While Balancing It All, Don’t Forget Your Basket

Woman working on computer while touching her head in pain.

By Devon Ohaeri

March 24, 2021

You know those times, when you plan to prepare a meal and you want to make a quick run to the grocery store and say to yourself, “I know exactly what I need, I’ll be in and out in no time…[I only have a few things on my mental list]…I don’t need a basket.” However, as you make your way through the store, you start picking up random things and before you know it, your hands are full, things are dropping and you’re having that annoying conversation with yourself about how you should have just gotten a basket.

This sums up what the last year has been like for me. When I joined Quartet in October 2019, my kids were in school, I had my home office set up, and things were in order to my liking. I was eager and ready to return to the workforce after having four children in five years. Truth be told, I wanted to be a bada** working mom, and bada** working moms don’t need a proverbial basket! At least that’s what I thought. Despite my proper planning, my readiness and my belief that I can have it all, my world was flipped upside down when the COVID-19 pandemic hit like a plot in a sci-fi thriller.

My kids came home early from school on Friday, March 13, 2020 and have not gone back since. Suddenly, I had four elementary and pre-school-aged children in my office engaging in what we’ve all come to know as virtual learning. For the past 365 (and counting) days, I have felt like I am always on! Because of the pandemic, I have been asked to do double the work in the same amount of hours, with the expectation, be it spoken or unspoken, to get it all done. My handsome, full of life, amazing little boys morphed into needy, can’t find their inside voice, play too much coworkers. I have been taking calls, checking school work, going to work meetings, and troubleshooting issues both technical and academic for school and work. Additionally, I am replying to teachers, responding to Slack, and answering questions all while trying to keep the room quiet for those of us who were in meetings and had microphones unmuted. I was keeping kids on task and sacrificing my lunch breaks to go over the new lesson that they had questions about. Before I knew it, there I was, hands full of things I hadn’t planned on, and dropping one thing after the other, looking for a d*** basket!

But what size basket did I need? That was a trick question because my basket came and still comes in many forms. I leaned heavily on my husband and mom to help me in those areas where I just could not do it myself. It was imperative for me to reframe my outlook on the current situation. I had to look at things from a strength-based lens, and see and accept things for what they are, and not for what they used to be. I recognized the continuous efforts Quartet has made in addressing the stressors that come with these current unprecedented times. Quartet provides a wide variety of employee-centered perks and experiences that include unlimited PTO, engaged leadership, supportive Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), and management that takes the time to see and hear their employees as well as remind us to give ourselves grace. Speaking more about ERGs, I have found them to be a valuable support system. I belong to several ERGs and have leaned heavily on the Parents ERG throughout the pandemic. I am currently one of the Leads for the Parents ERG and in collaboration with my co-leads, we have developed a safe space for parents to come together and discuss shared experiences. Whether in the form of something as light-hearted as Slack pictures, memes and our monthly newsletter or something more meaningful like process groups to talk about the struggles of virtual learning and/or speaking to our kids about social justice issues. The Parents ERG has been a breath of fresh air in our Quartet work environment. Quartet has also demonstrated the ability to provide more remote work opportunities for positions that were primarily in-person. In fact, during these unprecedented times I was able to apply for a new position and advance my career all thanks to Quartet’s ability to adapt to the company’s remote and virtual needs while maintaining a deep understanding of the working parent.

Perseverance is defined as a continuous course of action despite the difficulty. There is no question that these times have tested the perseverance of us all. Moreover, there is no doubt that many days this past year have gotten the best of me. I have sent my husband several memes of me quitting my teaching job, but in those moments, I step away, take a deep breath and then get back to it. What I have learned about myself during this time is that I must be intentional about things that bring me joy, and make time for the things that I want to make time for.

Early morning exercise, be it in a gym or the garage, virtual visits with family and friends in other locations across the country, or simply the ability to log in and go to work from the comforts of my home whether it’s in my office or outside watching the kids play during their break as I expedite cases. Those are the things that I choose to focus on. I still make time for myself by getting my nails done every two weeks. No, things are not fully open, and no, I am not vacationing anywhere after getting my nails done. But that one-and-a-half to two-hour time block allows me a time to reflect on all things in my life, and say a few things to myself. First, I recognize that I do not have to like the things that are going on, but I understand it, and the sooner and more I understand it, the easier it becomes to manage. Two, I realize I do have it all, it just looks different right now. Lastly, even if I only plan to get a few things, it’s always good to have a basket, it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

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