Prior to the pandemic, I was criss-crossing the U.S. as an events manager for a tech company. My nine-month-old daughter was on the other side of the country, in California. One work trip was particularly difficult because in addition to being away from my two girls and my husband, and running the Jacob Javits Expo Hall, I had to pump.
The pumping room was a 20-minute walk and had limited hours, so I had to be hyper-organized. More often than not, I was running to reach the room before it closed for the day. Skipping a pumping session meant I wouldn’t have enough milk to send home for my daughter. I was relying on a milk shipping service to send breast milk across the country for her.
I woke jet-lagged one morning with 20 minutes to get downstairs to meet my team. Impossible. I had to pump first. I was going to be late and that meant my boss was going to be angry.
After I finished, I rinsed the pump, showered and dressed. I hurried to the elevator, anxiety rising steadily. “On my way!” I texted my team. No response.
My stomach bunched nervously as I ran to the taxi stand. My boss was going to be angry that I was late.
“Karlee! Karlee!” someone called.
I turned to see a coworker running behind me. “Here you go,” she said, handing me a cup of coffee. “I thought you might need this.”
My eyes welled with tears. As I said thank you, I could hear my voice breaking.
Such a small gesture and yet, one that let me know that I was seen, cared for, understood.
My coworker was also a working mom. And her small gesture—was an act of kindness. A cup of warmth that let me know: Everything was going to be okay. And it was.