The New York Life Newsroom is running a regular series that focuses on how our people are living and working in these challenging times. Here’s our conversation with Susan Sullivan, Communication Business Partner, who talks about what it’s like to be a single mom while sheltering in place. Susan has been with the company for almost seven years and is based in our New York City Home Office.
1. Let’s start easy: How are you?
I’m doing ok. It’s been an interesting experience; it’s strange being home and away from my colleagues all the time—I used to work from home one day a week but doing so everyday can become isolating. Since schools closed, managing work while also meeting my son’s needs has been a challenge. Now that we’ve settled into a routine, it feels more manageable. I’m hanging in there!
2. Can you describe your role?
I am a Communications Business Partner on the Corporate Communications team. I support the New York Life Foundation’s internal communications work, as well as Finance and the Office of Government Affairs. While I miss being able to meet with my clients in person, I can do my job from anywhere.
3. Who have you been sheltering in place with?
I live with my three-year-old son Rowan, and our dog Layla. Our babysitter, thankfully, has been able to come every day to help with his schoolwork while I am working. The benefits to having her come every day far outweighed other concerns when it came to our mental health. Rowan has a lot of energy and keeping up with him, his schoolwork, and work all at the same time would have been extremely difficult to manage without becoming a very grouchy Mom. And she wanted to continue to work so it’s been positive all around.
4. What have been some of the challenges?
As a single mom, I was already dealing with myriad challenges on a regular basis and this pandemic magnified them. Rowan is in our town’s public Pre-K 3 program full time. Even with before and after-care costs, it was significantly less costly than paying for full time care, so that additional expense has strained the budget. Thankfully he gets a lot of love and excellent instruction from the babysitter; I just have a lot of anxiety around what he is missing out on developmentally. Learning how to interact with other children is critical at this point in his life and he is missing out on that experience now—I worry how it will affect him.
5. What does your day look like now?
I get up a little later than I used to, which is nice. I then get Rowan dressed and fed and the dog walked - all while listening to work calls and answering emails. The sitter arrives around 10:30a.m. Everyone knows my situation and thankfully has been very flexible and understanding, being open to working around my calendar for meetings where I need to be able to focus. My days end later than they used to, but it’s mostly been workable.
6. What do you miss most about the office?
I really miss seeing my colleagues and the camaraderie. I like working from home, but I really do miss the city.
7. What has been good about working from home?
Managing my life is a little easier since I don’t have the commute anymore. I get more sleep, I get to enjoy more snuggle and play time with Rowan instead of rushing to get out the door, which is wonderful, and I am cooking more.
8. How are you practicing self-care right now?
Self-care? What’s that!? Seriously though, it’s been very hard. My son’s schedule is pretty crazy—he naps very late in the day, which buys me more time to work, but then he’s up late. I try to adjust what I do around his schedule. I usually do some cooking or watch a little TV while he’s napping. I wish I had more time for myself, but I didn’t have much time before the pandemic either, being a single parent, so it is what it is! I do try to stay in touch with friends and family via Zoom but after a long day on the computer, the last thing I want is to be on the computer more.
9. What’s been helping you adjust?
Overall, it’s been a hard adjustment, especially when school ended. How the company has been supporting me though has been tremendously helpful—everyone is supportive and understanding, helping me manage my work. Without their support, this all would have been extremely difficult. And being able to pay someone to help care for my son while I work is a privilege I don’t take lightly, as I know many others aren’t able to do that.
10. What would you say you’ve learned about yourself over the last few months?
I learned I can be very resilient when I need to be. I kind of already knew that, but this has been yet another time when it’s been proven. I also learned how much I enjoy human contact.
11. What are your go-to comfort foods during the lockdown?
Homemade banana bread and Fritos! I’ve got to stay away from the Fritos! I rarely used to eat them, but now I can’t stop—they’re right there in my kitchen!
12. How exactly would you describe your corona-era wardrobe?
Elastic waist pants and a tee shirt! I am dreading work clothes again.
13. What’s on top of your to-do list when all of this is over?
Spending some time hugging my parents is way on the top of the list. We have been able to see each other some, but I miss the hugs. Also, I can’t wait to be able to take Rowan to fun places like the zoo and to visit our extended family again. The world is full of so many things and places to explore and I can’t wait to get back to taking him to discover them.
Go back to our newsroom to read more stories.