scorecardI'm not parenting the way I want to as an overworked mom. The guilt is the worst part.
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I'm not parenting the way I want to as an overworked mom. The guilt is the worst part.

Fortesa Latifi   

I'm not parenting the way I want to as an overworked mom. The guilt is the worst part.
EducationEducation3 min read
Lauren Finman Quesenberry    Courtesy of Lauren Finman Quesenberry
  • Lauren Finman Quesenberry is a 37-year-old professional from Radford, Virginia.
  • During the pandemic, she's had to be a full-time mom and a full-time employee.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Lauren Finman Quesenberry, a 37-year-old professional from Radford, Virginia, about what it's been like to be a full-time mom and full-time employee during the pandemic. It has been edited for length and clarity.

When I decided to become a mother, I never imagined the struggles and difficulties of parenting while working full-time from home in a pandemic. Pandemic motherhood is not normal motherhood.

I have an 8-year-old daughter, a 5-year-old son, and a husband whose job requires him to be on site full-time. Even when the kids are in school full-time, it feels like that could change at any moment.

When Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office in Virginia, for example, one of the first things he did was sign an executive order removing the mask mandate of the previous governor so that masks were optional. That same day, my kids came home from school with Chromebooks. They hadn't been bringing their computers home all year, so it felt like a warning that they might go back to virtual.

If the kids are in school, my husband can take care of them while I'm gone. If they're home, I have to be home.

The Chromebooks made me nervous, especially because I work full-time for a provider of medical and industrial equipment and have some work trips planned. If I have to be home, those work trips aren't happening.

Last year was even harder. My daughter was on a hybrid school schedule, and my son was only in daycare nine hours per week. We couldn't have made it work without a local college student who worked for us part-time.

Three days a week, she would help my daughter with virtual school and take care of my son. She partnered with another family on the block, and we had this absurd Google calendar of when she would be at each house.

Childcare was chaotic and challenging for the adults, but it was also so difficult for the kids

There was no established routine week to week — or even day to day — and of course, during all of this, I was trying to work full-time hours from the same house my children were confined to.

I was lucky that I had flexibility in my hours at work, but there wasn't really flexibility on the amount of work that had to be done. I often found myself signing back onto the computer after I got the kids to sleep.

Colleagues were generally understanding of moments when my kids were fighting in the background of conference calls, or I had to take a quick moment to grab them a snack, but it's not easy to split your attention like that. It feels like you're not doing either thing — mothering or your job — to the best of your ability. How could you, in these circumstances?

There's a lot of guilt in pandemic parenting, especially for working moms

I'm not parenting the way I want to parent. I feel guilt over how much screen time the kids have, but there are so few options when they're home and I'm needed on a work call.

If they were at school, they'd be socializing and learning and getting their hands dirty. Instead, they're in their pajamas watching television.

The struggle is not even day by day — it's minute by minute, and my husband can't really understand everything that I'm going through because he's not at home. His job doesn't allow for remote work, so it's not like he's choosing not to be at home.

I still wonder if, broadly, men don't stay home because women do

It feels like an unspoken expectation. If women are home, why should men have to be?

I want my husband to know what my day-to-day life is like, but I'm also just so exhausted at night. After the day is done, I want to put it to bed and move on — not rehash it or relive it just so he can somehow feel my pain.

I feel so guilty about how hard I find pandemic motherhood to be

I love my kids, but it's so hard to take care of them and do my job at the same time.

The plan was always that I would go to work, they would go to school, and I would have the time and bandwidth to support both of those parts of my life. But now, there's no bandwidth left. There aren't even those little breaks I used to count on.

Forget chatting with a colleague or grabbing a coffee between meetings. I'm changing the channel on the TV or fetching snacks, even when I don't quite have the time.