(Day 16: Write about something that you miss.)
Here we are. Mid-July. [When did THAT happen, anyway?!] The United States has been trying like hell to fight against Covid-19 since March. And my home state, Connecticut, which began as a hotbed of infections, has led the charge in flattening the curve and getting transmission rates under control. Our reward? We’re currently on “phase 2” of Governor Lamont’s reopening plan with an eye toward “phase 3.” Great news, right? Well, yes. But there’s still a long list of things that I miss. Things that aren’t back to normal yet. Today, I’d like to talk about the number one item on that list.
Bring it in because I’m only going to admit to this once. Are you ready? I miss working from my office. In mid-March, as I was packing up a box of necessities from my desk, I felt an excitement in my belly. The plan was to work remotely to adhere to local “stay at home” orders. There was no talk of how long the arrangement would last but I think most of us envisioned a few weeks, tops. And when I locked the office for the last time four months ago, I was ready to be remote. Ready to stop incessantly pumping hand sanitizer onto chapped hands in an effort to protect those around me. Ready to let some of my anxiety over the virus fall away finally. No more co-mingling with possible carriers. No more constant worry about whether or not I’ve touched my face.
The beginning of working remotely was an adjustment, but not necessarily in a bad way. I pulled my daughter from daycare, glad to have her home safe with me. I enjoyed a fluid work station, having traded my desktop computer at work for my laptop in bed or at the dining room table or on my couch or lounging in the backyard. It felt freeing. A little fun, even. A girl could get used to this, I thought. But as the weeks became months, I soon realized the folly of my initial excitement.
These past four months have reminded me why I’ve never chosen to be a WAHM (work at home mom). And the main reason is because it’s virtually. fucking. impossible. In the beginning, I told myself it would get easier when the school year ended so I wouldn’t have to play teacher for part of the day during “distance learning.” I was wrong. In the middle, I told myself it would get easier when my daughter was able to get back to the hobbies she loves, soccer and dance. I was wrong about that, too. Lately, I’ve been telling myself that it would get easier if I just re-enrolled her in daycare. But let’s face it. The mom guilt over even contemplating sending her to daycare when I’m “just at home” is rooted too deep to ever actually allow me to do such a thing. So I forge on. Constantly distracted.
My work day begins, as it always has, at 8am. Only instead of settling into my office, firing up my workstation with its two monitors, and focusing on my tasks in a distraction-free space, things are a bit more chaotic these days. The physical space in which I work varies based on whether my laptop needs to be plugged in or whether or not I’ll need to print anything imminently. It varies based on what my daughter is doing at the time; sometimes the TV is too loud for me to answer phone calls, other times I need to be within earshot of her to thwart arguments between her and the neighborhood kids. It varies based on the time of day and what non-work-related thing is in demand at the time; has she had lunch? How many snacks has that been today? She wants to take a bubble bath at 2pm?
Sometimes I have to apologize to clients for the sound of my dog barking in the background. Sometimes I have to barricade myself in the bedroom to get enough privacy to complete a Zoom meeting. Sometimes I need to pretend like I didn’t just step over and around three thousand and twelve toys on the living room floor to get a glass of water. Sometimes I need to be okay with my daughter running the hose all. day. long. because it keeps her happy and lets me work in peace. Sometimes I’ve got to walk away from work briefly to get ice for her scrape or to help her decipher a word she can’t figure out or to let the dog in for the millionth time.
By the time my husband comes home from his office—that lucky bastard!—I’m a ball of nerves. At the end of my patience. Often on the verge of tears. I’ve spent all day being pulled in a dozen directions, trying to please everyone by filling two roles—mom and worker. And feeling like a failure at both. I give all I can, leaving pieces of myself everywhere. And by the time hubby’s home, the task of gathering all those pieces to make myself whole again feels daunting. But wait. There’s more. I remind myself to show him patience. He’s worked all day, too, I remind myself. I feel guilty that his welcome home is so frazzled (emotionally) and messy (physically). I feel guilty at not having picked up all the toys she’s taken out and for not having started to cook dinner yet. I feel guilty about being grumpy. I feel guilty about not having any more grace left in me to help my daughter with the simplest of tasks without snapping at her. And all of this leaves me feeling like a failure at my third role: wife.
I’m confident that my story is not unique. There are millions of other people in my shoes right now. Trying to make the best of juggling working from home and parenthood. Trying to give more of themselves than even exists. Trying not to lose themselves completely in the melee. To them, I say, I see you. I’m with you. And it’ll get easier when we can get back to the office. [Famous last words.]