#WFH Diaries: Hannah Tabor and Gracie McNeely of Mother NY

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to upend society globally, we're checking in with the creative industry to see how people are doing. Here's what's up with Hannah Tabor and Gracie McNeely, who are both strategists at Mother New York—and also roommates.

Give us a one-line bio of yourselves.

Our names are Hannah and Gracie, we are strategists at Mother New York and we are roommates (yes we know it sounds like a lot, no we don't work on the same things, no we don't get sick of each other, and no we are not dating).

Where are you living right now, and who's with you?

We are quarantining in our approximately 650-square-foot apartment in Bed-Stuy. It's the two of us and Hannah's extremely mean cat named Archie, who grows meaner every day, we are in his space without leaving.

What's your work situation like at the moment?

We, like most non-essential workers in New York City, are WFH. Has it been an easy transition? No. Does the cat keep interrupting our Zoom calls to bite Hannah? Yes. Are our beds the place where we sleep AND where we watch TV AND where we work? Yes. But as time has gone on, we've been finding a routine, helped by the fact that we've been able to replicate a lot of the best parts of Mother on Zoom.

We start each week with an all-agency Zoom call, which has been an amazing exercise in who doesn't know how to use the mute button, as well as fulfilling a personal dream of ours to see into each and every one of our co-workers' apartments. Then we work in our respective bedrooms until our (work-mandated!) 12-1:30 p.m. lunch/sanity break, where we eat lunch, do some Zoom meditation/yoga with whoever else from Mother who wants to join, and take a walk. Then it's back to work. We usually end the day with 1-5 glasses of wine during a Zoom happy hour with our teams, the strategy department, or friends we haven't talked to in months.

Describe your socializing strategy.

The pandemic has really thrown all sorts of socializing strategy out the window. Before we were all mandated to stay inside, scheduling a FaceTime hang with friends across the country or coordinating a family virtual game night was almost impossible. Now, there's a sense that you don't need to plan anymore. It's not weird or intrusive to randomly FaceTime someone or call someone to check upon them. It's how we're all staying connected and sane.

We've both downloaded an app called House Party, where your friends are notified when you log on and they can start an impromptu video chat. And any of your other friends can join the chat. It's been a great way to catch up casually with friends and family and play games like Quick Draw (a real eye-opener on your friend's creative skills). However, we should warn you that if you do invite your retired parents to the app, they will start video chatting with you whenever you log on (like, 9:40 a.m.).

How are you dealing with childcare, if applicable?

Our child is the cat, and we are dealing with him by giving him more treats and less pets—per his request.

What are you reading?

We decided to start a quarantine book club with a few co-workers. We are currently reading Emma, which we heard that Jane Austen wrote when she was in quarantine. Turns out that was false, Jane Austen was never in quarantine—that was Shakespeare (maybe? Also haven't done that research). Anyway, we're standing by the book choice. After we finish the book, we're all going to watch the new movie to really bring it full circle (and include those who have joined the book club for the social aspect but aren't really into reading).

What are you watching?

Honestly, TikTok. We'll start watching a TV show or finish a movie before 8 p.m. and we'll switch to TikTok. The content is mostly heartwarming and entertaining (or at least, we've programmed our algorithms to serve us that type of content). We DID just finish Tiger King on Netflix and that was a wild ride. But TikTok makes us feel better inside.

What are you listening to?

We're keeping it squarely in the soft-pop genre around here, nothing too overstimulating. We love to do dishes while listening to the Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again soundtrack. How can you feel the hopelessness and uncertainty of the future when you have ABBA?

How are you staying fit?

It's presumptuous that you'd assume we've already implemented a workout routine.

In reality, we've been doing some simple sun salutation yoga sessions. And we try to walk for at least 30 minutes to end our day (we usually bring a roadie, because why not?). Sometimes if we're really feeling ambitious, we try to learn a TikTok dance, which IS A WORKOUT because these kids really hit these moves and it is hard to keep up.

Have you taken up a hobby?

We both thought that because we'd have endless amounts of time indoors, we'd pick up drawing or cross stitching, much like women in the 19th century. While Gracie did do a Jaws-themed cross stitch, the reality is we've had a lot of work to do, so when we have free time, we want to be taking a walk, cooking, drinking or watching TV. So, not much different than normal life.

We have, however, bought two board games (Splendor and Ticket to Ride) and we have two Lego sets. Hannah is about two days away from letting Gracie cut her hair, so she may be able to add salon skills to her résumé after all this is over.

Any tips for getting necessities?

Whenever there's any sort of new announcement about how things are going horribly wrong, that is the ultimate time to avoid the grocery store. We went to the grocery store right after we heard non-essential businesses will be closed and it was a madhouse (granted, it was a Saturday). The six-foot rule was completely ignored. There was only one-ply toilet paper available to purchase. 

The ultimate best time to go is during the day. Gracie went during lunch hour and it was stocked and roomy. If you can afford to go before the 6 p.m. rush, do it. 

An awkward moment since all this started.

Gracie went on a FaceTime first date with a boy she met on Hinge and was self-conscious about being overheard so she made Hannah wear noise-cancelling headphones. It actually went surprisingly well! She will not be seeing him again, per CDC orders.

Best work email you got since all this started.

To help entertain kids who are currently quarantined as their parents try to WFH, Mother hosted a magic show on Zoom, hosted by one of our very own colleagues. After the show, the appreciative emails flew in, even from people without kids, and it was lovely to see so much joy spread throughout the office (virtually).

An aha! moment since all this started.

I think we're all learning how to recognize and communicate our boundaries more. Staying informed on every news article can be more anxiety-inducing than anxiety-reducing. We're thinking about COVID for work in addition to our personal lives, so we try to stop reading articles around 8 p.m. so we can go to sleep without spiraling.

We've also been having weird dreams, though. Gracie had a dream that she died from some "invisible force" (don't have to think too hard there) and Hannah straight up had a coronavirus nightmare that woke her up in the middle of the night. Part of it might be because we have rats running around in our walls that terrify us. Ahhhh, New York.

What's your theory on how this is going to play out?

As President Snow says in the beloved dystopian franchise The Hunger Games, "Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear." He was obviously a terrible person, but the sentiment is there. We're trying to look at this through the most optimistic lens possible. Things are going to be hard and weird and take a learning curve. But we luckily have each other and Governor Cuomo's arms in that polo. We're going to be OK.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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