For those of us whose jobs require only a computer and an internet connection, COVID-19 office closures proved a lot. Most colleagues don’t need to be in the same physical location 40 hours a week to be productive. It’s easy to be in constant communication even when you’re miles apart from your team. That meeting totally could’ve been an email.
It’s also proved that many working moms were needlessly sacrificing their sleep and time with their kids over pressure to be at work in person. And to that I say, no more.
Of course not all moms have the immense privilege of having a flexible employer and understanding manager. Grocery-store clerks, hospital staff, teachers and more, need to show up at an appointed time and stay there until an appointed time for their jobs to get done. Other moms who are afforded flexibility might not want to take full advantage. Ditching inconvenient business travel and other items on this list might not be universally appealing. But not having an office to go to has taught me that so many things I used to stress about are simply not worth it. So here’s what I vow not to return to.
When the pandemic is over, I’m not going to an office five days a week again. I’m not waking up at 5:30 a.m. to shower just so I can get sweaty hurriedly prepping my kids for daycare and school, just to get even sweatier during the dropoff/train-catching dance. I’m more productive in my home than in our hot-desk workplace where I didn’t always get a seat. And without a commute, I can see my family for more than three waking hours a day.
When the pandemic is over, I’m not going to commute three hours a day, for $40 roundtrip, in rush hour. No one gains anything from my presence in an office at 9 a.m. sharp.
When the pandemic is over, I’m not going to agonize about whether to go into work on a day with dangerous weather. Those times I went in, I’d end the day early, run back to the train station from our office in lightning or hail, or on icy sidewalks, call my kids’ caregivers, apologize that I’ll be late because most trains are canceled and breathlessly retrieve the children after spending 90 minutes pressed up against too many other weary commuters’ bodies. I’m going to work from home and not feel bad about it.
When the pandemic is over, I’m not going to stress about a kid being a little sick and needing to stay home from school while I work. I can get plenty done during business hours, and if he needs more of my attention then, I can catch up on work after he goes to bed.
When the pandemic is over, I’m going to go to my kids’ school events when I want to. And I’m going to work from home that day so I’m not rushing to catch a train home. A delay once meant that I made it to a Halloween parade in time to see my disappointed kindergartener rip off his Black Panther mask when he couldn’t find me in the sea of spectators. I contemplated lying and saying I was there, but he saw me running toward the school moments after the mask came off.
When the pandemic is over, we’re going to eat dinner at 6 most nights. Not 7:39. We’ll all snuggle on the couch and put the kids to bed at 8. We might even bathe them regularly. No more overtired kids screaming while we struggle to brush their teeth.
When the pandemic is over, I’m not going to freak out when school and daycare are closed. I’m not going to cobble together some backup childcare patchwork that is prohibitively expensive and absurdly frustrating to create. I’ll do my work with my kids there, as I successfully did for many months.
When the pandemic is over, maybe we’ll move closer to family instead of closer to work. Determining your location and your children’s childhoods based on where a potential employer might be is so 2019.
When the pandemic is over, I’m not leaving my family at 3 a.m. to take two planes to attend a professional event in an out-of-the-way locale that I could’ve video-called into. I’m just as “present” remotely.
When the pandemic is over, I’m not going to get home after midnight from a work event and wake up at 5:30 to get to the office by 9 the next morning. Forcing people to come in at regular time as though we weren’t out late the night before achieves nothing but resentment.
It’s not that work isn’t important. It is. It’s just that all of my former habits didn’t make me better at my job or bring the company more value. All it did was fill me with guilt. And I’m not willing to feel that way again.