Balancing Baby, Career and COVID-19
In early 2020, I was excitedly preparing for the arrival of my first baby. We were settling into our new home and work was purring right along with diverse clients, fun projects and a booming economic outlook. And then the storm hit in February – COVID-19.
Not only did this impact many of our clients who suffered at the hands of the economic shutdown (it was crisis communications 24/7), but it also shuttered us all inside, crippling us with the fear of catching the unknown, deadly virus. My anxiety was further heightened as restrictions were announced for expectant mothers. No visitors to the hospital, no leaving the room, no taking off your mask during labor, no certainly as to which doctor would be caring for me and my child – our birth plan, needless to say, was out the window.
But we persevered and our baby girl was born happy and healthy on April 23 in the peak of the pandemic. My maternity leave was isolating, as we could barely leave the house and couldn’t have visitors. Thankfully, my husband was working from home which provided much-needed moral support as I acclimated to this thing called motherhood.
Back at Work: Adjusting to a New Normal
As the end of my leave neared, it was clear that going back to work wasn’t going to look the way I had imagined either. Life was simply off the rails. It was my turn to work from home as my husband stepped into his role as Mr. Mom.
It has been quite an adventure to conduct virtual conference calls with clients as my dogs bark, my husband asks me questions and my baby cries in the background. The urge to go pick her up and comfort her is strong. I have had to learn to trust that my husband can handle it (most of the time). Thankfully, many of our clients are dealing with similar distractions at home. We have had a good laugh together a time or two.
Still, the underlying guilt cannot be denied. “I am not doing enough for my child,” “I need to focus so I can do the best work for my client,” “My partner needs my support,” “The bottles need to be washed,” “I need to pump but I have a Zoom call,” “We need to figure out dinner again.” There might as well be a ping pong ball in my new mom brain.
I empathize with mothers who have numerous children and those who have school-age kids as they work to parent, teach and run a household, all while kicking corporate booty on a daily basis. Bravo to you, multi-tasking mamas!
3 Lessons I’ve Learned So Far from COVID-19
As we face this most recent pandemic spike, we attempt to embrace another delay in returning to routine life. Schools will continue e-learning, working from home has been extended, and we must all pivot and think creatively on how to create new business opportunities and navigate this new normal for clients.
There are many lessons to be learned during COVID-19 – not just professionally but personally.
- We must learn to adapt and be resilient in the face of the unknown. We had to accept that our baby would be arriving pandemic or no pandemic, and to manage our expectations and focus on the positives. Likewise, businesses are having to adjust their plans and find new ways of sharing their stories. While the news may be dominated by COVID-19, you can still earn valuable impressions by pivoting pitches to make them relevant to the world today.
- Match the tone of the moment. It has been vital for my sanity and my family’s wellbeing to remain calm and to provide reassurance that we will get through this. The same can be said for businesses. You can’t simply pretend it is business as usual. You must acknowledge the difficulty your consumers and associates face, lean into the hardships and be authentic in your communication. Show your audience what you care about is the same as what matters to them. We are all in this together.
- Most importantly, give yourself and others grace. It’s easy to judge other mothers during this time. You may see a child make a cameo on your Zoom call. Don’t roll your eyes - be patient. Similarly, you may see a company getting backlash for taking a PPP loan from the federal government. Don’t judge - you could be next on the public scrutiny chopping block.
Lastly, don’t shame yourself for having trouble balancing it all. You are doing great and this too shall pass!
It’s for this reason I gave my daughter the middle name of Grace - an important reminder to always give it to others as well as yourself during these unprecedented times.