have an evening out once in a while—the pressures of parenting can also feel pretty overwhelming, which I know is a common feeling among my friends and colleagues who are parents.
What title are your kids listening to that they really like? Is there a favorite part of the performance that appeals to them? My son loves to read and listen, and he’s absolutely obsessed with trucks. So we’ve been listening to The Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle on repeat. The animal sounds and “beep, beep, beep” of the truck never cease to entertain him.
Is there a listen that’s been helping you cope as a parent? My day job (when not parenting) is to work with our incredible content teams on our Audible Originals, so I have the enviable job of getting to read and listen to titles before any of our customers. But during the pandemic I’ve found myself gravitating toward titles that completely take me away from my current experience. Originals like Dervla McTiernan’s latest Audible Original The Roommate narrated by the incredible Aoife McMahon. And if I ever have time to myself again, I plan on taking the advice of our Audible editors and dive into some “parenting self-care” with this collection of listens.
Anand, Analytics, Newark
What’s parenting been like for you these last several months at home? It has been both fun and challenging at the same time. I have gotten to play with my kids a lot and had to be creative in outings so that they don’t get bored. It has been challenging in that my work gets interrupted because my 4-year-old son wants a fruit snack or because I need to put him down for a nap.
What title are your kids listening to that they really like? Is there a favorite part of the performance that appeals to them? My 4-year-old son loves Timeless Tales of Beatrix Potter: Peter Rabbit and Friends by Beatrix Potter. He loves the part where Mr. McGregor shouts “Stop, thief” at Peter Rabbit.
Is there a listen that’s been helping you cope as a parent? Before the pandemic (when I had my commute), I enjoyed listening to How Not to F*ck Up Your Kids Too Bad by Stephen Marche. With all the parenting advice that is out there, this book zeroes in on the things that really matter based on experts. It also has plenty of humor to keep you going.
Valerie, Original Content, Audible.ca, Newark
What’s parenting been like for you these last several months at home? I think like most everyone else, I’ve experienced a series of highs and lows during this truly unprecedented and unpredictable time. I’ve decided to embrace those precious moments that come with having my 4-year-old daughter home with me—random hugs while I’m on a work call or taking a break to help her build a fortress for her PJ Masks action figures. It can be hard to see the good when there’s so much bad, but it’s there! A new development is that my daughter’s preschool in New York City just reopened with reduced class size and health protocols in place. It’s weird to say, but while there’s relief that I’m now better able to focus on work without having to dole out snacks on the hour or help with random requests, I also miss the company!
What title are your kids listening to that they really like? Is there a favorite part of the performance that appeals to them? Dr. Seuss books were among my favorites as a kid, and I’m thrilled that my daughter’s also a fan. She loves the funny-sounding words and silly rhymes, and likes to give the repeat function a workout. Any stories with puppies in them are also a hit.
Is there a listen that’s been helping you cope as a parent? Yes! How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King was an excellent recommendation that came from a member of Audible’s own moms group. The tips (for parents of kids ages 2 to 7) are so simple yet ingenious—they truly work. I’m not shouting (as much) at my child and have given up on time-outs; as a result, she is so much better behaved.
Gabe, Content Discovery & Engagement, Audible UK
What’s parenting been like for you these last several months at home? Hectic, heartwarming, infuriating, and amazing in equal measure, and you never know which one is coming next! Homeschooling two kids (a 7-year-old girl and 11-year-old boy) while working two full-time jobs from home in our London flat has been a real eye-opener. In the early days there was a lot of drama and short tempers as we all adjusted, but as time has gone on we’ve learned to enjoy it, planning what we will do when it’s all over, egging each other on in YouTube exercise sessions, and repurposing bedrooms into gyms, dens, stages, and music halls as needed. We’ve all had to sharpen our collective empathy and patience, and that’s never a bad thing.
What title are your kids listening to that they really like? Is there a favorite part of the performance that appeals to them? The Harry Potter books were already a firm favourite after we read them to our son a couple of years ago. Now our daughter is getting older and she wants to get involved, so we are revisiting the audiobooks (UK versions, narrated by Stephen Fry). She has found inner peace on the floor of the front room, painting and drawing while listening. For the record, inner peace is no mean feat for a hyper 7-year-old. With the book, films, and now audiobooks, Harry Potter is really part of the fabric of our family life, and sometimes we can almost imagine that dinner is a feast in Hogwarts great hall, conjured by wizards, not a Chinese takeaway delivered by motorbike.
Is there a listen that’s been helping you cope as a parent? With no commute I’ve lost a lot of audiobook time, but I’ve been loving Becoming by Michelle Obama and Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. The former is like a comfort blanket, a reminder that politics can be more than what we see from current world leaders. The latter is an uncompromising and sometimes uncomfortable listen, part memoir and part social history of racism in the UK. Both include measured commentary, evocative personal histories and a reassurance that all is not lost.
Lewis, Customer Care, Newark
What’s parenting been like for you these last several months at home? At the beginning of the stay-at-home order the adjustment was somewhat difficult for my family. Everyone was worried about the uncertainty we were faced with and the changes that occurred unexpectedly. Explaining the realities we were living in and assuring our children that they were safe became our number-one priority. Keeping everyone on task and working from home was also a balancing act. My wife and I were not only mommy and daddy but also tech support, customer service, and teachers. As we helped our children figure out how to set new goals and fulfill their academic requirements, they have become even more independent. The rules for bedtime and screen time were more relaxed, allowing them to do more of what they enjoyed—like accidentally popping into mommy or daddy’s video meeting. We spent more time playing board games and baking cookies. We challenged each other in lip sync battles and tried new TikTok dances. We watched movies that made us laugh and listened to books that kept us guessing. As parents, we have learned to let go a little and cherish the small moments of children’s lives.
What title are your kids listening to that they really like? Is there a favorite part of the performance that appeals to them? My children love listening to the Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski. It is special because it is something both children do together. They take turns picking which story they will listen to, sometimes listening to their favorite over and over. My children’s favorite part of the performance is how the narrator, Emily Eiden, changes her voice to fit each character throughout all the books in the series. She is very expressive and makes each character come alive.
Is there a listen that’s been helping you cope as a parent? During this time at home with work, family, and other obligations, finding boundaries is something we are all working on. We have been listening to Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. It provides tips and suggestions on how to set and maintain boundaries throughout all aspects of our lives.
Katie, Editorial, Newark
What’s parenting been like for you these last several months at home? It’s been hectic! My older son turned 4 in the spring, and my younger son is about to turn 2. The silver lining to all this has been watching them become best buddies the last few months (and getting to eat dinner together every night at a normal time!). To be frank, homeschooling a then-3-year-old in the spring was a bit of a joke, especially with a lack of resources. But everyone has been super-resilient. The baby loves to attend meetings, and I’ve learned to not freak out too much when his big brother yells for help in the bathroom in the middle of a call :).
What title are your kids listening to that they really like? Is there a favorite part of the performance that appeals to them? The boys are both huge fans of Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin. It’s a fun listen, and they love to make their own dragon noises to complement the great sound effects.
Is there a listen that’s been helping you cope as a parent? Without a long commute, my listening has definitely suffered. When I can sneak in some listening time, it’s typically while I’m lying next to my 4-year-old, a covert AirPod in one ear, while he drifts off to sleep. It’s been all about escapsim for me—trying to find something light to help alleviate the stress. I recently listened to 10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon, and it broke me out of a listening rut. Performed by Vikas Adam and Soneela Nankani, the luxurious summertime setting of Cape Cod put me in vacation mode (even though we’re not going anywhere this summer!).