At Betches, we’ve been working from home for 45 days and counting. And while everyone is starting to go a little stir-crazy from the lack of human interaction, and we’re all probably sick of Zoom meetings, what makes WFH different for me (and any parent) is working from home with a toddler. We’re talking about a whole new idea of annoying coworkers here. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of this extra time with my son and husband, but all of the memes about hiding in the closet or bathroom are real.
I’m 31 years old, and the Art Director at Betches Media, and I have a beautifully energetic 22-month-old son, Oliver.
All I see on social media is what to do with this newfound time that quarantine has given people—baking artisanal bread, learning a new language, painting a mural on your living room wall. Meanwhile, I’m over here just trying to find time to make myself lunch. Our day starts at a bright 6am most mornings, which I have to admit, are my favorite. We all wake up happy, pre-anxious meltdowns, ready to start our day. My husband usually works out while I take Oliver downstairs to eat breakfast and get a couple of minutes to catch up on some emails or the news.
After my 20-ish minutes of zen, Oliver is READY. Think about a wind-up toy that’s just running in all directions. I try to stay away from the TV as much as possible, so the morning is usually arts and crafts time where I can give him most of my attention so he doesn’t redecorate my house with red crayon (again). After that, I turn on Paw Patrol and hope we get a good hour of TV babysitting time while he plays with his toy cars.
My day-to-day as Art Director usually consists of meetings with team members and other departments about current and future projects. I work closely with our content, video, ecommerce, sales and marketing teams (in other words, every team at Betches). In between meetings, I am designing on the computer—usually logos, decks, Instagram posts, and new graphics for our shop website. Keep in mind I have to actually focus while I’m designing. So throwing a toddler into this schedule is a bit like throwing a puppy into a yoga class.
In normal life, my husband and I commute into the city and my son goes to daycare. He gets to socialize with kids his age, be constantly engaged in learning new things, and have teachers deal with the crazy little people. Now, I am the teacher, friend, chef and mother. I try to make time through the day to engage with Oliver and give him undivided attention, but more than I’d like to admit, my computer takes priority. But I still try to find small ways to interact with him, like thinking of times when I can take voice calls instead of video so I can run around the backyard with him or take him for a walk to get some fresh air. (Bonus: it’s exercise, right?)
Aside from the obvious frustrations of WFH while mothering, there are so many new issues that have come up that you don’t see on the surface that a lot of parents are dealing with right now. As someone who has battled with a generalized anxiety disorder for half of my life, current events have only amplified this problem. Will my coworkers understand why I’m not answering them right away or why there’s a small person in all of our meetings pulling me in another direction yelling “come on, mama”? I’m also constantly worried that this will affect Oliver’s intellectual growth, social skills, and attachment to me and my husband. This is a crucial time in Oliver’s development, so I find myself Googling sensory activities and watching all of the Insta moms make this sh*t look easy. But I will say, everyone can have their artisanal bread… I’ve fully mastered playdough.
While I’m grateful to have my husband to share parenting duties, he and I are in what feels like a constant battle of who’s “busier” and who needs to be watching Oliver. My husband works full-time in tech sales running a team and is on Zoom calls literally all day. He is very involved and does what he can, but his idea of “watching” Oliver is putting the TV on. (Ok fine, he takes him outside sometimes too.)
When all of the obvious problems started to arise, we also had to deal with f*cking sleep issues. I thought sleep training was left back in 2018 when my son was first born. We had to re-sleep-train Oliver to nap in his crib and stay asleep in the middle of the night. We went over a month of sleepless nights. So we were both cranky from not sleeping and we still had to do the day all over again. Luckily we contacted a sleep consultant ($250 later) and after a week we were back on track. Toddlers really need their schedule, and his was turned completely upside down.
While most days It feels like I’m on a sitcom rerun of some messed-up Twilight Zone babysitters club, I still appreciate this time I get to spend with my family. This has all taught me so much about motherhood, and I have so much more respect for stay-at-home moms and teachers. Working from home with my toddler has given a whole new meaning to work/life balance. I am so grateful to be a part of a company that empowers me as a working mother, and I’m ok with working until 11pm to finish projects because I know I’ll never have this amount of quality time with my son again.
If you’re someone who is right alongside me with this, the best advice I could give is to plan with your significant other the night before on who has meetings when. Understand your child’s attention span and plan for different activities where you could both sit there with them, and get some work done. And sometimes, when it’s all too much, just turn on music and have a dance party, it’s a way better outlet than getting angry or frustrated.
Images: Brittany Levine