As a working parent, I’ve mostly known working from home, and I can’t imagine ever giving this up.
I lug the laundry basket with two loads of laundry inside down two flights of stairs and walk to the laundry room around 8:20 a.m. Then I may send an email reminder to my kids’ teachers, confirming the bus they will take home. I decide on a “workday outfit,” put on some light makeup, but not without delving into some self-care, sitting on the balcony with my coffee. I embrace the quiet for a few minutes. Then I might take the trash out. On other days I’ll do a grocery run for whatever I forgot, maybe do some reading, and of course, switch the laundry to dry, all before my first Zoom meeting.
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Before the pandemic broke, my ex-husband and I separated, and we started sharing time with our kids. While adjusting to the new duo-family dynamic, I was settling into working full-time, a huge shift after being a stay-at-home mom for seven years. The second chapter of my life included the emotional strain of seeing my kids now only half the time, striving for financial independence, securing child care and running errands, buying a new lunch box for my daughter or ordering a pair of soccer shin guards to replace lost ones for my son, and researching divorce lingo — all during my lunch break.
Once in those early days, I was in a meeting and missed a call from the after-care center about a miscommunication about the location of my daughter’s school. The van was running late, and I was frantic, imagining my daughter crying with her teacher, unsure when the after-care center van would arrive. Everything worked out, but this small mishap felt huge, as did every time I forgot my son’s favorite water bottle, missed an email about a PTA event I couldn’t attend, didn’t have time to put my daughter’s hair in a ponytail, or ordered socks and a pair of pants to arrive overnight because I didn’t have time to do laundry. And of course, I had to hold back an avalanche of tears while standing in a work meeting noticing my daughter’s slime on my dress.
Those weeks are a blur. The evenings became a circus of dashing after work to pick up my two kids, ages 5 and 7 at the time, clanging pots and pans together in the kitchen to mix mac and cheese, and trying not to burn a hamburger while helping with their homework at the same time. Then it was rounding up baths like a drill sergeant, and almost falling asleep in mid-sentence while reading my kids a book before bedtime. I was losing my grip.
I would lie in bed wondering if I had even really seen my kids’ faces that day. I would promise myself to throw in a round of Uno before the bedtime routine and to hug them a little tighter tomorrow.
Then the pandemic shifted the rhythm of life again, and I was back home, working from my MacBook Air. At first, I made an office on the balcony with the spring sunshine. I didn’t have to rush to get my kids breakfast, teeth brushed and out the door to the bus or drop-off line. Sure, there were some eyeball popping moments, with three laptops all working together and homeschooling with different virtual schedules and Zoom times, but I was with my kids. I had them present, in the other room, and as a co-parent, it was a treat to have more time with them. I could eat lunch with them. I could do a stretch beside them as they did their virtual gym class.
It helped my productivity level at work too, to know I didn’t have to rush anywhere. For the first time, there was calm in the new normal of being a single mom during my weeks with the kids.
In the summer, they were home with me, while I worked on the balcony, and we would go to the pool after my workday or to the nature center and see the frogs, turtles, and if we were lucky, a snake or crane.
When school reopened in the fall, and the kids went back to the classroom, I was still home. I was crushing my to-do list, more than ever. I was doing my daughter’s hair in the morning; I was able to grab an extra high five from my son. Working from home allows me to support my kids as head of my household, and while balancing the day-to-day grind of housework and errands, it lowers my stress level while rebooting my life into a new normal.
Working from home also allows me to keep my mental health in check. Whenever I take a walk around the block while taking the trash out, and feel the sunshine during my lunch break, I feel thankful, revived, whole, and content. I feel lucky I get to pick my kids up at the bus in between my Zooms.
I save money too. Working from home means I spend less on childcare, and while I gain financial freedom and rebuild my life, it is a huge financial benefit when after-school care for two kids can be over $600 a month.
Also, I save money on gas and work clothes (which also means less laundry), and there’s more money to spend on making memories. Last weekend we went to a farm where my kids were able to feed baby goats, camels, and cockatiels.
Each morning after making waffles and reminding my kids to brush their teeth and grab their masks, I’m counting on my lunch break to go grocery shopping, fold some laundry, clean my car out, or remove the gunk from under the couch.
The best part of working from home: those little conversations during that short walk after I get my kids off the bus. They share knock-knock jokes. We walk as fast or slow as they want. And I hold my daughter’s hand, while asking my son about gym class. This extra time with them, before I’m off into another Zoom, is time I won’t get back. How can I let go of getting to see my kids more?
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