WFH Will Get to Me Before Covid-19 Does: Diary of a Working Mom


WFH Will Get to Me Before Covid-19 Does: Diary of a Working Mom

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

It’s been close to a year since I’ve been working from home, and this could not have come at a better time for me. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to sound either like a sadist, or an ignorant person when I say this, considering the misery of thousands of people around the world, all triggered apparently by a bat in China. WTF? Am I the only one who thought this was all a bad joke?

But I digress. This time is good for me because I am a working mom to two brats, a high-adrenaline junkie five-year-old (Sr A) and another one-year-old (Jr A) who just discovered something called feet. So between my full-time job in a content agency and my two “sonshines”, I was always haunted by the big G like a shadow. “Guilt” that I wasn’t giving my job or home my 100 per cent. Honestly, I couldn’t give up on either. Work keeps me sane, the only thing that’s all my own that my damn kids can’t claim or throw up on. At the same time, do I even have the choice of giving up home or family… although, I wouldn’t lie that that thought has crossed my mind on more than a couple of spirit-induced occasions. So this whole WFH meant some much-needed time with my babies and “me time”.

Except, for every silver lining, there is a cloud.

At the start of this, I did not realise that schools were going to be shut too. But worry not, Instagram and FB mommie groups have it all under control. I was quickly brought up to speed with an exhaustive list of things to do with kids at home. From online baby yoga classes to storytelling sessions on Zoom to even counselling sessions for children to deal with the stress of a lockdown.

I am guilty too – with my sub-optimal way of handling everything because all the other moms seem to have got it.

I woke up on Monday morning all enthusiastic to make 100 per cent of my WFH day. It started with setting Sr A up with an hour-long online dance class so I could check on my emails, make a few work calls by the time he is done, and on to the next activity. Perfect plan. But it soon crashed like the Sensex did when COVID-19 hit us out of nowhere. Lets just say the progeny and I crossed each other’s paths quite a few times until I learnt how to dance on, “I like to move it move it” and he learnt how to say, “Let me get back to you” like a pro.

Still, this ain’t that bad. He just needs to have a routine and understand that he cannot disturb Mamma during “home-school hours” which means I just need to figure three hours worth of self-engaging activity and a few short snack breaks. So naturally it became three hours of self-engaging iPad games. Meanwhile, Jr A just wanted to be around me all day, gurgling through concalls and drooling and tapping away on my laptop. My entire workday seemed to revolve around his nap timings.

This wasn’t so good, after all. And it was only the middle of the week! Then, as a responsible but miserable adult, I had to reluctantly let my domestic staff go, one of whom came from a far-off Mumbai suburb on the local, where social distancing is as possible as it is for India to become completely secular.

Working from home turned into working FOR home overnight. And just like that, my morning team meetings got replaced by bonding sessions with Mr Jhaadu and Ms Pocha, and the only pipeline I was clearing was in my kitchen after washing a pile of dishes. Everywhere I turned, there was stuff to be cleaned, or a toothy baby who wanted me to clap when he stacked up the toy tower for the 99th  time. This sight was interrupted by a clingy toddler who was so bored out of his skull that when I chided him to eat his own food, he turned to the iPad and asked, “Siri, how to eat a parantha?”

At the start of this, I did not realise that schools were going to be shut too.

In between all this there were briefs to be cracked, scripts to be read, plans to be made on how to keep the company revenue going in this adverse situation. There’s still the prospect that at some point everyone will sleep, and I can finally get some work done. However, this plan is derailed by my attempt to check up on what’s happening in the world for a bit. BOOM. Between WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook, five hours have dissolved and I’m an anxious, paranoid mess who is convinced that the virus is going to kill us all.

I am guilty too – with my sub-optimal way of handling everything because all the other moms seem to have got it with a perfect nine-to-nine routine and their kids being minor Picassos and junior Master Chefs. Am I the only one in the entire world for whom this whole work from home thing is doing the exact opposite of what it’s meant to do?

Months on, I’ve finally found some semblance of a rhythm. It’s all about balance. Which means Sr A gets his screen-time but he’s now watching DIY videos on doodling and origami, while Jr A is a happy walker and has been trained to follow instructions like catch and fetch, which can be done with my left hand while I use the laptop with my other. I also figured that since the kids weren’t getting tired enough, the only way to get them to exercise is blast Bollywood music at full volume, and let them dance away to “Bala Bala Shaitan ka Saala”.

Until it’s 6 am the next morning, and it starts all over again when Jr A wakes up wailing, bringing the house down for his milk. My husband and I inaugurate the day with our first fight over who goes and heats the milk… because let me tell you being locked down and tending to a toddler, an infant, and a man-child of a husband of over 10 years is next-level torture. As someone rightly said, at this rate, some stressed-out mother will find a way to fight COVID-19 and its mutations, sooner than the best scientists of the world!