As a single mom, I was put under enormous pressure this past year. I learned a lot about myself as a parent at home and as a leader at work. I was also able to find out who I want to be in both of those roles. The pandemic changed every aspect of my life.
After close to a year at home, I've been able to reflect back on this time and see it for the hidden gem it truly was. It brought so much clarity to my life as a working mom and it helped me to focus on what really mattered. I certainly didn't start off with such an optimistic outlook from the beginning though!
The pandemic changed my work life
In the beginning, the thought of telling my employer that I'd need to work from home because my son's school had shut down brought me crippling anxiety. Though my employer had reopened physically after a temporary two month closure, I wasn't ready for life to go back to normal. However, the message was clear that it was an environment in which my physical presence in the office was necessary in order to advance in my career. I accepted the reality of those circumstances and began to spend my weekends searching for a new job that would permanently allow me to work from home.
After several months of applying to over 400 jobs online via Indeed, The Mom Project, and Tech Ladies, I was offered a position as a copywriter with a company that has always operated in a remote capacity. The interviewing process was refreshingly unique and asked me to show I could do the job I was applying to rather than judging me on how well I answered questions via zoom call.
I have now been working as part of a remote team for a company that I'm excited about and I'm loving it. More importantly, I love the work I'm doing and I'm so appreciative that my employer supports a work environment in which I can juggle family life and work life simultaneously.
The pandemic changed my parenting life
As a result of the COVID-19 closures, I've spent more time at home than ever before. It's also given me the opportunity to spend more time with my son and appreciate the hours and days we've spent together. Back when life was "normal," we really only looked forward to the weekends when we'd spend the days doing something fun. Our weekdays were full of school and work and after-school care and bedtime routines from the hours of 6am to 8pm. The days flew by and I often went to bed feeling unfulfilled that I hadn't spent much TIME with JT at all.
My son splits his time between two households since his father and I divorced two years ago. On the days that JT was with his dad, I went into the office. On the days that he was home with me, I worked from home and assisted him with school. It was a delicate balance and it only got easier with time and with forcing myself to stop stressing about my son's schooling.
The bond we've created as a result of this unexpected pandemic has truly been a blessing I could have never imagined. I didn't even know that I needed it. I thought that I already had it as good as it was going to get. Now, I can't imagine going back to the days when I spent only an hour or two with my child.
The pandemic changed my child's school life
I've spent the past three years advocating for my son in the classroom, knowing that he doesn't operate quite the same way as your average, typical kid. JT is likely twice-exceptional as an ADHD kid with advanced intellect. At the time of school closures in March, he was awaiting an assessment by a psychologist at Rady Children's Hospital. Since then, he has been diagnosed with ADHD by his pediatrician, opening up the opportunity for a 504 Plan at school.
Having done Distance Learning from home alongside myself for the past several months, I've been able to witness firsthand the unique difficulties my son struggles with in a classroom environment. Back in March when he was finishing up first grade, I was an anxious mess watching on as he squirmed in his seat and ignored his teacher and refused to participate in writing exercises.
I have come to learn that those behaviors weren't that of a delinquent child but attributes of a student with difficult to understand sensory issues and ADHD. His constant need for movement could be soothed with a wiggle stool. When it appears he isn't paying attention in class, he still manages to comprehend what's going on. His discomfort with writing by hand has been accommodated with voice to text document creation.
Since then, I've learned to take a more hands-off approach as JT participates in his second grade class online. His teacher is aware of his issues in the classroom and supports him to the best of her virtual ability. We work together to come up with accommodations that allow him to thrive in the Distance Learning model without holding him back in his potential for advanced learning.
The pandemic changed everything
To say I am the same person I was a year ago would be a gross misstatement. When confronted with difficult decisions, I persevered. This entire past year has been one big exercise in self-improvement. I hope others have had a similar experience.
Read more about my role as a woman in the workplace and life as a single mom on my blog.