Pull-Ups, Presentations and Panic — Life As A WFH Parent and Professional

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As I settle in for another week of parenting and account directing through a quarantine/pandemic, I thought maybe some other working parents in adland could use some words of encouragement. Or at least the sweet satisfaction of knowing they’re not alone in struggling to be a parent and professional right now. See you on Zoom (please excuse my screaming child).

Agency life has always been a challenging life for parents. The hours, expectations, deadlines. While many of my peers have opted to go client-side as they became moms and dads (or just for a change), I’ve chosen to continue living the agency life. I love the collaboration and the challenges and the creativity. And though I very rarely get the well-balanced thing right, being a working mom in advertising gives me fulfillment and purpose and makes me feel well-rounded. Or at least it used to.

I chose to be a working mom, NOT a full-time working mom and stay-at-home mom at the same time.

But along with millions of other parents, right now, it is my new no-deadline, confirmed reality. 

In the not so distant past, on any given day I was completely comfortable jumping between clients and projects and people. Now I’m jumping from presentations to Play-Doh, from client phone calls to finger painting, from prepping snacks to prepping pitches. All while trying to pry my stage-five-clinger of a toddler from my arms. And sometimes all before noon.

I’m trying (read: failing) to organize unrealistic routines for my family with minimal success. I’m attempting to be as productive as I was pre-crisis, doing everything in my power to be a valuable partner to clients and a voice of reason for those around me. I find myself telling my team to make time for themselves and that it’s perfectly OK not to be perfect right now, but then working nights and weekends to try and make things perfect.

Working from home with kids at home is an exercise in multi-tasking not even the best project managers can solve. And these past few weeks have been what I can only describe as an exhausting mix of hilarity, chaos, and frustration, paired with moments of deep appreciation, and layered with some serious, gut-wrenching guilt. Different from the typical mom guilt of the past that came with “working late” and missing bedtime.

The every day, all-encompassing guilt is real and literally in my face while at home.

“Mommy close your computer” is a tough sentence to hear constantly coming from a two-year-old’s mouth. 

I feel guilty that I’m not doing enough at home or at work. I feel guilty about comparing myself to child-free peers. I feel guilty about complaining when others are in a much worse situation. When others are sick. When my two best friends are working to save lives. I feel guilty for giving my husband even less attention than usual. For forgetting to feed my daughter lunch, for sticking her in front of Frozen, again, and for not wanting to play hide and seek for the 26th time this hour.

I’d do anything for some typical mom guilt right about now. This quarantine is a new level of work and life and multitasking and guilt with most definitely no balance or separation in view.

Last week I Slacked a fellow mom/co-worker an article about the stark realities of WFH parents in the Corona-age.

Reply: I love anything that makes me feel normal. “  

#TRUTH. We all just want to feel a bit more normal right now. 

I find myself needing perspective and validation. I want to be reassured that others are having the same thoughts, feelings, frustrations. I want to be reminded that it’s OK not to have it all together right now.

I want to hear from other WFH parents having a tough time, or even from those loving it.

I want to laugh while your child climbs all over you during an internal review or witness you wearing a sparkly pink bandana leftover from a game of cowgirl in between Zoom meetings.

I want to vent to others going through the same thing.

And I want to be reminded that a separate home and office will exist again.

While the creativity and resourcefulness from the ad community during this time has been nothing short of amazing, and it’s truly inspiring to see what we’ve all been able to accomplish virtually from home, I can’t help but dream about getting back to the office – using my commute time to think, being able to see clients face to face, grabbing coffee with my team, workshopping ideas in-person, and getting some semblance of separation back between home and work. So that I can at least continue my ongoing attempt at balancing both.


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