Working Mom

Sara Thompson, 29, of Miami, Fla and her husband, Rodney Thompson, 30, had their daughter, Eliana, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Two-years prior to that, Sara and Rodney moved to Raleigh, N.C., for Sara’s new job. Sara was laid off from her job as a database programmer in April 2020, contributing to the 14.8% U.S. unemployment rate that month due to the pandemic. When Sara found out she was pregnant in July 2020, her husband could not accompany her to doctor’s appointments. To make matters worse, Eliana was diagnosed with Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), a condition in which a baby does not grow to its normal weight. Sara was forced to deliver by C-section at 8-months. Sara remains unemployed and spends her time working toward her degree in Information Technology online while raising her 3.5 month old daughter from home, joining millions of American mothers who are faced with balancing work and raising their children during a global pandemic.
Rodney works for Wake County as a landscaper and leaves as early as 7 a.m. and returns around 4:30 p.m. In the meantime, Sara takes care of Eliana and feeds her 10 bottles a day. Eliana weighted only 4lbs 5oz at birth and has gained weight since then. “She’s getting heavy. I think I’m going to have one arm with muscles,” said Sara.
One of the first things Sara does in the morning is clean and sterilize her daughter’s bottles. She multitasks and boils them for a few minutes while studying online. Once a timer goes off, she’ll get up, remove the bottles, add in another batch and continue working.
Sara carries Eliana to her future bedroom to pick out her outfit for the day. “You really can’t do anything with one hand, ” said Sara. The room is filled with Eliana’s baby clothes and toys.
Sara has mastered multitasking. She pumps out her breast milk while observing her daughter participate in her daily “tummy time”. Sara pumps up to five times a day. Eliana cannot latch to her mother, partly due to her small size when she was born, so Sara must pump out her milk to feed her daughter. “Tummy time” helps babies strengthen their back and lift their heads, so Sara shows her picture books to encourage Eliana to keep her head up.
Sara and her daughter do not leave the house much during the week. With balancing school and raising an infant, Sara does not have a lot of free time.
Dogs and babies poop a lot. Their chihuahua, Jessica, joins them on their daily walks, and Sara picks up after her as well. As for Eliana, “it might be time for her to go up a diaper size. Baby’s do poop a lot though,” said Sara.
When Eliana was born, “it used to take her over an hour to finish 1oz of food…by the time she was done it was time to feed her again,” said Sara. Eliana stayed in the NICU overnight before coming home due to her early birth and small size. Nowadays, the baby eats up to 10 bottles a day and has gained weight.
“It was a relief to ger her out of me, I’ll tell you that,” said Sara. She was given short notice that Eliana was going to be born on the week of her birth. It was a “mix of the most terrifying moment of my life, but also the happiest,” she said.
Sara studies at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University online. When her daughter is asleep, or when her husband is home, she tries to catch up on as much work as possible before her daughter wakes up. ” I thought for sure my grades would slip when I had her, but they didn’t”, she said.
Sara takes her baby monitor with her while her baby is asleep and not with her. Eliana will wake up spontaneously, often interrupting school work or the process of cooking a meal.
Rodney gives Sara time to finish school and take a break when he comes home from work. They take turns eating dinner while caring for Eliana. “Mom’s are important. They are the most important part of it. When I get home, I give her a break,” he said. Sara and Rodney met in high school and got married at 19 and 21, respectively, and have been together ever since. Before moving to North Carolina, the two lived in Miami and later Virginia, where Rodney was stationed and worked as a truck driver at Fort Myer.
When Rodney comes home from work, he gives Sara a break and plays with Eliana. Eliana has started becoming more aware of her surroundings and stares at her own reflection.
Finding time to do school while raising an infant is a difficult task. The tasks often overlap, and Sara will sometimes pump while learning and studying online.
Sara has figured out that balancing a bottle on your chin while feeding her baby is a way to temporarily free up an extra hand. “I used to never want to put her down because she looked too cute,” said Sara.
Studying, cleaning, diaper changes, meal prepping, pumping, dog-walking and more comprise Sara’s day, every day. Being a mom is hard work, and it does not get any easier when you’re working toward a degree.