In my pre-pandemic life, you’d find me dripping sweat on the 5:15 p.m. train from New York Penn Station after sprinting through the Midtown crowds simultaneously wearing my portable breast pump (ask me all your questions). Though I was the first one to leave the office most days, it was the latest possible train I could take to before my daughter’s daycare closed. Somehow I was always the last parent at pickup, which added to the mom’s guilt of not seeing my baby all day.
When I came back from my maternity leave, I negotiated one work-from-home day a week: a blissful day where I didn’t have to rush in the morning to take the train, and I effectively became a better employee when I had those three hours of my life back where I didn’t need to commute. After I dropped off my baby at daycare, I exercised! I cooked! I did laundry! All before I even needed to clock in for the workday. If you’re a working mom, isn’t a telecommute job the dream?
Enter COVID-19 to shake up that picture-perfect idea. While I do feel lucky where both my husband and I have a career where my family can safely stay in our little quarantine bubble, it’s been a challenge every day navigating our jobs with a little one at home. I found solace in fellow mom friends that were going through the same thing, so I hope these Corona-fessions remind you that you’re not alone.
Carrying the brunt of the caretaking feels impossible most days
The pandemic has shown a bright white light on the gender gap that still widely exists. According to a study published in Gender, Work and Organization published over the summer, it showed that working moms have had to reduce work hours up to five times more than dads. On top of the mental load (“what size diapers will she be next month?” “will this bubble bath make his sensitive skin break out?”), women are mainly responsible for the household chores and caregiving — and this burden has increasingly fallen on their shoulders with the extra workload thanks to COVID-19. New research shows that women are currently spending 15 more hours on domestic labor each week than men.
New research shows that women are currently spending 15 more hours on domestic labor each week than men.
When the pandemic first started, we were paying for a daycare that we weren’t attending in hopes of the situation being temporary. Since a nanny would end up being over 50% more than our daycare tuition in our area, we decided to try to make it work without childcare — a decision that would send me in a frantic spiral trying to be a stay-at-home during the day, an exemplary employee at night. Since my job was the source of our secondary income, I felt more pressure to step back from work and prioritize my baby and my husband’s career in anxiety that he’d lose his job in a world where layoffs were happening left and right. Fast forward eight months, and now we have an incredible nanny who helps with the physical challenges of taking care of a newly minted walking toddler. The mental load is still always hovering over my head, but I’ve had to force myself to feel comfortable with short-term solutions and take it day by day.
I feel guilty taking “me time”
Trust me, it doesn’t happen that often. But when I do find a moment to relax my body, my mind is on overdrive. Working at home where the line between work and life completely no longer exists, I feel like all my free time should be spent working because I’m so distracted throughout the day with a baby at home. We live in a society that glamorizes the hustle culture and overworking — as if the lack of sleep, answering late nights Slack messages, and missing meals mean you’re more dedicated to your job. I blame this on the internet, which has largely been focusing on people performing at hyper-productive levels during quarantine: The idea that you have to be making the most of any and all free time. Too many moms wear this burnout as their badge of honor and it needs to change.
The pandemic has impacted when we’ll have baby #2
Research shows that there are baby booms that happen during certain natural disasters where people are confined indoors. In my personal bubble, I can attest to that being the case this year: I have seven girlfriends due in January (all first-time moms). If you have children already though, the pandemic was likely the most persuasive form of contraception. Clinics are actually seeing an increase in birth control prescriptions. For me, the thought of dealing with pregnancy stress on top of pandemic stress would be way too much to deal with and I’m in awe of the mamas that are going through it right now. I’m happy with our plan to wait until our baby’s a little more independent to start trying for the next kid, but it’s scary to think that the pandemic could still be a very real part of our reality for years to come.
At the end of the day, I feel really grateful
Even with all the disruption, the pandemic has caused our lives, I’m luckier than most. I have food on the table every night, a job, a supportive family, and a warm home to quarantine in. I have access to medical care. And, most importantly, my baby is healthy and well. There’s no such thing as a “new normal” (can we officially ban this phrase from 2020 vernacular, please?). Don’t feel like you need to be “adjusted” by now even though most workplaces are operating business as usual. As a mom, the change will always be a part of your everyday life (just wait until you get to the solid food stage).
Maybe working from home isn’t as convenient and glam as I thought it would be, but there’s so much to still be grateful for. Be well, mamas.