By TMoM Team Member Laura Simon
On March 1, nearly one year into a pandemic that has upended life for working moms everywhere, I did a crazy thing. I went back to work full-time.
After five years of homeschooling – by choice – and juggling freelance jobs, a full-time position opened up with one of my freelance clients. I basically threw an impossible list of demands at them: I won’t be “in the office” on Tuesdays because we have homeschool co-op, I want freedom to drive my kids to swim team and music lessons during the work day and on an ever-changing schedule, I want my normal work day to be 6 am – 2:30 pm so I have time to help the kids with schoolwork, and I want a professional salary without wearing professional pants (because, let’s be honest, they don’t fit anymore).
OH, and I want to work remotely until the end of time because I live in North Carolina and the office is in Cincinnati and I lived there for almost two decades, so I know the weather stinks.
Suffice to say, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get the job, and I would continue to freelance my way through life. I was OK with that.
But here’s the thing the pandemic has done for moms: employers have figured out that they can work with us. We’re good for getting the work done, if only we have the freedom to take care of our families. Remote workers translate to grateful workers when it improves work/life balance. And so, I joined the full-time workforce again, a full decade before I expected to.
“What are you doing?” a friend asked when I mentioned the job. I think she was expecting a job title, but I gave her the honest truth.
“Losing my mind?” Maybe.
As you can imagine, life in our household changed dramatically in week one. Because I’m dedicating so much time to my office, I am not currently available to stand over my children for hours at a time, breathing fire down their necks to ensure that they get their work done. Instead, they are responsible for working their way through a checklist and coming to me with questions.
On day three, my 9-year-old started wailing from the school room: “Why do I have TWO grammar lessons today????”
“Because you didn’t do yesterday’s lesson, so now you have two.”
I was at my desk on the other side of the house, but I could hear the dumbfounded silence through the walls.
Yes, you are still responsible for work even if no one chides and nags you to finish it. It was a good lesson. Probably even more useful than the two grammar lessons he grimly completed by the end of the day.
I learned something as well: we have locks on our doors for a reason.
The value of this locking mechanism became very apparent when I was meeting with a new colleague and the door of the office burst open, allowing three angry children, their current squabble, and a puppy with a black nose that presented as brown, probably because he was trying to dig a portal to the center of the earth in my back yard, to spill into my very professional meeting. Far from having any shame when they realized the camera was on, they started to air their grievances right there in my zoom meeting. The best thing I can say is that everyone was wearing pants, even if one of the pairs belonged to a fleece Santa pajama set that fit the child two years ago. The culprit was wearing the Santa shirt, too. In March. My colleague was clearly impressed.
Thank goodness for a year which has made a bifurcated life virtually impossible and normalized the blurred lines between home and work. And also, thank goodness I was wearing pants when I got up from my desk to shoo the furry and human kids out.
I don’t want to minimize that crap fest that 2020 was for moms. And I realize that not all employers have adjusted their attitude, and not every job allows for this kind of flexibility. I just know that going back to work has lit a fire in my spirit that I didn’t know I’d lost, and just maybe what we learned in 2020 is that sometimes when things burn down, we can build them back better than they were before.
And we can do that while wearing athleisure from the waist down.
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