Like many of us, I have been working remotely for more than a year now. When the pandemic began, I was seven months pregnant. My daughter was born in June and I “returned” to work in August. So, I have been working remotely, full-time, with an infant for about a year now (well, I guess if you count the time I was still pregnant… so not quite with an infant the whole year). I know that my story is not unique. I know there are many out there who have had this exact setup for the past year. Or have been doing this with more than just one child at home. It is hard. We all deserve vacations to whatever place our heart desires. With cocktails and naps. But I digress… Often, were it not for my work calendar, I wouldn’t know what day of the week it is. There are many projects (some contracted) that I began during pregnancy, pre-pandemic, that have sat untouched for the last year because I sometimes struggle to just finish the day-to-day tasks for work, forget anything extraneous. Laundry gets washed, but most likely not folded and put away. And, thankfully, our new house has a dishwasher that I sometimes use. Yes, we also just moved, with an infant, while working full-time from home. I am the epitome of a glutton for… making my own life more difficult?
Everyone I work with, while never having physically met my daughter, knows my daughter. My students know my daughter. She has been to several meetings and just as many remote lectures that I give each week. Will she remember any of this? No. But, my colleagues and students certainly remember her. For my colleagues, she has been a continuous reminder of the passage of time and how quickly it truly does fly by. For my students, she has been a beacon of my own vulnerability, of my fallibility. Hopefully, showcasing a likeness to them, exhibiting that even professors are real people too, perhaps making academia a little less intimidating during such a hard time for everyone in the world at the moment, and more approachable if they, too, find that there is a lot of real-life happening around them. My daughter has brought plenty of much-needed distraction and happiness to, for all intents and purposes, complete strangers for the past year and she has no idea the impact she’s already had in such a short amount of time.
Working from home has been a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I got to spend this unfettered time with my daughter. I didn’t have to put her into daycare at 2 months old. I was involved in her learning and development every single moment of every single day. I didn’t miss any milestones. I am so lucky, so grateful, and so privileged to have had this opportunity. But now, the curse, I have separation anxiety if I run to the grocery store. The baby (11 months old now) seems to be absolutely fine with my absence. I know that I need to add some work/life balance back into my day for my own mental health and for my daughter’s continued development. No time like the present—I return to the office, part-time, in one week. I am excited about my return, but also slightly nervous because I have become accustomed to my work-at-home routine. Nervous because the laundry or dishes that I did happen to get to while my daughter was napping, will most definitely go untouched as I will no longer have a spare few minutes to complete chores during downtime throughout my day. I am not one of those extremely organized and put-together moms who will clean the entire house, arrange several child-friendly activities for the next day, and meal prep (or whatever else it is that organized people do). I wish I were, but I’m not. I am the mom who will come home from work and hang out with my baby until I put her to sleep. Then, I will pour a big glass of wine and sit on my porch before cleaning and organizing only exactly what I need to clean and organize so that my family can function the next day. I haven’t gone back to “office life” yet, so maybe I’ll surprise myself, but I doubt it. I’m pretty familiar with who I am.
I’m not real sure what I originally meant to accomplish with this post. I guess it was just a way of organizing (there’s that word again) my thoughts as my 24/7 time with my daughter and with fully remote work come to a close. Maybe I just wanted to whine. Maybe it’s meant to be a recognition of mothers and the work that we invisibly complete every day. Some of it so invisible and automatic that we sometimes don’t notice it ourselves. To moms everywhere—you’re amazing.