Working Mums through the pandemic
What has it been like being a working mum during the COVID pandemic?
The steadfast approach of Mother’s Day at Accuteque has made the team reflect on what role parenthood and work play together, and in particular how to get the balance of being a working mum right for you. Mary Batzakis and Vy Pham from our QA team put down some thoughts on what being a working mum means to them and how work has impacted their roles as mothers, particularly during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Has the COIVD-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns changed your work life balance?
I had our youngest at the start of Covid in 2020 and through that year we were mostly in lockdown. I remember feeling overwhelmed with a newborn, and 2 other young children amid uncertain times. Lots of new things to adapt to and as a result there were changes we had to implement as a family. As parents, my husband and I had to learn to be more patient with the kids. It was hard not just for us, but also for them. They couldn’t go to school, or childcare or meet friends as they would normally. We had to make do with what we had at home, create our own entertainment, and tried our best to stay connected to friends and family virtually.
By the time I returned to work from maternity leave at the end of 2020, everyone was working from home. While my husband was able to go into work, the kids and I were working from home and home-schooling. Juggling both of these as well as the household was no easy feat. Again I felt overwhelmed. House chores kept piling up with no end in sight, so we had to compromise – we can’t all be neat at the same time, its either the kids, me, or the house. We taught our boys how they could help us with house chores, starting with cleaning up their own mess.
Once restrictions were lifted and we were able to return to the office, it was also time for me to head back into the office. I started with one day a week and that was a nice change of scenery compared to the last 18 months. I enjoy the face to face interactions and also not having to worry about what the kids are up to, as by then they have also returned to school and childcare.
Fortunately, throughout Covid I was surrounded by very supportive colleagues and clients who allowed me the flexibility to choose my working hours. This made easing back into the workforce less daunting.
I think COVID-19 has opened the door to Working from Home flexibility that as a mother to three young kids has allowed me to be there with them while being at work. It forced us to combine work life and home life, as any external support was not allowed. I feel like it gave me the opportunity to do both being a Mum and having a career.
It has also forced me to create a line between work and home. To be productive during certain times and to switch off and be with family afterwards.
What are the main pros and cons of working from home versus working in the office?
For me the biggest pro of working from home is time savings. I would save up to an average of 10 hours weekly in commute time which also saves money. I save time moving between meetings. All these savings could be spent with loved ones, catching up on work or household chores. The other big pro for me is the convenience of being home and flexibility of working hours. I can do school pickups or run errands that I can only do on weekdays. Another thing that is great is that I have a personalised workspace!
A con of working from home for me is if the kids are home too then it is the constant distractions. While I have to work harder to stay focused, I find sometimes I am having to log back on later in the evening to finish off work that should’ve been completed in the day
The biggest pro of being in the office for me is the face-to-face interactions. While there is more noise, I feel there is slightly more productivity as I can just focus on work and no having to worry about what the kids are up to.
A con of working in the office would be why it is so great working from home, time spent in commuting to the office. When the school calls to say our child needs to be picked in the middle of the day, as quickest it takes over an hour to get there.
Leaving the house is hard. The kids got used to Mum working but also being there. Now we are starting to create the separation again and we are dealing with anxieties of Mum being away, in addition to all the things we need to coordinate because I’m away. Who will do pick up, who will organize the lunchboxes and dinner, and all the planning that goes into having a young family. But on the flip side, a reason to leave the house for a change, the opportunity to see people face to face and have proper conversations, building connections while in the office is equally important, and a lovely change of scenery once you actually make it out of the house.
What do your children know about your work? Do they like to get involved, ask questions or try to help?
Our kids don’t really know what I do for work and they haven’t really asked much about it. They do love popping into my meetings to say Hi, bit of show and tell, or sometimes can be heard in the background.
I have three young boys, aged 7, 3 and 1 and they all understand Mum being at work differently. But I find it is really good for them to see me work. They know if I am talking to the computer that I’m in a meeting and mostly know that’s Mummy’s important time, they are starting to see that if I’m not talking that they can approach me. They are starting to pretend play a Working in the Office game where they start typing on the keyboards and start talking to the computer screens and even quoting names of people I talk to often. I feel like they can see me work now and don’t simply associate Mum going to work as Mum being away.
What motivates you to continue working?
Since Covid I realised how fortunate I was to be able to continue working and how well Accuteque takes care of me. I am motivated to contribute more to the team and find that fine work-life balance.
I found my purpose in becoming a mother. And that subsequently feeds into my motivation at work. I have learnt that to teach your children anything, you have to show them, not tell them. My kids see me at work, and they are taught so much more. They are taught, dedication, loyalty, work ethos. They are taught that in life, you have to work hard. So everyday, when I struggle to do it all, sometimes I win and other times I fail, I know I am teaching my little humans some very important life lessons.
Working from home and juggling parenthood during Covid was a big challenge for me personally and professionally. The juggling act is a little more difficult as our kids are still young and highly dependent. In a few years’ time I believe that the work life balance I’m seeking will be possible. I have heard this from colleagues who have children older than ours, so I am eagerly looking forward to this stage. At Accuteque I always feel well supported to do my best when I am at work.
My little advice for women returning to work after maternity leave is that whether you are working from home or going in the office, ensure you are well supported and call out for help whenever you need it. Be up for the challenge as you never know what you’re capable of!
As a Mum, we want to do it all. My children are everything to me and are the reason I am at work as we need to provide for them, and be a positive role model.
But we are important even outside our family too. We are also people with needs and we are more than just Mum. We need to nurture that side too. I feel like as horrible the Covid stage was, the lockdowns and the associated fear, Covid opened up so many avenues. It gave focus to what really is important, it forced businesses to provide flexibility, and for me, allowed me back into the workforce when I would otherwise not have had the ability.