After the birth of my oldest son (Connor, 6), I joined the esteemed ranks of “working mothers.” Seven years later – and with a set of twins (Hunter and Rhys, 3) and another son (Logan, 2) added to the mix – I still remember the challenges I faced when I returned to the workforce. There I was, trying to adjust to my “new normal,” as I tried to balance the complexities of motherhood and the demands of a professional career.
Until recently, I’ve only telecommuted when necessary. However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed things and required that I make the immediate transition from reporting to a traditional office to a fully remote work environment in my home. To add to this challenge, social distancing guidelines forced my children’s schools to close, resulting in my kids having to transition to remote learning platforms. Overnight, my home became both an office and a school, and my children became my new colleagues and my students.
My days are now more complicated, as evidenced by the white board calendar hanging on my dining room wall. My children, who have video conference calls with teachers throughout the day, require structure in the style of an all-hands meeting. Their constant presence also means plenty of interruptions, which challenge my productivity – and this necessitated the hanging of the red light / green light working sign on my office door.
As I continue to adjust to this new social landscape and all the challenges it presents, I also reflect on the positive impact telecommuting has had on my life. Working from home has provided me the opportunity to be present for my children. In addition, I treasure the increased snuggle time we have now that I’m not using that time to commute. Working from home has also provided my children the opportunity to see me working, and I hope that inspires them to apply themselves, now and in the future, with similar dedication. These are the moments that I want my children to remember when they look back on this time of uncertainty and fear; we were all in this together, learning to navigate our “new normal.”
My days are also longer and, sometimes, more challenging than before, like that day my kids smashed an entire bag of Goldfish crackers on my bed, and the day they finger-painted with chocolate pudding on the living room windows while I caught up on emails. My consolation is knowing that I’m not in this alone. My friendships with other working parents have grown exponentially. We share a sense of solidarity as we swap stories of our struggles to understand common core math while our children crash video conference calls. We trade tips on the best online learning platforms, homeschool resources and quick dinner recipes. There is great comfort in knowing that we are all here for each other, doing our best and accepting the fact that it’s okay to eat cookies for breakfast — especially on those tough days.