Returning from maternity leave amidst a pandemic


Returning from maternity leave amidst a pandemic

First Name


Last Name


Current location

Niskayuna, NY, USA

Relationship to Union


When this took place

March-May 2020

My Experience

I left for maternity leave in November of 2019. Shortly before I was planning to return to work, Union announced that we would be closing campus. A member of our campus community had tested positive for COVID-19. As the Class Dean for the Class of 2020, I immediately thought of our senior students and how this would potentially impact their last term on campus. I wrote to my supervisor and said that I wanted to return from leave earlier than planned. I felt a tremendous sense of urgency to be back at Union and to be connecting with both my colleagues and our students.

I knew that a tremendous amount of work, communication, and reassurance would likely need to happen in the days ahead. We had already been dealing with these challenges with our Minerva Fellows, who were abroad in Cambodia, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda. My colleagues were working exceedingly hard to bring them all home safely. And they were grieving as they had to cut their experiences short, say last-minute goodbyes, and return home to a country that was looking radically different from what they left. Thus, I knew this would be a trying time for our campus community as a whole and I wanted to there, even if it meant working from home. Yet, I never imagined that more than 8 weeks later we would still be in quarantine and the uncertainty over our situation would still be so prevalent.

As I work from home, my husband watches our two children, Calder, who is 3.5 years old and Kian who turned 6 months in May. I am so grateful that he is a stay-at-home dad. It has been our saving grace, particularly given that our pre-school is closed. Still, even then, this experience has been both surreal and relentless. It is hard to be so nearby to my family and yet also largely unavailable. Work somehow extends way beyond the hours of a work day and the volume and pace of work feels like we are sprinting multiple consecutive marathons. It is hard. We are exhausted.

There are silver linings. Before returning to work, Kian started refusing a bottle. There were many tears shed. Working from home has allowed me to continue breastfeeding quite easily. Plus, in the background amidst my zoom calls, I get to hear them laughing, playing, and lots of loud singing. I can occasionally even pop in and join. Yesterday Calder asked me to dance as he sang the “Tale as Old as Time” from Beauty and the Beast and then he wanted a dance party to Bruno Mars’s “Uptown Funk.” I also love that Kian and Calder have made multiple appearances on Zoom. Having glimpses into the lives of our students and colleagues- their homes, what they hang on their walls, getting to meet their family members and their pets who all pop in and out of the frames- this is a bright spot for me. This shared humanity and at times vulnerability has been grounding and reassuring.

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