Normalize Working While Parenting
We reached the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic this week, which for many of us, is also the one-year anniversary of working from home full-time while also homeschooling and parenting our children. The pandemic requires that we juggle our normal workloads with the new responsibilities of virtual school and at-home daycare, with the expectation that we’ll still get it all done.
Thankfully, some advice from a friend mid-way through the pandemic changed my work and home life for the better.
“Bring your kids into your meetings.”
She said that when she was on Zoom for countless work meetings, she never tried to hide the fact that she was working while parenting. When she would contribute in meetings, it wasn’t unusual for a toddler to be hanging from her shoulders or asking for a snack. She didn’t shush her daughter or turn off her camera, she embraced it.
Like so many of you, I am guilty of going to great lengths during this pandemic to appear childless and “professional” during meetings. Only scheduling them during nap times when possible, and if not, bribing my kids with television and snacks to beg them to stay quiet and out of sight.
But why? I’m not childless. And the fact that I work from home while also taking care of two small children doesn’t make me any less professional. It’s a burden that a lot of parents are taking on right now. It's just not possible for me to sit quietly at attention for a three-hour morning meeting with no interruptions, background noise, or distractions.
So I embraced my friend’s advice – in my own way. I didn’t start turning on my camera in all my meetings (I’m in a t-shirt and sweats most days) but I stopped going to great lengths to “hide” my kids in work meetings, and this lifted a lot of stress from my shoulders.
Don’t get it twisted: the little ones don’t have full reign to scream and wreak havoc during meetings. They’re aware when Mommy is in a meeting and know how to be respectful. But they also know that they can walk to the kitchen in view of the camera (when it's on) and grab a snack. Or they can come up to me and ask me a question, share something cool, or give me a hug (hopefully when I’m not mid-sentence). And if the meeting is in the morning and I have to unmute myself, my daughter’s virtual class will likely be heard in the background, and I don’t worry about it. It is what it is.
Important note: I have an amazing employer that is supportive and understanding. I know that this isn’t the case for everyone, unfortunately.
COVID has changed the career landscape in countless ways – especially for women – and it looks like even after things return to “normal,” an increased number of people will continue to work remotely. So, I hope that working while parenting becomes more and more normalized. And that the parents hiding in their bathrooms and closets to take their conference calls and Zoom meetings can crawl back out into the open with everyone else (if they want to, of course).
For a pre-pandemic perspective on working while parenting, check out Busting the Myth of the Work-Life Balance.