Ceisler Media Director Meredith Montalto muses on the stresses – and joys – of balancing client requests and potty requests while working from home during the pandemic.
It’s been 12 weeks since our normal lives ceased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Twelve long weeks. Working full time and parenting two small children (ages four-and-a-half and 18 months) has been exceedingly challenging, super stressful and utterly exhausting. And yet, there are also major benefits in all the extra time we get to spend together. Board games at snack time (it’s always snack time), lunchtime walks or scooter rides, watching silly shows, extra snuggles.
Those times get me through it.
Let me first acknowledge that I am privileged and fortunate to be able to work from home, and to have a spouse who can do the same. Our employers have been amazing. We’re not on the front lines. We have our jobs and our health. And, we can work together to hand off the kids to each other during Zoom meetings, breaking deadlines and the general day-to-day hustle and bustle.
It’s still hard, though, and this is not news to anyone who has also been doing this for the last three months. We have just been doing what we need to do to get through it, including way more screen time than the pediatrician recommends. The youngest has become a Sesame Street addict, and regularly runs up to me and screams “Elmo!” in my face to demand her favorite show. Perhaps as a colleague or client, you’ve heard it on the other end of my phone or screen.
In the very beginning, I bought classroom calendars and color, shape and number charts. I purchased an ABC Mouse subscription, and I tried to adhere to the pre-school lesson plans each day. That quickly became unrealistic. Now, we have a Zoom “Circle Time” session in the morning – and maybe in the afternoon if we’re lucky. There is only so much we can do, folks. And I think the one thing we can all agree on, is the inestimable value of teachers. God bless you all. We miss you. We love you.
It’s stressful trying to keep the kids quiet while we’re on calls or video meetings. I haven’t quite had the BBC interview debacle, but sometimes a tantrum erupts or a potty-related request arises and people hear it, and I just grimace.
But you know what? I have found there is a real sense of solidarity here. Countless times, people have responded, “Oh I have a little one myself,” or, “My kid is hunkered down with the iPad, too.”
We’re all in this together, and we can all grant one another a little grace.
After 12 weeks, I have also found more of a rhythm and some coping strategies. I try, if at all possible, to schedule the bulk of my meetings and calls around naptime, so at least there’s just the older one to manage, and he can be kept happy with snacks and electronics.
I also know that sometimes I just am not going to be able to focus or concentrate on a writing project until the kids are in bed and it is finally quiet in the house. I think we all need to be kind to ourselves and try to adapt to the way our lives have changed and will continue to be impacted over the coming months.
I used to love working from home. My kids would be at daycare or with Nana, so I’d be able to concentrate and have only my dogs making demands (did I mention snack time is all the time?).
I would go into Ceisler Media’s Center City office as well, and the face-to-face team work is something I do miss. But I don’t miss a Regional Rail commute, or the frantic daycare pick-ups and drop-offs, or the mad rush to make dinner, draw baths, and adhere to a reasonable bedtime. Now, we eat dinner earlier and our mornings are less hectic.
Through it all, I must say the Ceisler Media team has been outstanding. We all check in regularly, and not much has changed except we’re not physically together. I look forward to seeing everyone at our weekly Zoom staff meetings, along with their pets, kids, and funny backgrounds. We’re making it work.
As our world starts to cautiously “open back up,” let’s not forget the ways we have come together to support one another. And most importantly, let us have a new appreciation for those who could not work from home – the healthcare professionals, transit workers, grocery and pharmacy workers and countless others – who work day in and out to keep us safe, allow us to get food and medicine and support us in so many ways. We owe you a true debt of gratitude.