*Editor’s Note: CC Biz Buzz is a monthly column series that will feature insightful commentary from a member of the Columbia College Robert W. Plaster School of Business faculty.
I’ve always been the type to challenge myself. I revel at that feeling of accomplishing something really difficult. I passed the CPA exam within two months, ran a half-marathon, climbed a 14’er, traveled solo across the world, and endured a crazy elimination diet for 90 days with no cheating. But nothing — NOTHING — prepared me for the challenges of becoming a mom.
As a complete control freak, having a baby was the hardest thing I have ever done and probably will ever do. Not the physical act of birthing a baby (although that’s hard, too), but the part that comes afterward. In fact, labor was a breeze compared to the postpartum world.
As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, my husband and I welcomed our first baby boy this year, shortly before the pandemic began. I thought I was fully prepared. I read baby books, talked with other moms, and scoured the internet. Although many moms warn other future moms about how tough it is, you don’t even remotely understand until you become a parent. A close friend of mine said, “I feel like I belong to a secret club now — mom club!” This is 100% true.
I have a new sense of respect for every mom. Along with all the normal challenges that come with being a new parent, the world was drastically changing. I knew that when I went back to work for the Fall semester, it wasn’t going to be the same. Adjusting to the working world with a new baby AND a crazy virus?! Yikes!
It’s not a new topic. Women (and men!) have been balancing the working and parenting life for decades. And, if they are anything like me, they want both a fulfilling, successful career and children that they don’t screw up. New moms are faced with important stressful decisions. Should I breastfeed? Can I breastfeed? Should I go back to work? If so, who will take care of my child? Is it realistic to pump every 2-3 hours while working?
I applaud those women who stay home as well. After being home for seven months with my son, I honestly think that job is more difficult. Folks, they are not lounging around all day watching Netflix, that’s for sure! I’ve learned that choosing whether to be a stay-at-home mom or a working mom is a very individual choice and one is not “better” than the other.
Now, in 2020, we have more questions to think about: Am I exposing my family if I physically go back to work? Since my child is in daycare, am I exposing my colleagues and my students? In all honesty, my career has actually made these decisions easier. Because I work at a school, there are various measures in place to keep us all safe. Most of my students are attending virtually by choice. All meetings are also virtual.
I am fortunate to have a career and employer that allow me the flexibility to be a nursing mother. In fact, the virtual environment has made it easier for me to pump. But, as I go about my day, pumping in between classes, attending meetings, scrounging for lunch, squeezing in exercise, picking up my son, etc. (and making sure I have what I need for these things each day), I can’t help but think, “I get it now—no wonder they say this is hard!”
In the first few weeks, I tended to forget something almost every day. I went running without socks (no excuses, right?!), I’ve had to pump on one side, and I’ve skipped too many meals to count—not good when you’re nursing. I’ve come to realize that the days of leisure time after my work day are gone (for a while anyway).
On the first day back to school (work), I got a call from my son’s daycare. He had his first fever and needed to be picked up as soon as possible. He had other COVID symptoms so we got him tested. My family then had to quarantine until we got his results, which means I had to teach virtually that first week while taking care of a sick baby. Luckily, my mom is very flexible and was able to help out (and she was with us the day before so she would’ve already been exposed). A lengthy four days later, his results came back negative and my son could go back to daycare, and I was able to teach in-person the following week. I have a whole new level of respect for those parents who have been doing this since March. You all are superheroes.
Despite all this hard work and life adjustment, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Having a child really is the best thing EVER. All of the sacrifices are 110% worth it. And I still love going to work. One of the most surprising things that came out of having a baby is my newfound appreciation for the working world. My son makes me love and appreciate the career I have. He has actually made me a better educator. I love being a great role model for my students. I want them to see that they can have it all, too.
For my students, my colleagues, the future secret-mom-club members, and the parents struggling with remote work and remote school: I’m here to tell you that you CAN do it. You may just have to run without socks sometimes…
Gina Singleton is an assistant professor of accounting at Columbia College teaching a variety of accounting courses. She received her master’s in accounting from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2012. She is a licensed CPA in the state of Missouri and has worked as a senior auditor for a “Big 4” public accounting firm, as an accountant in the construction industry and as an adjunct at Columbia College. As an auditor, she worked in a variety of industries including software, construction, telecommunications and oil & energy.