Had you asked me in 2015 where I see myself in five years, I would have said, “a marketing executive in healthcare with five children and a loving husband that supports my career growth.” Never in a million years did I think I would do it all from home amid a pandemic.
As a vice president of care transition at Beecan Health, which supports nursing facilities in Southern California, I often get the question now, “How in the world do you do it?” With a soft grin I reply, “ I just do it.”
How do I implement strategic plans and lead a team of people properly from the confines of my home while my five children under 6 years old play in the background and while diaper changes punctuate my day? Getting dressed used to be exciting, as I would look forward to dressing up in a suit and heels, but now my wardrobe consists of an assortment of comfortable pants and tees dotted with baby spit-up stains.
Everyday seems longer and harder, but I recently shifted my perspective.
When I had my first four children, I was back to work within six to twelve weeks. It made me sad that my commitment to work often meant I missed many family “firsts.” I’m sure I share the same guilt with many working mothers. I can’t believe it took a world pandemic to change my postpartum experience. I recently had my fifth child, while wearing a mask and hoping I was COVID-19-negative so I wouldn’t have to isolate from my newborn, and thank God that was the case. It has been the most wonderful and terrifying experience.
I have to multitask being a mom and an executive all at the same time. Truth be told: I don’t hate it. I get to nurse this baby longer than my other kids and I don’t have to worry, where will I find the time to pump? I get to press that little “camera-off” button while I attend a meeting, feed my baby and hide my sleepy eyes. Over the past few years, I’ve missed so many dinners with my kids and felt sad missing the opportunity to really co-parent during the day.
Although my husband and I sometimes feel like prison guards, locked in with our little charges, we know we are so lucky for this precious time, to be able to “divide and conquer,” and share our victories together. Admittedly, there are times when I lie awake at night, thinking, “How am I going to do this all over again tomorrow?” I started playing meditation music to fall asleep, and I remind myself to remain present and take one moment at a time.
As these months go on and we are still at home, I have reevaluated my assumptions and have gained some striking realizations. On a personal level, my life has shifted to the positive. I have gained time, a priceless commodity to a working mother. Mornings are different, and I can just “be” with my kids rather than rushing and urging them out the door. Without the exhausting daily commute, when I would sometimes spend four hours a day fighting LA traffic driving from meeting to meeting, I now have a wonderful block of morning time with my kids. A huge plus, I count this as one of my greatest gains.
On the work front, little time is wasted. My virtual meetings are highly focused and purposeful, and Zoom calls have become my best friend. This has also helped with my time management. My employer Beecan Health, known for their creative solutions and out-of-the box thinking, has lived up to its reputation of not just focusing on applying multifaceted strategies to creating a safe work environment, but also by making sure that despite everything going on, we all feel normal. The same unique culture that cultivated and inspired our teamwork that had driven us before, is now stronger than ever.
In my current position, networking with other people is what it’s all about. I worried it would be impossible in this new atmosphere, changed and limited by COVID-19. What I continue to discover is that it is definitely doable with technology. Though I am in an isolated work environment, I can connect with others, at least as directly, honestly and maybe even more effectively than previously.
I do my best to have a positive outlook, but wow, it is definitely hard. I write this with my three toddler boys running around my desk yelling “It’s morphing time — Power Rangers!” It definitely is, and we are learning how to morph during these trying times.
Tova Altmann is the co-vice president of care transition at Beecan Health. Beecan Health services multiple nursing facilities throughout Southern California providing support through mentorship, accountability and employee investment.