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Presence Over Productivity: A Working Mom’s Reality Check

Illustration of a bird a branch with its baby singing with the words

On Thursday, March 12th, 2020 we received news that the daycare was ‘strongly’ encouraging us to keep our children at home. They would give us a discount if we did so for the next two weeks. I thought this was fine since my 70-year-old mom who lives across the street could watch him until things cleared up a bit.

As all the face to face meetings were being cancelled and we were given authorization to work remotely, I became quite relieved, even excited. This meant that I could finish up the e-learning modules and really focus on creating and writing!

Then reality hit.

That night I read about what was going on in Italy. They said to stay away from our aging parents especially if they had diabetes and other illnesses. It was clear that we couldn’t visit, hug or kiss my mom let alone have her watch my son.

I contemplated sending my son to the daycare but thought to hold off and see how I could handle juggling both him and work. Also, my partner is considered an essential worker. He is a bricklayer and stone mason at a residential building in need of structural repair so he is not home in the daytime M-F. I felt that since my partner was out working “in the world” that my son and I could potentially have the virus so it was best to keep us away from others.

In 24 hours I lost all child care support and needed to work a full time job remotely.

That Friday the 13th it was just me and my son. He demands my attention so the most I was able to do was answer an email here and there and try to engage in a few meetings. My anxiety level was through the roof. There was a lot of information going back and forth. The Educational Technology committee held an emergency meeting to gather and share out best practices. It was refreshing to gather and support one another. Luckily my son was asleep.

Over the weekend it became clear that this was going to be the “new normal” for several weeks, if not months. There would be no more weekends. In a fit of delusion, I decided to start potty training because we had nowhere else to go and I was going to be productive!

Monday morning began like every other morning. My partner left at 7 am. My son woke up at 7:30 am. We kept our typical routine of shower, diaper, clothes and breakfast. In between, answering work emails. There were many emails about online tools, moving to online platforms and setting up communication systems.

The day started out much less stressful not needing to rush my son and I out the door to daycare and then to sit in traffic to then sit at my desk or sit at a meeting. I answered emails in between breakfast and playing hot wheels. This was so nice!

However, then I needed to talk in a meeting. I wasn’t able to get a word in or complete a thought without interruption from my fellow “co-worker”. After one meeting, he screamed for some turkey slices and then bit my rear end.

This is when I developed the dreaded “pre meeting anxiety.”

Would my son have a tantrum? Would my colleagues judge me? How will I show that I can “keep up”?

After cleaning up after a second potty training “accident” I decided to remove potty training from my “to do” list.

By Thursday it was clear that my partner and I needed to make some realistic adjustments.

He now handles bedtime routines. This allows me to have 1-2 hours to do focused work.

I now also work Saturday and Sundays during naptime. My husband drives around with my son in the car. This is how I have been able to write this testimonial!

We have also developed a few routines to take care of loved ones who cannot go outside.  My mom lives across the street. She lives alone. I call her 2x a day and after naptime around 2pm my son, my mom and I go for a walk. Staying 6 feet apart! My son and I call my mother in law each day and my partner calls her in the morning and at night. Each Saturday morning, my partner makes grocery runs for our family, my mom, his mom and an elderly neighbor.

I also cook a lot more. I have some yummy carnitas in the slow cooker as we speak! My friends and I speak and hangout virtually now at night after my son is in bed.

During “typical” work hours M-F 8:30-4:45pm my productivity is not what it was before but I work on what I can in bursts. More focused work is taking place during naptime and Saturday and Sunday. Working remotely, having flexible work schedules has been lifesaving. My partner and I don’t bicker and fight like we did when we both had to go into the office and squeeze everything into this prepackaged schedule. I’m also fortunate to have supervisors and colleagues who are empathetic and collectively slowing down and making adjustments.

I feel more whole, connected and present with my family and friends and colleagues.

Each day I also find 5-20 minutes to meditate. What keeps coming up is the fear that my loved ones or I won’t survive this. We watched my father in law, who was 71, catch pneumonia, get intubated, live without movement, ability to eat, drink or talk for 5 months. He was intubated again and then he caught pneumonia which ultimately killed him. Watching him, my family and I know about what people are experiencing with this virus. My heart hurts picturing my mom, my mother in law and people all over the world suffering in this way. It’s also deceiving that this afflicts the elderly. Last night my son’s daycare shared that someone in the facility who had contact with the children had tested positive for the virus. This cannot be taken lightly.

What gives me hope is that with humans slowing down, relaxing and not being so busy, the Earth and each of us may have a chance to heal. The Earth is healing because “productivity” is down. I’m a better mother, daughter, partner, and friend because I’m focused on being present and not on being productive.

Doing nothing is essential for our survival.

We must slow down. We must not take ourselves too seriously. We need to listen and to be more present for ourselves and each other.

– Anonymous


We must slow down. We must not take ourselves too seriously. We need to listen and to be more present for ourselves and each other.