Working from Home without Childcare Has Been...Stressful. But Here Are 3 Amazing Things That Have Happened

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In Torn in Two: The Experience of Maternal Ambivalence, British psychotherapist Rozsika Parker writes about the push and pull of motherhood—the paradox of wanting your child close but also craving space (both physically and emotionally) at the same time. This contradiction is just one of the many strange—but normal—parts of being a parent.

When I think about this dilemma, I picture a thick rope and a game of tug of war where on one side, I’m excited about my work and relish brainstorming ideas with brilliant colleagues, and yet in the same day (the same hour, even), I can miss my nine-month-old so much that my heart actually aches. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I had become comfortable with this dichotomy over the last five months as a working parent, but I had certainly settled into a rhythm. Until the coronavirus upended all our lives, that is.

In the last few weeks, this imaginary rope has been pulled taut with the fibers threatening to snap at any moment. Thanks to social distancing, I am somehow both with my child and apart from him constantly, as I juggle working from home without childcare.

It’s a difficult situation that so many of us now find ourselves in, although it has to be said that I am one of the lucky ones—many parents are unable to work from home or no longer working at all, not to mention all those moms who are somehow (miraculously) managing on their own. Meanwhile, I am an editor with understanding bosses, and I’m sharing the load with my husband. And that’s not the only thing I’m grateful for—my family is healthy and I’m not going through this period of isolation on my own.

But I won’t pretend that everything is fine because it really, really isn’t—I am exhausted. So, what am I doing to get through this madness? Trying to find the silver linings. Here are three—I hope they cheer you up and that you have some of your own.

1. I Was There for Three Major Milestones

I’m not ashamed to admit that one of my biggest worries about dropping my son off at daycare was missing out on all those adorable “firsts” like crawling, clapping and walking. To put my mind at ease, I actually asked his teachers to not tell me if he started doing any of those things. But since our daycare has camera access, I knew there was a chance that the first time I saw my baby zoom across the floor would be via a screen. Update: Thanks to social distancing, I actually got to witness my son crawl for the first time in the middle of March, and my heart practically burst with joy. The next week, he was pulling himself up. And in our third week of staying at home, he was cruising along our sofa. I don’t even care that his newfound mobility has made our lives more stressful. Seeing him explore the living room on all fours makes me ridiculously happy. Next milestone: Napping long enough for mama to finish her work.

2. I’ve Let Go of Some Parenting Hang-ups 

Pre-coronavirus, I would spend my free time researching infant classes in the neighborhood and looking up baby food recipes online. Right now, my goals are set significantly lower—I just want to get through the day, ideally with my son eating more than just Puffs for lunch. So yeah, I’ve lowered my parenting bar significantly and you know what? I’m OK with that. Case in point: My freezer is full of puréed baby food that I painstakingly steamed and froze into ice cube trays a few months ago. Now, not only do I no longer have the time to make my son pulverized food from scratch, but even popping something out of the ice cube tray feels like too much of a hassle. Instead, he eats what we eat. Sure, sometimes I’ll mash up our dinner or cut it into smaller pieces, but for the most part, I can just plop our chicken stir-fry or lentil curry on his plate and he loves it. (And my pediatrician confirmed this way of eating is better for him, anyway.) And while I used to pick out cute outfits for him to wear every morning, these days he spends a significant portion of the day in his diaper which he seems pretty happy about. Relaxing my so-called standards is saving my sanity and as it turns out, more fun for my son, too.

3. I’ve Learned a Valuable Lesson in Patience

The first week my husband and I worked from home with our son, I tried to squeeze in as much work as possible every free second I had. My husband has the baby and is changing his diaper? Great, I can answer an email. My son found a crumb on the floor? OK, that’ll give me a minute to hop online. It was tiring and not very effective. Now, I’m kinder to myself if I don’t get to that email straight away or respond to a chat immediately. And to be honest, I think this decelerated approach has benefitted more than just my wellbeing—it’s also better for my work output. Responses are a little more thought-out and I only weigh in on issues that I can truly help with. In another bizarre paradox, as my days have become more hectic and out of control, some things have slowed down. Well, my mornings have, anyway. Pre-social distancing, it was always a mad dash to get myself and my son dressed, fed and out the door. But now, I can just savor the time we have together until his first nap at 9 a.m. by cuddling in bed, reading stories and making a mess at breakfast. In other words? I’ve accepted that I can’t do everything all the time so instead, I what I can when I can.

And a Few More Highlights…

Thanks to my new work set-up, I’m no longer pumping breastmilk, I get to wear sweatpants every day and some days are so absurd that they’re downright hilarious. Is this situation ideal? Far from it. But somehow I’ve found unadulterated joy in the last few weeks that—frankly—I wouldn’t have experienced had we not been in these bizarre circumstances. I can’t wait for things to go back to normal, but this is what is getting me through the days right now. I hope you have some bright sides amongst your chaos, too.

I Love My Child-Free Friends, But I Can’t Look at Their Social Media Feeds Right Now


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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...