When COVID-19 hit last year, two of my worlds collided. It was once easy to compartmentalize my career and family. With the pandemic, in addition to being a career professional from 8 to 5, I was a wife and a mom. I also found myself being a teacher, cafeteria worker, librarian, and the list goes on. But the time was also a time of growth for my children and me, as I worked, and they learned remotely.
One minute I was reminding my fourth grader to take himself off mute to speak and that the class did not need a tour of our home, and the next I was watching my 4-year-old create a permanent marker mural on a piece of furniture while in a meeting.
This year on Mother’s Day, I’m taking a moment to look back over the last year and reflect on what I’ve learned. And more importantly, what my children have learned from me.
Having a career and being a mom can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. This has never been truer than over the last 13 months. We may not want to say it out loud, but being a mom is a messy job. Throw a pandemic in the mix, and it’s a whole new level of messy!
Our days were hectic; more hectic than normal. For us, it was important to keep healthy routines. We had to have structure in our day. My son had various Zoom calls to join throughout the day with assignments to do in between. I had my own schedule of Zoom calls and tasks to complete while entertaining a toddler. We became Zoom professionals together.
The days became very long, going back and forth from one kid to the next, navigating all the sudden changes, lack of control, and various feelings through the day. I had to be okay with taking breaks that I would not normally take and know that realistically, most of my emails would have to be taken care of after the kids were in bed or before they woke up the next morning.
Society pressures women to be good career professionals and good mothers, and for me, it is also important to be present in both roles. I’m thankful Tyson Foods is proactive in tackling gender equality and supporting mothers, also allowing me the time to engage in Business Resource Groups (BRGs) and Network of Executive Women, with a goal of removing some of those pressures and obstacles. When my children needed me while they were home learning, it felt great to know I was supported by my team to step away and give them 100% of my attention.
My kids also learned there were times I needed to give that same attention to my work. That doesn’t mean they didn’t make an appearance on a few of my Zoom calls, but they knew when I needed to focus.
Our words are never as powerful as the example we set, and, one day, what I hope they saw during those moments was a mother who loved them but who also didn’t quit when life got hard. I hope they saw that instead of simply telling them to work hard, I led by example. I hope they saw a passion and drive they can use in their own lives one day. I hope they saw that instead of buckling under the pressures of the unknown, there is always room to rise to the occasion. I hope they saw a mom they are proud of.
With my continued work with the Women’s BRG and Network of Executive Women, I’m helping pave the way for a better future for my daughter, her future children, and other working mothers. These groups help me stay connected with career-oriented women like myself, and collectively, we share a hope for what the future will look like for women in the workplace.
Despite the chaos and struggles of the last year, I am forever thankful for the time I had with my children. It is something I don’t take for granted. I loved our lunches together, I loved hearing them collaborate with their friends and classmates on their calls, I loved helping with their assignments and watching them learn, I loved our outside breaks during the day and cherished the extra time we shared together.
Now that they are back in school and a bit of normalcy has returned, I want them to remember I am not perfect. Far from it. Still, I am constantly growing, learning, changing, and adapting to be the best version of myself as a mother and a professional. And during this time of chaos and uncertainty, I never gave up!
I want other women to know that no matter what life throws at us as working moms – we can do both! Join me for the virtual Network of Executive Women event Mother’s Monday: We Move Forward Together on May 10 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., where we will discuss how workplaces can support working mothers so career and caregiving can coexist.