Creative Circle Moms on Life in the Time of the Covid Pandemic

By Karina Margit Erdelyi

We celebrate the stories of three courageous Creative Circle moms, each with her own tale of what it’s been like to live and love and exist as a mother during the pandemic.


Working moms in the United States have long felt that to get ahead, they had to hide the “mother” part of their lives from view, lest they be seen as undedicated to their career or somehow less suited to the job — which is how ERGs (or Employee Resource Groups) were born. An ERG is a voluntary employee group providing a unified voice and enhancing personal and professional development.

At Creative Circle, ERGs participate directly with our ongoing Diversity Equity & Inclusion initiatives and assist in fully integrating these themes into Creative Circle’s day-to-day business practices through events, strategic initiatives, and goals. ERGs also foster a safe space for those who self-identify to find guidance, encouragement, and support — and are also a place where allies of that group can show support.

Four mothers in our Parents & Caregivers ERG took some time out of their busy schedules to share what it has been like to balance work and motherhood during this ongoing pandemic — these are their stories.


""

Kristen Rosselli

Age: 36
Charlotte, North Carolina
Married, with one son, Christopher, who just turned nine months. Kristen manages the Charlotte Creative Circle office.

+      What has been your experience as a working mom during the pandemic?
Pandemic motherhood is the only kind of motherhood I’ve known — my son was born August 6, 2020. Other moms had a “before” to compare to — not me. I nursed on conference calls, pumped during the day — and I feel fortunate to have been able to do that in this time.

+      What kind of work do you do? Where do you work?
I manage Creative Circle’s Charlotte office and interact with clients to get them enrolled. It’s essentially a sales and management role. The Charlotte office opened in 2017, and we moved down here to open the office. My husband moved to North Carolina because of my work.

+      How have you gotten work done with the kid/s home?
I was on maternity leave from August to November 2020. We had help; in the beginning, a babysitter came in when I first went back to work. Now my son is in daycare. But we had about a month there where we did not have any childcare because of Covid. Our babysitter ended up giving us Covid in January. All three of us got it. We were in a tailspin. We were fortunate that we didn’t get super sick.

Daycare in Charlotte is way overcrowded. You have 1.5 year-long waiting lists. We ultimately did get our son in daycare after the babysitter fiasco, but we both had to work full-time and take care of our son for a month. Looking back, I honestly don’t know how we did it.

+      Have you gotten any help from a partner?
My husband is wonderful. He works in technology, meaning his job is 24/7, supporting a financial organization. The most challenging part is that if someone’s job has to take a hit, it’s often mine because I’m not supporting 7,000 people and their tech. But he helps with cleaning and cooking and is so hands-on with our son. But moms are the default parent; for instance, only one parent can go to a pediatrician appointment — and nursing is excellent for soothing after vaccines, so this has fallen to me.

+      What has been the most difficult thing about mothering and working and existing this past year?
The lack of time for myself. I used to be able to give work an extra 30 minutes, but things have shifted — I can’t always do that anymore. And don’t want to. In the evening, I have two maybe two and a half hours with my son, which includes picking him up from daycare, bathing him, feeding him, which means very little quality time. To just get a workout in or read, I have had to rejigger my approach and accept that everything has changed.

+      Has there been a best part?
Pandemic motherhood has been all I’ve known, but silver linings abound. WFH allowed us to have the sitter for fewer hours, saving money and letting us both have more time with our son that we would not have otherwise gotten. I could not imagine bringing my son to daycare at 14 weeks; he couldn’t even sit up, so having someone trusted in my home allowed me to be with him, nurse him, and work — making my transition smoother than it might have otherwise been. Our plan initially had been for him to go straight to daycare after maternity leave.

+      What would help working mothers in this country?
Longer maternity leave. I don’t think it will ever be easy to go back to work after having a child, but companies need to see that both parents must have time to be with their new child. Parental leave is critical. It’s harder for men because women are accustomed to taking maternity leave, but there can be a stigma attached to men taking paternity leave. If it were mandatory, I think it would be great. Even six mandatory weeks would be great.

+      What advice would you share with other moms and mother figures?
Put yourself at the table. Don’t quiet yourself for someone else’s sake, and have one or two people who are your safe zones. People you can go to at any time of the day, someone who will have your back and won’t judge you. They will help get you through it all. And also, create a relationship with a trusted neighbor who can be a lifeline in case of an emergency.

""

Ramona Estephan

Age: 38
Washington, D.C.
Married, with two kids — Zuri, age 3, and Lennox, four months old. Ramona is the Managing Director of the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia team for Creative Circle.

+      What has been your experience as a working mom during the pandemic?
It has been great! For the first two years of Zuri’s life, I worked long hours and missed a lot of her major milestones. Being home has been a blessing because I have spent more time with her, watched her learn and grow, ate meals with her, and more. In addition, I was pregnant with my son from the moment we went into quarantine, so it allowed me time to embrace my pregnancy. Creative Circle has been great at being flexible and allowing our kids to sit in on meetings and understand that there may be times we have to step away or may be distracted.

+      What kind of work do you do? Where do you work?
I am the Managing Director of the D.C., MD, VA team at Creative Circle. I assist my team and set operational best practices to reach sales goals and recruiting top talent for our clients.

+      Have your kids gone back to school?
My daughter starts school for the first time in June.

+      How have you gotten work done with the kid/s home?
Thankfully, I have gotten work done. Both my husband and I worked from home, and we have a nanny who was able to come to the house to help part-time during the first nine months of the pandemic. However, we often had to trade off hours or have Zuri join our meetings when childcare wasn’t available.

+      Have you gotten any help from a partner?
Yes, my husband has been an enormous help, and luckily, we have a nanny to help as well.

+      What has been the most difficult thing about mothering and working and existing this past year?
Having to keep a 2-year-old away from other kids and family, finding ways to keep her busy without using a screen all day, and learning to have more patience during difficult times. Dealing with a growing toddler has probably been the most challenging thing about mothering.

When it comes to working, trying to stay positive for my team when things were clearly not going well, and we were being pulled in many different directions as we worked to figure things out as a company.

+      Has there been a best part?
Spending more time with my husband and daughter — and giving birth to my son. For work, the best part has been seeing different people’s faces throughout the company more often than ever before (hello Zoom)!

+      What would help working mothers in this country?
Such a tough question because working moms need SO much! Having a safe, no-judgment outlet to vent or talk about issues they are facing is critical. We need more flexibility and understanding from management, with space to take time to do something for our children when necessary. Childcare assistance would be ideal as well!

+      What advice would you share with other moms and mother figures?
You are not alone. And it is okay to feel overwhelmed, lose your patience, and feel like you can’t do it all. Just take a deep breath and don’t be afraid or feel bad asking for help!

 

""

Kristi Seifert

Age: 39
Kenmore, WA
Married, with one son, Leo, age 6. Kristi is the Senior Recruitment Manager for Creative Circle’s Seattle office.

+      What has been your experience as a working mom during the pandemic?
It’s been tough, but I know we’ve been fortunate to have the luxury of being safe at home.

+      What kind of work do you do? Where do you work?
I’m a Senior Recruitment Manager for Creative Circle Seattle, which means that I manage a team of recruiters and am also hands-on as a recruiter.

+      Have your kids gone back to school?
Yes, our son went back to school in October 2020. It was a bit nerve-wracking at the beginning, but his school has so many safety protocols in place. It’s been so incredible to see him thrive — despite social distancing and mask-wearing.

+      How have you gotten work done with the kid/s home?
When faced with challenges, my husband and I find comfort in routines and organization. Before our son went back to school, every morning, I updated an Excel spreadsheet with our schedule for the day — a different column for each of us. It allowed us to split our time between working and remote learning and made the situation more manageable.

+      Have you gotten any help from a partner?
Oh, yes. My husband and I did a lot of dividing and conquering. He handled the majority of the remote learning and we took turns working throughout the day.

+      What has been the most difficult thing about mothering and working and existing this past year?
The hardest part has been combining the two in the same space — both physical and mental space (and time) during the day. In normal times, our son knows that we work, but he’s never had a front-row seat. It was difficult to repeatedly say, “no, I need to do this for work first” or “you need to wait until I’m off this call.” Of course, part of being a kid is hearing “no” and having to wait your turn, but I hated sending him the message that he came second to work.

+      Has there been a best part?
Absolutely! Since the day I went back to work after maternity leave, I’ve wished for more time together. A global pandemic wasn’t on the wish list, but I’m so grateful for the extra time and memories.

+      What would help working mothers in this country?
There are so many parental leave policies that should be better (or exist at all), but I also think it starts with a realistic view of what it is actually like to be a working mom. I feel like no one talks about it. It’s hard; you feel guilty if you enjoy the break, you feel sad when you miss your child, it is difficult to compare yourself to your former pre-kid self. There are so many emotions that you feel and everyone experiences things differently — and all version are okay!

+      What advice would you share with other moms and mother figures?
Your life with a child is going to be different and wonderful in a way it wasn’t before — remember to celebrate that because it goes so quickly (I know everyone says that!). BUT, your life will also be different and harder in a way it wasn’t before; it’s okay to talk about that and feel it. It doesn’t make you a bad mother or a weak person. And in those moments when you feel like you’re falling down on both jobs (mother and employee), your child still thinks you are the greatest person who has ever lived.

""

Renae Virata Meyer

Age: 40
Dallas, Texas
Married, with one son, who is almost four years old. Renae is a Senior Account Executive and was the first one to have a baby in that office.

+      What has been your experience as a working mom during the pandemic?
Finding balance has been essential to meeting the needs of my family, my job, and me! My husband and I both work, and we’re fortunate to have help who’s like family. We’re both focused on ensuring we’re there for each other, have time for ourselves, and dedicate time to our son when we are with him. We don’t want to miss these precious growing years with him. It’s been an exercise in precision time management.

+      What kind of work do you do? Where do you work?
I’m a Senior Account Executive. I’ve been with Creative Circle for four years and am grateful to be at a point where I’m more tenured. I’ve built solid client relationships and work with a great market and regional team to get and lend support. Also, because I work in my own home office, it’s been easy to have my own space to work and think.

+      Have your kids gone back to school?
Yes, my son goes three days a week to his German language school.

+      How have you gotten work done with the kid/s home?
We have a sitter who takes our son to school, brings him home, and takes care of him on days off from school. It helps us get a lot done. Before, I used to work at night, but with our new schedule, I feel confident and happy to shut off my computer at 6 pm when my son comes home to give 100% of my attention to him.

When he is at home, though, it’s a delicate balance. I’ve had more than my share of interruptions this past year, but clients and CC colleagues have been super understanding!

+      Have you gotten any help from a partner?
My husband is a-maz-ing! He fully supports and is interested in my career at Creative Circle and sees my work as demanding and important as his. It took some time to create a balance because I was just doing more, worrying more, etc. We’re continually refining our schedules and responsibilities and aim to give each other flexibility. Overall, it’s been pretty solid.

+      What has been the most difficult thing about mothering and working and existing this past year?
Anxiety! I’ve had the worst case in my life this past year. It’s hard because as someone that wants to show up and be good at everything, it’s just not possible. I put 150% pressure on myself and feel guilty in any given area of my life, but I’ve realized that it’s okay. I’m one person, and I do the best I can. The key is to recognize that and ASK FOR HELP. Without therapy, talking with my managers, husband, friends — I couldn’t get through it.

+      Has there been a best part?
I had a tough time mid-last year with all the pressures of AE life, having a toddler son whose demands were (lovingly) growing every day, making sure my husband and I had time together, connecting with girlfriends, taking care of myself, all while in the midst of the pandemic. But with the support of my team, especially my manager and VP, I came out the other end with a renewed sense of purpose and a solid plan that has helped me thrive at work.

My husband and I talk daily, and I’ve committed to stay in touch with my girlfriends and be honest about life when we need to chat. All in all, I feel more present and better understand that life is about progress — not perfection.

+      What would help working mothers in this country?
Working moms need more flexibility in the workplace and recognition of the unique hardships that befall us. More resources to help with the mental and emotional transitions would also be huge.

+      What advice would you share with other moms and mother figures?
Be nice to yourself. Get help when you need it. Don’t feel shame for having an episode now and then; you’re human. Know you’re not alone. And don’t forget to schedule time for yourself!


About the author.
An award-winning creator and digital health, wellness, and lifestyle content strategist—Karina writes, produces, and edits compelling content across multiple platforms—including articles, video, interactive tools, and documentary film. Her work has been featured on MSN Lifestyle, Apartment Therapy, Goop, Psycom, Yahoo News, Pregnancy & Newborn, Eat This Not That, thirdAGE, and Remedy Health Media digital properties and has spanned insight pieces on psychedelic toad medicine to forecasting the future of work to why sustainability needs to become more sustainable.