CHRO SA's Judith Kamffer on working from home while raising two toddlers

CHRO SA's head of marketing says working from home is no walk in the park.

It’s nearing the end of Women’s Month as I’m writing this. The baby is napping and I have a few moments to check my emails, cross off a few items on my to-do list and perhaps have a cup of coffee before she wakes up and demands my attention. This is working from home. For me at least.

I’ve been working from home since March – when lockdown and Covid were still terrifying monsters to a very pregnant working mother of a toddler. Every time Zoom asked me to ‘join with video’ I became acutely aware of the toys strewn on the floor in the background and the bags under my eyes. Not to mention the chaos that would ensue the moment it was my time to unmute – dogs barking at hadedas on the lawn, toddler tantrums and a husband taking his own Zoom calls in the background.

Like most South Africans, I was exhausted and defeated by mid-April. It seemed like I was fighting a losing battle – on all fronts. The future of our business – and the job that I love – was being threatened by this pandemic; my toddler clung to me because she wasn’t receiving the attention she so needed and I was about to bring another little life into this world without any support from family or friends.

I kept reminding myself that women have survived worse and birthed children under worse circumstances. I kept telling myself that I was lucky to still have a job, a doting husband, and my health.

Fast forward a couple of months and I’m in a CHRO Community Conversation on Zoom with some of South Africa’s leading women executives. Myself and Cebile Xulu, HR director at Mondelez, and friend of our community, end up in a breakout session together. I can hear her kids in the background and I’m rocking my baby to sleep. We talk about the limiting beliefs that sometimes hold us back. I engage with women who have partners and children in the background, while the dinner is still on the stove – who, somehow still found the time to seek out community. “This is it ” I think to myself as I listen to almost every woman laughing, saying “I thought it was just me.”

Sure, Covid is still very scary. Yes, I’m still worried about my daughters' futures, the recession, and the state of our country. And, of course, working from home is tough with distractions, nappy changes and load shedding. But I keep reminding myself that women have survived much worse and that they will keep surviving whatever is to come because of communities like this one. So, after a sleepless night, too much coffee and dry shampoo, I unmute, join with video and unleash my chaos onto the world.