The widespread impact of COVID-19 on people, both personally and professionally, is undeniable. What’s not being talked about enough is the impact specifically on working mothers. Graham Media Partners is a largely female-driven organization. We strongly believe in supporting women however we can, whether through employment, mentoring, charitable giving, or beyond. In a series of blog posts with our employees, partners, clients, and friends, we’re highlighting the situations and emotions that many moms are navigating every day – while continuing to advance their careers. We hope this sheds light on the strength of women, while illuminating the support and compassion they deserve.

Many thanks to today’s guest author, Rachel Colello, Director, Graham Media Partners. Rachel is navigating the pandemic from the Chicago suburbs with her husband, and their 2 children, ages 6 and 4.

The day New York City announced its first COVID-19 case, my husband was on a business trip in Manhattan.

When the United States closed its borders against the pandemic, I had a parent living in another country across the globe.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed the “Medical Conditions and Risk for Severe COVID-19 Illness,” it read like a description of a close family member’s health history.

So, when people ask me, “Does this ‘pandemic thing’ even seem real to you?” the only answer is “YES. Yes, it does.”

Thankfully, we are all doing well. My husband never got sick, that we know of. Our family members around the globe are safe and healthy, even if we miss them. I am working way less than I would like to be, but as the “flexible career” in our household, that is by design. Like all families, we’re making it work in many new ways and adjusting to many new normals.

The most surprising part? I think I might like running.

In my 20s I did a few 5Ks. They were a fun way to support a cause and hang out with friends, but also painfully slow. I jogged after work because it was free, and I didn’t want to spend my tiny hard-earned paycheck on a gym membership. I tried a couple training programs but rarely saw progress. I got frustrated, decided I must just “not be a runner,” and by the end of my 20s, I had mostly given up the sport.

About two months after our local schools switched to distance learning, I was fried. All the “normal” things I usually did to relieve stress were gone – no more working from coffee shops, sweaty CorePower Yoga workouts, or date nights out with my husband. I felt gross, frustrated, and sadly, pretty angry at everything and nothing at all. Trying (sometimes unsuccessfully) to not take those feelings out on the rest of the family took a ton of energy, so I was a lot more tired than usual as well.

One random day at the start of summer, my husband returned from one of his own runs and said, “You probably need to get as sweaty as you used to at hot yoga. Why don’t you try running again?” Obviously, I laughed at this. I hate running. I didn’t have time to run. All the reasons.

A week later, I downloaded a running app and went for my first run in at least five years. It hurt. So did the next run. I ordered new sneakers and new running shorts. And even though it hurt, and I sucked at it, I kept going.

I passed 25 miles Labor Day weekend. They were super slow. I don’t think I believe in a “runners high.” But, for me at least, it feels like each run is releasing pressure. The anger and frustration I feel stays out on the road and I bring home more sweat and more patience. I’ve started looking forward to runs because I know I’ll feel lighter afterwards. No one is more surprised by this than me.

For this school year, I’m helping our first grader manage her virtual learning, while homeschooling our preschooler. I work when I can, often before the sun is up. The pandemic and its impact continue to feel very real. The rest of my career feels like a huge question mark. But, I can say this with certainty: pandemics make me run faster.

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