Confessions of a Pandemic Working Mom

Author: one tough job

Meet our Guest Blogger: Jenn is a mom of two, a daughter age 12 and a son age 6. Jenn is a social worker and currently provides training and technical assistance to family support professionals. Jenn and family live in Central Massachusetts.

I am a mom of two, and since early March, a full-time, new work-from-home, global pandemic parent. Work-life balance is not a new concept for me; I’ve been a working parent since my oldest was a month old. For years I have attempted to achieve the seemingly elusive state of performing at work, then separating from the work I love, so that I can be a better mom at home. Getting to a place where I can detach has been part of learning how to balance it all. As a social worker and family support trainer, I even lecture and engage in dialogue about why this is important and what steps to take to establish professional boundaries.

Enter pandemic.

The idealistic dream of work-life balance is now a distant memory, as we are all confronted with how to integrate our family into our work life. Pre-pandemic work policy is out the window, as it is impossible to both work at home full- time and care for our kids at the same time. The goals have changed from keeping tight boundaries on our lives to trying to navigate and integrate work productivity and accountability.

The place where this clashes most for me is on daily Zoom calls where all eyes (literally) of my colleagues and my supervisor are on my ability to be visible and present in the conversation. All while trying to be available for my family and empathetic to the head-over-heels changes my kids have had to make in the last four months (homeschool, virtual birthdays, missed rituals, summer camp cancellations, and more). It’s enough to make any parent feel like they are failing at everything.

As we walk through this together, here are a few things I’ve learned to be true:

  • We should not apologize to our colleagues when we have to tend to our children. A wise colleague shared that children are to be cherished. We are thrust into a situation that has rewritten how we engage in work and at home. What hasn’t changed is how important our children are and how sometimes they need our time and attention first.
  • We have to recognize that we may not always be able to be great employees and great parents at the same time. I admit that I have tried to wave my kids away subtly out of the Zoom screenshot, but each time this happens, my kids and I leave the interaction worse off. Yes, my kids must know that I have to be attentive at work, but they also have real-time needs. I’ve learned in these past months that each time I engage with them in a way that meets their needs and respects my colleagues, work, and professionalism, I am showing my grace and values to all involved.
  • It’s important to recognize the feelings that are here for us, and that guilt can feel normal, but what we must do is strive for grace. We must strive to find a way to manage each interaction to do our best in the moment, and when we fall short, which we will, that we can find a way to forgive ourselves, repair, and move forward.

Even though it really (sometimes really really) doesn’t feel like you’ve got this, you do, because your love of your children can win out. Aim for grace. Let yourself and the world know that parenting and working can be possible even if the hardest of times. That we have to remember to cherish our children, show ourselves compassion, and take it one day (and one Zoom call) at a time.

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