Wish You Had More Family Time? Well, Now You Have It

A working mom's reflection amid COVID-19

The author celebrating her birthday at home this week

It's my 30th year working in the advertising industry as a creative. All those years, I have always wished for that perfect work-family balance.

I have been a mom since I was a young, struggling copywriter. One can imagine all my long hours, and late pitch nights. I would wake up with my kids already in school and come home when they were all asleep. I thank my husband and my parents who have helped me try to "balance" the two worlds.

Through all my busy years, I would insert trips to "force" family bonding. As technology got better, this became more difficult. The rare family time suddenly  got bombarded by Viber messages, email follow-ups, rush texts. I have told myself that maybe retirement is the only way to achieve this.

Little did I know that a virus would make my family, and all the families in the world, bond with each other. We're now complete during meals—which used to be close to impossible before this lockdown happened. Netflix hits are now enjoyed together. Sunday masses are heard in the den. The girls are all sharing household chores. The family dog, Gucci, is just as amazed as we are. Suddenly we're together 24/7.

I've discovered so many great things about my four daughters. My eldest, who worked as a copywriter in Singapore, Vibers me every day about anything, from mundane things to advice. I've also learned so much from her. I can't help but be awed by her independence. My second daughter, also a copywriter, is super disciplined and dedicated to her work, despite WFH.

She found a corner in the living room and made that "her corner office." On a workday, she really puts her mind to the workload assigned to her. I knew right away that she is a lot better than my procrastinating self. My third, a college freshman who was used to staying in her university dorm, has been religiously exercising. I checked her football coach's recommended daily workout, and it was really tough. The drive to keep on training was admirable. And, well, my junior high schooler raked in points in online games, made TikTok dances, created vlogs and started cleaning her messy room.

"I'm busy" and "I have no time for that" were my go-to lines as a working mom. These made me feel guilty all the time. That one moment when I balanced the two worlds made me feel fulfilled, but at the same time really tired. After the client presentation in the board room, I would excuse myself for a bathroom break, rush downstairs, drive to get flowers, reach my daughter's ballet recital, applaud loudly and make my presence felt, give her the flowers, take a selfie with her, and then head back to the board room. It was the longest bathroom break, but it felt good.

Today, I am being given a longer break. A break from business trips, stressful pitches (presentations were moved), financial anxiety (at least for the moment). Today, as unbelievable as it seems, I am a stay-at-home working mom. The balancing may continue, with conference calls almost every hour. The comfort of home surrounded by your loved ones, however, make these trying times wonderful.

The virus may have sowed fear in us, but let's conquer this with all the positive things that may come from it.

Profile picture for user Merlee Jayme
Merlee Jayme
Merlee Jayme is CEO and chief creative officer of Dentsu Jayme Syfu.

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