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Being a working parent is hard—being a working parent during quarantine feels impossible

The biggest takeaway of these last several weeks is the importance of making intentional choices—at work and at home.

Being a working parent is hard—being a working parent during quarantine feels impossible

"Mama, can I please have something to eat?"

My 6-year-old is not a big eater—I'm often begging him to eat—yet here he was, asking me for lunch. Glancing at the clock, I was surprised to find it was well past lunchtime. Closer to dinner, actually.

I was guilt-stricken at having just worked through lunch and forgotten to feed my son.

I'll admit that in more normal times at my office, I would often get so dialed into work that I'd forget to eat lunch myself. It's an unhealthy habit, I know, but it took inadvertently doing it to my son during quarantine to reflect on my choices as a mother, a colleague and a leader.


I started working from home in March when my son's school closed for the year. Alongside the title "mom" and my new title of "teacher," I'm also the VP of News and Programming at Newsy, an OTT and cable news network owned by The E.W. Scripps Company. The news industry has been turned upside down with COVID-19 and now Black Lives Matter protests. Viewership is up and professional reporting couldn't be more important—because in the middle of a pandemic, reporting quality facts can literally save lives.

But I'm probably not breaking any news here when I say that parenting, entertaining and working are each their own job. Doing all three well is hard in normal times. Doing all three full-time —and well— during a time like this? Forget about it.

A lot has been written already about lowering our expectations of ourselves during this unprecedented time. But for me, the biggest takeaway of these last several weeks is the importance of making intentional choices—at work and at home.

I think about intent a lot at work. But too often at home, I was moving with a lack of intent, something quarantine's merging of work and family life has laid especially bare. If I don't plan when I will unplug, if I don't choose to give my son undivided attention, I am likely to default to work.

So here's how I hold myself accountable: I set calendar reminders three times a day to tell me to stop, eat and play with my son. I use that time with intention, putting my phone down and my computer in sleep mode—sometimes for just 15 minutes, sometimes for an hour at a time.

I was sitting with my son during one of those breaks watching him play with Legos, and I tried to apologize to him for having to be cooped up in the house without friends. He looked at me, confused.

"Mama, I love this time!"

That's when I realized that with my focused breaks, he's getting more quality attention from me now than he did pre-pandemic—even on the days when those three breaks are only 15 minutes each. No Pinterest-worthy crafts needed just undivided attention.

Before quarantine, my son would wake up 30 minutes before the school bus came and I'd shove food in his face, get him on the bus and pick him up from aftercare more than 10 hours later. Once home, we'd hurriedly commence the routine of dinner, bath and bedtime, often while I was still wrapping up work calls or catching one of our evening newscasts.

But these days I'm trying my best to prioritize quality over quantity of time. I put my phone down and focus on him. Sometimes it's a quick stroll around the block, and sometimes it's a tickle fest on the couch. I'm now a firm believer that 20 minutes of undivided attention is more impactful than two hours of harried, divided attention. For my family, it's something I regret not realizing sooner, but also something I'll carry forward.

Being a working parent is hard, full stop. Harder still under the conditions of the last several months. And I'm not trying to pretend that setting aside a total of 45 minutes in a workday for my son makes me the mother I want to be. Far from it. But my intent has made our time at home just a tiny bit more meaningful. And these days, I'll call that a win.

A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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