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Navigating work and life during a global pandemic with a young child

February 10, 2021
Cheryl Heykoop
MA Leadership-Health Program Head Cheryl Heykoop with son Eli

photo of MA Leadership-Health Program Head and new mom, Cheryl Heykoop with her adorable son Eli

As I write this blog post, I recognize there are many important things happening in the world related to leadership I could—and perhaps should—be writing about. However, what seems most relevant and applicable to me right now is the practice of trying to balance work and motherhood. I became a mom just before the pandemic, I returned back to work in September, and my son is now one.

Being back at work and working from home has certainly been (and likely will continue to be) an ongoing transition. Working from home means that my son—and my partner—are an integral part of my work life and I can no longer entertain the idea of separating work and the rest of my life! In retrospect, I’m not sure if this separation is ever really possible.

Finding a new rhythm to workdays at home

Having purely dedicated work time is a rarity these days. I often have a toddler banging on the office door in search of a cuddle or have what is now lovingly referred to as a “baby under my desk” while I am working away. In between work calls I’m often running to change diapers, prepare snacks and food, and tell my son—yet again—to stop playing in toilet. As I listen to webinars, I’m sometimes folding diapers and picking up toys, and once he’s down in the evening, I’m frequently back at my desk getting to the things I wasn’t able to get to during the day. In general, workdays are often chaotic and messy; while simultaneously being filled with laughter, snuggles and so much joy! It truly does feels like a gift to be able to work from home and be with my son.

Gratitude for the RRU community

I have to admit that when I returned back to work, I was quite worried about how my practice of balancing motherhood with work would be perceived and interpreted. Yet, my fear and worry quickly dissipated—colleagues and students have responded in the most beautiful of ways! When my son shows up on a call, folks interact and engage with him and many colleagues have puppets next to their desk in preparation for the next time he appears. Folks also check in frequently to see how Eli is doing and how I am coping and offer tips and tricks that work for them! It’s been a welcome surprise and I feel deeply grateful. To my RRU community, thank you so much for the support you have offered me.

In closing, I want to give thanks to the many colleagues and students who are modelling the way and helping to normalize that fact that you can work and be a parent and be so many other things all at the same time! When the days are hard and/or the nights are long, you inspire me to keep going, to keep trying, and to do the best I can. You imbibe the RRU values of caring, creative, and courage and I am in awe!