By: Jacqueline Aiello, Co-Founder of The Nesting Place
Stay-at-home to work-from-home mom – a phrase that rang in my ears shortly after the world shut down last March. Like many other mothers, I found myself at home, with no childcare, and a spouse who worked outside the home. My husband and I did not feel safe continuing to use our babysitter and also worried about exposing our parents to COVID (as the ever-feared “silent carriers”), so we opted to cut out all forms of childcare. All of a sudden the burden to watch our toddler fell on me during the day, because my job happened to be one that could be done remotely. While my story was not unique, it made it no less difficult. Navigating the world of a toddler full-time is hard enough; but then add on a full time job as an attorney and a thriving side hustle, all while 5 months pregnant, and it’s no wonder I was constantly on edge. How was I going to get it all done?
There were only a set number of hours during the day, and being pregnant I had no intention of staying up late to check off all the boxes. I had to be smart with my time.
To tackle my work, I would log into my computer fairly early while my husband was still home. I would take care of the mundane, easy tasks of work while making sure my son and I had breakfast. During the day my toddler and I would set out finding activities for him to do on his own. I stocked our cabinet with crafts and activities and essentially set up stations around the house to prevent the ever-looming boredom. It was exhausting to have a second boss (a younger and shorter one at that) constantly needing a new form of entertainment or snack. The highlight of the day was nap time. That is when the real work took place. I would schedule all of my important calls, or more intense writing projects during that potentially 2-hour window of time. I tip toed around the house, took calls from my bedroom and kept the dog outside just to preserve this time. When it was over, and I heard the screams to come get him out of the crib, my heart always sank a little – because I would go back to dividing my time between my day job and my mom job, never quite feeling like I was giving enough to either.
The afternoons were always a mess, filled with extra snacks and some screen time to try and finish out the day strong. My toddler needed more from me and rightfully so. I was wrought with guilt and anxiety on meeting everyone’s needs – my toddler’s, my boss’, my husband’s, my household’s – the list went on and on. Not surprisingly my needs fell towards the bottom of that list, and I was exhausted. I secretly longed for the day I would give birth, to at least have a reason to give myself a break from the pressures of work.
I was burning the candle from both ends and felt like I was on an island with no life raft. It was a scary feeling to know that there was no other option – care for my toddler and make sure all of his needs were met, and also work. So often I found myself desperate to push the pause button, hand off some of the responsibilities and just sit still to rest. Most days this wasn’t an option.
Coming up for air
Fast forward to today and I am now a mother of two – still working that same job and growing The Nesting Place. I was fortunate enough to take six months off to care for my newborn, with my toddler often getting most of the care. Somehow just as our trio finally found our routine, I was back to work. For some strange reason, I thought that this time asking for twice the amount of maternity leave, I would feel much more “ready” to once again face the challenges of a demanding career. Shockingly that wasn’t the case. Thankfully now that I am back we lined up the help that we need and feel comfortable with.
The life of a stay-at-home to work-from-home mother is grueling. The lines are blurred between work and home life, and neither job seems easier. You never feel like your obligations as a mother shut off during the hours of 9 to 5 and thanks to technology you never quite feel like you leave work at the office. Stirring a pot of dinner, answering some end of the day emails and nursing the baby, is often how I simultaneously spend the “witching hours” leading up until bedtime. Mothers just seem to acknowledge that the majority of tasks on their to-do list, cannot simply wait until tomorrow.
In the quest for equality in the workplace, women and mothers somehow forgot to negotiate for equality at home as well. The expectation in many households is that the mother will exclusively ensure the kids are cared for. Whether that comes in the form of finding and interviewing nannies, researching the best daycares, coordinating the schedules of a babysitter, or just scheduling your work calls during naptime. On top of that, many women, like me, put the household chores at a much higher priority than that of their partner. Most of the time it is just easier to do it yourself than to nag to have something get done and to ultimately feel letdown by the results.
Well is it all just doom and gloom, you ask? No. This life does have its perks. Gone are the days of a long and arduous commute into the office, wasting time away from your children. I also don’t have to pump most days, lugging my bodily fluids back and forth, since the baby is home with me to nurse. I’m thankful to get to see my kids for most of the day, and witness all of their milestones firsthand. On one of my work-from-home days (pre-COVID) I saw my firstborn take his first steps; something I may have otherwise missed if I was at the office. So while I do think there could be much improvement in the burden societies put on moms (even more so during this pandemic) I still don’t know if I would trade roles with my husband if I had the chance.
Motherhood is often grueling and thankless. But the payoff of seeing these little beings that you gave life to grow and develop into little people is well worth it.