When my youngest daughter was a newborn, I had 5 weeks of maternity leave that I cobbled together by using sick and vacation days. There was no maternity leave at the university I worked for. Never mind the inherent unfairness of telling a very pregnant woman that she can’t use a sick or vacation day if she still wants a maternity leave, it’s kind of mind boggling that 18 years later they have finally given women standard maternity leave there. My daughter is going to college and I’ve long since quit my job and they have finally gotten around to fixing that.
After my five weeks were up, I negotiated a work from home situation so I could continue to breastfeed. I attempted to find a regular babysitter so I could work. My position was the Manager of Instructional Design and Research for a team that created online instruction for undergraduates. So to say that my work from home was doable is kind of an understatement. I created online courses and wrote grants. But I still had to come in for meetings and eventually management told me that I could no longer manage employees if I worked at a distance. There had been no issues, but that’s just, you know, “what they felt.” So I had to give up my title and my direct reports. And then they said if I wanted to continue working from home, I’d have to go part time. Again, no issues, just “what they felt.” So I reduced my hours.
Babysitters would come and go and call in sick and I’d have to figure out my day. Conference calls and meetings and deadlines never changed. My daughter napped 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon. I ended many days in tears trying to figure out how to get anything done. I tried part time daycare for her. And then it all came to a head at the same time we realized that my daughter had severe, life threatening food allergies that kept getting messed up at daycare. Hives on a good day. Anaphylaxis on a bad one. Management said I had to come back full-time in person, despite the fact that my work was always done at an incredibly high level and I had perfect performance reviews. So I quit. After one of the most stressful periods of my life that ended up with me wearing a heart monitor and emergency echocardiograms and a heart that was out of rhythm.
So I understand what parents are going through right now trying to work from home without childcare. It’s brutal. But I can’t help but rant a little bit about it. Women have been attempting to work from home while raising children for many, many years. No one particularly cared about what I or others faced. And beyond, when I wanted to work from home, I’m pretty sure management thought I was taking an easy way out. Working from home is not easy. And working from home with young children is incredibly hard. You learn how to accomplish major tasks in ten minutes here, ten minutes there. You long for an office where you have some quiet and a lunch break. You cannot close the door for your conference call. You are balancing babies on the hip while making a sandwich and trying to write a federal grant. While changing a dirty diaper. You are scattered. You are incredibly stressed.
But now given the coronavirus pandemic — and maybe I’m being skeptical and stereotypical — the challenges of working from home with children and no childcare are getting noticed in a much larger way. I’m seeing articles in major newspapers. I hear my husband on staff meeting calls asking how everyone is managing their work and their children. And that’s good! Work/family balance is getting the real notice it deserves. The idea that adequate childcare impacts the work we do is getting talked about.
But I can’t help but feel that this is because many more *men* are now working from home with children too.
Homemade Flour Tortillas
Makes 20 small tortillas
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 t salt
1 1/2 t baking powder
8 T unsalted butter, lard, or shortening, softened
1 1/3 cup warm water
- Mix flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl or mixer bowl. Cut in butter or shortening with a fork or pastry cutter, or with the dough hook of the mixer.
- Add warm water and mix with a wooden spoon or the dough hook until dough starts to come together. If using your mixer, knead the dough with the dough hook for about five minutes. Otherwise, knead the dough by hand for about 5-7 minutes. It should definitely come together in a nice ball, but still remain a bit sticky. If using the mixer, the dough will easily come off the sides of the bowl, but remain a bit sticky on the bottom.
- Remove dough from bowl and portion into 20 equal balls for soft taco-size tortillas. I use my kitchen scale to verify they are about the same. (Divide your total dough amount by 20 and then aim for each ball to be similar weight. I think mine were about 1.6 ounces. Or just eyeball it!)
- Cover dough balls with plastic or a kitchen towel and leave at room temperature to rest for 30-60 minutes.
- Preheat a sauté pan over medium high heat. When ready to cook the tortillas, flatten each ball into a disc and use a small rolling pin or a tortilla press to form into circles that are about 5-6 inches in diameter. Place one rolled tortilla into the heated skillet (dry) and allow to cook for 30-60 seconds until it easily moves around and has golden brown spots on it. Flip to other side and cook for 30-60 seconds more. Wrap finished tortillas in a clean, dry cloth to stay warm and repeat with remaining dough until they are all cooked.