• Kristina Mulligan

"The Pandemic Workday Has Obliterated Work-Life Balance"

I received an email today, as I do every morning, with a round-up of Medium.com articles curated for me. It’s my daily dose of “social” interaction that I look forward to scrolling through. The top article listed for me was titled, “Three Hours Longer, the Pandemic Workday Has Obliterated Work-Life Balance” and the subheading read: People are overworked, stressed, and eager to get back to the office.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not critiquing the article. I admit that I didn’t even read it. I didn’t have to. This article pretty much sums up how almost every single conversation starts these days. I get to hear all about everyone’s work-from-home struggles including long hours, different (or lack of) equipment, the difficulty focusing on work tasks when your personal life is literally surrounding you (and crawling on your lap), and the ever-popular “inability to separate work and home life.”

I listen, I comfort, I am a friend to lean on, and I empathize. Working from home is hard, I get it. I’ve been doing it for the past three years.

I never planned on being a work-from-home mom. When I envisioned my life, I always thought that I would be a stay-at-home mom. Having no experience, I thought I'd be amazing at it. My career was never the center of my life. It’s not my passion, but something I have to do to pay bills and follow my dreams, which included building a family.

As with anything though, plans changed. When Flynn was born prematurely and his care was more involved than a “typical” child, it was glaringly obvious that our family required more than one income to survive. It wasn’t realistic, however, for me to return to my previous office-based job, and my employer worked with me on a plan to transition my job to a remote position. I felt extremely fortunate to have this opportunity that not a lot of people would have. I still do.

And ever since, I’ve been working from home – or from a doctor’s office, in the car on the way to a specialist, or from the physical therapy center floor, just to name a few places. I’ve done conference calls while entertaining a toddler like a court jester, all while learning the beauty of the mute button. I’ve conducted meetings while bathing and dressing a child with sensory processing disorder. While people were complaining about my “lack of accessibility,” I was soothing my sweet boy, his legs fatigued before 11am as he begged for his mommy. I have my laptop on all day long and said goodbye to 8:30am-4:30pm hours long ago, often working over twelve hours a day. Sometimes, in order to get some sleep at night, I have to take care of scheduling appointments, "lesson planning," and other personal matters while troubleshooting work issues, too.

I’m not requesting a medal. I don’t need a pat on the back. I’m not even looking for acknowledgement. I do what I have to for my family, just like anyone else. What I am hoping is that as everyone returns to the office and former life resumes, there is perspective. I hope that you remember the feelings you had while you were working from home, the isolation, the chaos, the exhaustion, and give those of us who live this lifestyle as our “normal” a little bit of grace. Because while, during this pandemic, “people are overworked, stressed, and eager to get back to the office,” we are constantly burnt out, feel like we’re buried by the demands of others, and just looking for understanding that our “office” looks a lot different.

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