5 Pandemic 'Gains' Parents Don't Want to Lose in the Return to 'Normal'

For some parents, aspects of the new work-life balance brought on by COVID-19 are a good thing. Here's what should stick around post-pandemic.

An image of a mom working with her daughter on her lap.
Photo: Getty Images.

When my oldest was born in 2018, I happily took my 12 weeks of maternity leave and my husband took off one week from work to help out at home and bond with our son. We had no idea what was coming.

Fast-forward to the end of those three months, and I quickly learned that my job wouldn't be as flexible as I needed at the time and my husband's career was just as demanding as ever. As an agent in the entertainment industry, he'd often leave for work at 8 a.m. and return home around 8 p.m.—and that was an early day. I didn't know how we'd make parenting and working actually work—and I made the difficult decision to become a stay-at-home mom for a while.

I know I'm fortunate to have had a choice but, as all moms know, it's not easy. I eventually started working part-time again, albeit remotely, but I was still lonely and felt like I was often parenting all by myself—managing child care, daycare drop-off and pick up, squeezing in a toddler music class, and handling responsibilities around the house in between finishing assignments since I was the one working from home—until the weekend hit. My husband felt guilty for how much he had to work as the breadwinner and missed spending time with us and getting to form more of a relationship with our son.

And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

My husband's office closed in March 2020, and he began working from home. With daycare closed too, we took shifts watching our son: He'd handle mornings and I'd be on toddler duty from nap time up until bath time when my husband would handle bath and I'd do bedtime. He paused working to eat dinner with us as a family. My son got to experience this whole new side of my husband—and he relies on both of us now. And I rely on him more, too.

While so many people have struggled through the pandemic—us included—we're so thankful for the time spent together and the opportunity to have a "redo" on the lack of work-life balance we thought we were stuck with. Our lives have changed forever. How do we go back to the before? And, more importantly, why do we have to go back to how things were?

Even before my husband's office had a reopening date, we began talking about options for him to work from home more and create a flexible schedule that allows for more family time. We're not the only ones having these conversations.

The Post-Pandemic 'New Normal' Parents Really Want to See

COVID-19 has been hellish for so many Americans, and I'm looking forward to a time when people are no longer suffering or in pain or worried about how they'll make ends meet, but there have been some changes that parents hope last even as the pandemic comes to an end.

Here are the things we hope stick around after pandemic life is a thing of the past:

  • Increased flexibility and the ability to work from home. We've proven we can do it—all while juggling child care, remote learning, and a global pandemic. Imagine what's possible as things return to normal and workers are trusted and provided the freedom to work how they choose?
  • More time spent as a family. It's time to prioritize our families and not fear being penalized for it.
  • The ability to say "no" more easily—and slowing down in general. While it's nice to add back in activities and enjoy socializing with friends and family again, the pandemic has shown us that it's OK to say "no" sometimes, clear the schedule a bit, and do things on our own terms.
  • Divvying up child care and housework. In two-parent households, this unpaid labor commonly falls mostly on one parent (and in the case of heterosexual couples, that's frequently the mom), but with partners home due to COVID-19, some parents are able to split things more. This can't stop.
  • Support for American families. There's been a spotlight put on the help families really need—and relief could finally be on the way.

We were forced to change our lives when the pandemic hit, and it's time to reassess what "normal" means for American families when it's finally over.

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