There is no right or wrong way to balance family and work. Find what works for you
The pandemic introduced changes to every facet of life. One positive outcome for many was the increased availability and acceptance of remote work—a solution that has benefited employees and employers alike. I am fortunate to work at a firm that was quick to adopt remote work, and has retained flexibility around a hybrid work environment.
Yet, six months into the 2020 lockdowns, I chose to start working at the office again. When colleagues, clients, or acquaintances expressed surprise over this decision, I felt the need to supply a full explanation for why I would choose to resume the daily commute and forego the opportunity to work just a door’s width away from my amazing children.
While I cited a litany of justifications which were absolutely true, such as the need to conduct upcoming depositions and a lengthy virtual arbitration, I felt uncomfortable with simply stating the truth: working in-office just worked better for me. Having a tangible barrier between time at work and time at home helped me to work better while I was in the office, and then be more fully present with my family when I was at home. It also worked better for my children, who struggled with me being physically present, but unable to play or pay full attention to them.
Although I knew that this arrangement worked best for me, I couldn’t shake the feeling of guilt that as a mother, I was doing something wrong. Nor could I shake the nagging doubt that failing to thrive in an environment that benefits so many working parents translated into a personal failing of some kind. What kind of mother wouldn’t take advantage of the opportunity to be closer to her kids each workday?
With the benefit of three years’ hindsight, I understand more clearly that I was caught in one of the seemingly infinite guilt-traps that plague nearly every working mother. While I felt compelled to offer a full explanation for my decision to work outside my home, millions more felt compelled to justify their commitment and productivity while working remotely. (I exclude from this the scores of women who actually are forced to justify their commitment and productivity when working from home; a topic deserving its own, much lengthier, commentary on the rampant bias women face in the workplace).
I am passionate about my work representing employees, often working mothers, in their legal battles against discrimination, retaliation, and inequitable pay. I am passionate about striving to be the best parent and role model I can be for my children. For me, retaining some separation between home and work allows me to balance both. For others, the exact opposite is true. Still more benefit most from a flexible hybrid solution.
Measuring the merit of your decisions by someone else’s yardstick will always make you feel like you’ve come up short. Find a way to work that works best for you.