Momming: Motherhood in a Remote Work, Post-Pandemic World
My recent post discussed what it was like becoming a new mom during a pandemic, but this time I’d like to discuss what it’s like to work remotely while being a mom. First of all, it’s odd. I work in my basement at a desk I found on Zulily a couple of years ago while perched precariously on a wobbly chair I’ve had since…forever. I do any shopping on my phone or laptop, always for pickup. Curbside if they have it. It’s been over a month since I was in a store. It’s not that I dislike stores, but I was thrilled when the pandemic created the possibility of getting groceries brought out to you or delivered to your door. With a toddler in tow wanting to run everywhere and grab everything, it’s so much easier just to let the employee bring out the items. I always help load the stuff and thank them sincerely once they are done. But that’s just one aspect of modern momming. Another is working remotely while your kid plays nearby.
Since we set up the basement as a massive play area, it’s been easier to keep our 2.5-year-old entertained when he’s home with me. Before a recent team meeting, I set him up with his tablet, train game, some chips, and baba and ensured his diaper was clean. He was entertained just long enough for the meeting to progress and end before asking for attention again. Before this job, I was off work for eight months, and he was used to mama being home and available regularly. Before that, I worked remotely every day from my mom’s, my in-laws, or home, depending on various factors like weather.
Initially, as a three-month-old, he played in his bouncer or playpen while I worked an arms-length away. I take breaks to nurse, change, or hold him. He’d play and babble or cry whether I was in a meeting. To him, I’ve always worked remotely. A computer on my lap or at a desk, telling him I’ll be done shortly. I’ve been fortunate to have a remote job for about a month now, which is very supportive and understanding of their many remote workers. My past experiences were not as supportive, but given the newness of the situation, no one had clear rules about what remote work-life balance should look like.
Now that an employment revolution has rocked the world after the pandemic, employees have more say in employee expectations and rules. Some employers boast flexible schedules, better pay, and sign-on bonuses. The demand for flexibility came from decades of employees being punished for tardiness or minor infractions. The expectations were unrealistic. Now, the world has changed, and it is a commonplace.
As soon as maternity leave ended, I opened up my laptop and started to work again. I always thought I’d be back in an office, but I like being remote. When I was looking for work, I looked for exclusively remote positions. There aren’t many for people with library backgrounds, but I did find one in copywriting for a motorsports company. Other moms, I’ve talked to have said similar things, such as enjoying the flexibility to play with their kid(s) for a few minutes here and there to allow a better balance of working and momming. This, of course, is not meant to exclude fathers who work remotely, as the same can easily be applied to them.
Other moms had talked about how even during the pandemic, when schools were shut down, it was beneficial to the family unit to have more together-time. One lady I used to work with setting up her kids at the same table as her, so they were all doing school work and regular work together. That way, no one was alone unless they needed to be, and there was more bonding with her pre-teens. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that being home regularly with our kiddo has undoubtedly ensured a strong relationship. Even when we get on each other’s nerves. On those days, moments, hours…I try to remember how fortunate I am to spend so much time with him before he goes off to school and doesn’t need me as much. I may be a remote mama, but I’m also a blessed one.
By Gretchen Hendrick Gardella, MLIS
Gretchen Hendrick Gardella is a Librarian with administrative, research, and vast technical skills. Ms. Gardella brings over 16 years of experience working in academic and public libraries to the discussion.