While many mothers juggled working from home and working for home in 2020, the pandemic year also taught them some important lessons about integrating parenting responsibilities with one’s professional life.

What 2020 taught working mothers about parenting

The year that went by involved some unprecedented struggles. For full-time working mothers, it was a real challenge to manage both personal and professional lives. For many moms, the pandemic tested their patience in new ways. But it also taught them to relax some long-held notions on what constitutes good parenting. Yes, it has been challenging, but there are a few lessons that one learns as a result of every challenge. Here’s what mothers will carry forward with them from 2020.

1. Putting oneself first

The pressure on working mothers to juggle their career with a family and children is not unfamiliar, and the unprecedented circumstances of 2020 has only highlighted it. With children being home due to school closures, mothers had two full-time jobs and almost no time to unwind. The truth is: you can’t take care of others if you don’t focus on yourself first. Mothers realised they were not selfish to demand time for themselves. Putting one’s needs first and prioritising self-care is crucial to being a good parent. Whether it involves practising a few minutes of meditation, taking a slightly longer shower, or going for a walk – 2020 has taught people to slow down, rest, reconnect, and indulge in ‘me-time’.

Related: How to successfully homeschool your kids during the pandemic 

2. Leading with vulnerability

We all struggle at times, and with all the challenges 2020 threw at us, it only got more difficult to cope. Scaling down on work to help children with their studies, or having a video conference with kids throwing a tantrum in the background, being a working mother became incredibly hard during this time. Mothers learnt not to be afraid of expressing their vulnerabilities and sharing their travails with co-workers. Being honest about these struggles only makes people more empathetic towards you. Let go of the idea of being the perfect mother, the perfect employee, or the perfect business woman – it is only an illusion.

3. Taking things one step at a time

Despite the myth, you can’t do it all. Some days your work will take precedence and on other days it could be your family and household duties that will demand more attention. It’s natural not to be able to give your 100 percent to both simultaneously, and that is perfectly okay. But once you alter your expectations about yourself, the feeling of failure disappears and people have no choice but to get on board with you. Instead of trying to satisfy everyone around you, take things one step at a time and at your pace. It’s important to remember that work-life balance is not firmly set, but flexible, and adapting it to your situation will help prevent exhaustion and burnout.

Related: Debunking 7 myths about working moms 

4. Making more time for family

In a culture that glorifies overworking and always being on the go, the pandemic closures forced us all to stop. This was definitely a silver lining for most of us, who got some much-needed and cherished family time. Women who put themselves under pressure to achieve ‘supermom’ status realised how they were missing out on precious time as they got the opportunity to enjoy both worlds. Besides finding great joy and fulfilment in their careers, spending quality time with children is a rare gift. Whether it meant cooking together, having lunch as a family, watching a movie, or having meaningful and insightful conversations with them, 2020 taught us the importance of bonding with family and never taking them for granted once things begin to normalise again.

5. Teaching kids to cope with boredom

When schools closed, parks became off-limits, and play dates with friends cancelled owing to the stay-at-home orders, children’s lives suddenly got disrupted. Complaints of “Mom, I’m bored!” became more frequent. Parents scrambled to find activities to keep their children entertained; all while working full-time. But sometimes doing nothing and having empty space is good for your child and you. The burden mothers felt to engage their child 24 hours a day is unreasonable and needed to be lifted. Having limited sources of entertainment fosters kids’ creativity and imagination as they learn to be responsible for their own entertainment. Teaching kids to learn to be bored sets them up for reality, for life.

While you can strive to be the best mother for your kids, make sure you don’t berate yourself over the unattainable ideal of being the perfect mother! The best mom or the best employee? Why not both?