2020: A Year of “Before” and “After”

WFH parents trying to manage without child care

Years from now, 2020 will be remembered in two parts: the very short and blissful “before” period when the world was what we just called actual “normal;” and the seemingly forever “after” that we keep inexplicably describing as “new normal,” but which is definitely not any kind of normal at all. 

“Before” we wished we had more time to spend at home. 

“After” we’d gladly get a cavity just so we had an excuse to go…somewhere. 

“Before” we loaded up on podcasts to make the commute more bearable.

“After” we sit in our parked cars yelling…just to pretend. 

“Before” we wondered how we’ll manage the kids on those half-days of school.

“After” Wait, there’s a half-day of school? A half-day of school would be amazing!

“Before” we worried about whether we had formula, chocolate, or PBJ stains on our work clothes.

“After” Look! It’s only on our pants (or pajama bottoms, if we’re being totally honest). All good.   

“Before” we wondered whether people who worked from home really needed child care. 

“After” OMG seriously – people actually thought that?  

“Before” we were embarrassed if a family member appeared on a work call.

“After” we casually wave at housemates while Zooming, can answer a seventh-grade geography question without pausing the PowerPoint presentation, and calmly thank our colleague for tipping us off about the toddler behind us about to put the remote control in the fish tank.

“Before” we wondered if there was a better term for “work/life balance.”

“After” we wondered how many synonyms we could find for the word “unprecedented” (not as many as you’d think).

“Before” we didn’t know much about colleagues’ private lives.

“After” we know what they look like first thing in the morning; if they have dogs, ferrets, or goldfish; if they bake bread, wrestle, do yoga, herd ducks (look it up), or play the tuba. We’ve met parents, kids, roommates, partners, and spouses. And we’re good with it. All of it.

“Before” we knew healthcare workers were heroes.

“After” we know they’re superheroes. Truly, we’re so, so humbled by their stories, and beyond proud to have been behind them since the beginning.

“Before” we knew frontline workers were some of the hardest-working people out there. 

“After” we call them what they are – essential workers – and we cannot say enough thank yous. Seriously, thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou. From the bottom of our hearts.

“Before” we thought our teachers were superstars.

“After” we KNOW they’re superstars – and we could not be prouder to be on their team. And PS: Congratulations, new graduates!

“Before” we imagined we had effectively separated the “life” from the “work” parts of our equation. 

“After” we know life is part of work, work is a part of life, and we welcome both in all of their glorious chaos and messiness.

“Before” we were employees in workplaces. 

“After” we’re people working together toward a common cause. 

“Before” we were colleagues, clients, friends.

“After” we still are (just a little more familiar with each other). 

From our offices to wherever you’re living, working, or doing both –  

May this day “before” the New Year lead to a much better “after” ahead.  

So long 2020 – Happy New Year!

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

December 24, 2020

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.