Our Reality Check

Adjusting to my new normal has inspired me to try different ways of working, and have new conversations to create meaning during the chaos.

I’m a parent with privilege during a pandemic. My husband and I are white collar employees who can work remotely (which I am fortunate enough to do under normal circumstances), easily able to shelter-in-place and have no issues making ends meet.

We have three children under the age of seven. If you have come across any articles or memes about parenting and working during Covid, they are all true. Yes, I am at my wits end. Yes, it’s frankly impossible to be a full-time partner, parent, employee, cook, teacher, cleaner, and the many other myriad of roles we are now expected to play and do them well. Yes, I wear a business mullet most days.

First, I am tremendously grateful for how communities have rallied to support each other. It is inspiring to see the positive intent and goodwill emanating from many different channels. This is a reality check however. So….warning: sarcastic rant coming

·       Thank you for the craft activity you sent. Between conference calls and changing my 18-month old’s diaper, I’d love to pull out paint, playdough and turn on the hot oven to create a masterpiece.

·       Thank you for the link you sent to the virtual tour of The Louvre. My 5-year-old, who enjoys spending his time practicing “karate” (kicking a foam mat propped against the wall), was riveted.

·       Thank you for all the virtual school work for my first grader. I can absolutely just hand over my work laptop (because all the sites aren’t iPad friendly) and she can easily find the websites and separate user names and passwords.

·       Thank you, Microsoft, for the fun backgrounds for my video conference. It’s the perfect time to remind me of the beach I am currently not sitting on nor potentially will be until 2021.

·       Thank you for the reminder to “set boundaries” and “practice self-care”. I’ll do that while I’m going the bathroom while on a conference call (after quadruple checking I’m on mute) while my toddler barges in asking me to read him a story.

Ok enough venting. Small weight lifted off my chest. As you may be able to imagine, I am exhausted- physically, mental and emotionally.

But here’s the reality- I always feel this way. Is it exacerbated right now? Absolutely. I’m operating at a higher threshold of chaos. Yet, when Covid “ends”, there is no light switch that flips and suddenly life is so much easier. 

The chaos will change from overwhelming mornings of school work, managing a toddler and “listening” in on calls to back-to-back meetings that need to be crammed in, so I can to log-off in time to pick up my kids, get them dinner and off to practice du-jour. On any given day, I may need to drop off immediately because my kid threw up and I need to pick them up (saying every prayer in my repertoire that it’s something they ate and not about to ravage my household). I might not be online at 10am because I’m at school helping with the pre-K Valentine’s Day party (here is where the craft activities are welcome!). Instead of me losing focus because I’ve spent two hours with a frustrated first grader learning how to tell time, it’s because of being woken up four times in the middle of the night for nosebleeds and nightmares.

And the shit of is it, in addition to my privilege, I have an incredibly supportive husband who co-parents (no, he does not get any special accolades for this). I live within a few miles from my parents, in-laws and many close family members who are absolutely wonderful and do so much for us. 

So here’s a reality check about me. I’m a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an employee, a runner, a spin-instructor, an avid reader, a campaign volunteer, a non-profit Board member, a coper of anxiety and depression, a passable cook, a TV watcher, and much more. Pre, during and post-Covid.

Now for the “so-what”. This is not about a pat on the back or trying to evoke sympathy. I have a few asks. Temper expectations about a return to normal. Use this as an opportunity to get to know your colleagues as more than co-workers. Conduct a reality check on the concept of workday. Empower yourself and others to manage the day based on outcomes not where or how work gets done.

We are at an inflection point. Let’s differentiate ourselves and focus on what our people truly need to be successful. I don’t have a robust business case or piles of articles to convince you of how this will help your bottom line. But hopefully my reality check inspires you to try new ways of working and have new conversations at work to create meaning during the chaos.

Originally published on LinkedIn.com

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