I believe it’s Newton’s First Law of Motion that states, “a working mom in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” At least that’s how I’ve felt throughout motherhood – constantly on the go: kids, commute, work, commute, kids, more work, bed. I never questioned it. There was no time for that. I just kept going, no stopping. And then, out of nowhere, an “unbalanced force” came into the picture. The pandemic flipped the whole system on its head and forced us all to reevaluate our priorities and routines.
The world has changed. And now, as Corporate America returns to the workplace, how will working-mom-life change? I reached out to several mothers in my office (Newport Beach) to get their perspectives on what they hope to take with them from the pandemic. Were there any revelations? What did they learn? What did it uncover for them personally or professionally? Were there any silver linings? What should companies consider if they want to retain and support working moms moving forward?
Rita Carter, AIA – Studio Principal: The ability to substitute commute time with meaningful and healthy activities (exercise in the mornings and family quality time in the evenings) has been my pandemic silver lining. Cutting down, or eliminating, the commute provided much-welcomed breathing room, as it diminished the hustle of the morning and evening routines. Moving forward, companies should consider a hybrid or flexible schedule to retain and support working moms. Leaders must recognize that, with hybrid/flexible or work-from-home models, regular and mindful check-ins with reports are imperative so that employees don’t feel forgotten.
Meghana Joshi, AIA, NOMA – Senior Project Manager: When the pandemic forced us to bring work and school home, we brought more than our commitments and virtual engagements. My children are at an age where working motherhood does not involve changing diapers, feeding schedules, or participation in distance learning. Both teenagers are at a vulnerable age where social interactions are the prime essence of interpersonal relationships and emotional well-being. Motherhood expectations were redirected towards positivity and mental health.
Silver linings are galore, but the gift of time is unparalleled. Never had I imagined being home with my family without outside interaction for such a long period of time. As much as I enjoy being in the office, I miss spending time with my teenage daughters. My pandemic takeaway will be to take scheduled breaks with the family to unwind together. I think the future of the workforce should be hybrid, building on the trust and accountability cultivated during the pandemic – that will help maintain the necessary gender balance and diversity to provide equitable opportunities and intentional assimilation frameworks.
Hedi Carrigan, CID – Interior Designer: 2020 has truly tested my endurance, but I am coming out on the other side with a new set of multi-tasking skills. I will remember this time as the year I got to stay home with my son – and that has been the greatest silver lining of all. I think companies should consider a hybrid/flex schedule, with the option to WFH full-time, to support working moms in whatever best suits their needs. While other moms have had to leave the workforce, flexibility has allowed me to keep my career and has solidified my loyalty as an employee.
Kristina Quintanilla, Assoc. AIA – Director of Studio Strategies: I am taking with me memories of the more than 500,000 minutes I was able to spend with my kids. During the moments I wanted to throw in the towel (and there have been many), I would remind myself that as a working mother, I would never have had this opportunity, otherwise. Even in the first months of my kids’ lives, I spent less time with them than I have in the past year. From a personal perspective, I uncovered the importance of sleep and carving out moments for me. Post-pandemic, one thing I would love to see is more flexibility during the summer… THAT would be AMAZING!! Not having to worry about childcare last summer was a GIFT! I find summertime to be one of the hardest seasons to balance both jobs.
Jennifer Bermudez, CHID, NCIDQ, CID, LEED AP BD+C – Interiors Project Manager: The silver lining of the pandemic for me was bonding with my family. Over the last year, I have had a chance to meet my kids all over again, really get to know their induvial personalities. I realized how much of their lives I am missing out on and feeling blessed to have this precious gift of time with my family. As companies shift back to work, we should consider a hybrid schedule for working moms, especially during their kids’ developmental years. You don’t ever get those years back.
Farnaz Mahjoob, WELL AP – Project Manager: I came across a quote the other day that said, “Working-while-momming does not = unprofessional. COVID, at least that’s one thing you got right.” We all know the “mom guilt” is real. Before the pandemic hit, I felt an immense sense of guilt knowing I would miss most of my son’s toddler years. But since the pandemic happened, I’ve spent a majority of his toddler months at home. Each day he is learning new words and developing his unique personality – and I didn’t miss any of that. Some days, he was busy in the corner of my Zoom screen drawing on my notes. Even on the days that I was extremely busy, hiding from him to join client meetings or get work done, I could still hear him talking, playing, or giving attitude – and it all brought a smile to my face. My son has been a constant presence in my career as a working mom and I am grateful that I am part of an organization that allows and respects that.
The pandemic has given working moms a taste of an alternate reality where work and life can co-exist simultaneously. Time spent enjoying family, focusing on health, and staying off the highway has proved invaluable to the working moms I spoke with. Now, as kids return to school, and parents back to the office, how will the workplace respond to this post-pandemic awakening? And how will flexibility be redefined to accommodate these new realities and desires?