Like all working mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Astrid Rivera, a reporter for Univision’s nationally syndicated morning show Despierta América, has felt the changes in her daily life. Pre-Coronavirus, she was used to setting her alarm at 3:30 a.m. to be at the studio by 4:00 a.m. Her husband would get their three kids ready for school, while she would pick them up and take over the afternoon duties including homework and cooking dinner. Now, they all find themselves at home adapting to a new lifestyle where life, school and business are conducted primarily online.
Technology has already been part of her kids’ schooling, allowing her as a parent to connect with the teachers, especially in the case of her kindergartener and second grader. On the other hand, her sixth grader has been utilizing Microsoft Teams regularly for group projects and homework assignments. This has helped with the shift to remote learning in many ways and made the transition to a fully online model easier. Their teachers place all assignments on Teams, emails are communicated through Microsoft Outlook, and all assignments are executed using Microsoft Office 365.
As it relates to her professional life, working in the media communications industry has always required her to be tech savvy. “I wouldn’t be able to do my job or connect with my audience if I wasn’t technologically proficient,” she comments. Whether using Microsoft Outlook for emails or Microsoft Teams for chatting with her editors, technology enabled much of Astrid’s day-to-day communication pre-COVID-19.
That said, having face-to-face interaction was also very important, and considered key to conducting a good interview. Resources like video calling were considered last resort. She, along with her colleagues, have realized the power and quality of technology when it comes to building news stories, stating that they are currently using technology like Skype for remote interviews more and more due to COVID-19.
According to the Microsoft Work Trend Index, as the world works remotely, people in the United States are turning on video in Teams two times more than before, growing by over 1,000 percent in the month of March. The need for an in-person connection has diminished amidst this crisis. Reporters have realized that they can do their job, and do it well, with the technology available today. Stories have been disregarded and not executed in the past because of the inability to travel for an interview, but today that is no longer an issue. Astrid believes that this has changed the industry, forcing it to fully harness the power of technology to evolve and grow. “Sometimes you have to be there, but right now I think that the media is going to be more open and willing to accept virtual interviews and stories through technology than before.”
Although she, along with her family, were well prepared to make the transition to remote work and learning, adapting to the new normal has not been easy. “We haven’t adapted, we’re surviving,” she comments.
During this time, her priority has been the well-being of her children. In stressful times it’s important to find time to disconnect, and this is ever so important for kids. It’s been hard for her children being cooped up in the house for over a month with barely any outside interactions. “They too need that time to clear their minds and just be kids.”
Finding a balance between family and work life has been hard for everyone. “We need to acknowledge that this is not a productivity contest and that we’re human. It’s impossible to do everything at the same time.” She believes that it’s impossible to try setting a strict schedule for her kids or work these days as things are changing daily, if not hourly. Especially in her line of work, it’s difficult because a breaking story can occur while she’s doing homework with her kids, and she must drop everything to focus on the story.
Astrid’s new normal is like that of many working mothers. “I can’t say that my house is 100% clean – because it’s not, but at the end of the day my kid’s well-being is my priority right now.” Living through this crisis as a working mother is not easy, but she knows she’s not alone.
“Without technology, there would have been no way for me and my family to remotely work and learn successfully. But we all need to remember that being present in your loved ones lives and supporting them is still the priority during this crazy time.”
As Astrid likes to say, “Los niños no quieren una mamá perfecta. Los niños quieren una mamá feliz,” which translates to, “Kids don’t want a perfect mom, they want a happy mom.” She explained that through her experience, she’s realized it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the stresses brought on by these extraordinary times, but that it’s important to remember that everyone is in this together. She urges everyone during this time to check in on friends and family to make sure everyone is okay, to be kind, empathic, to help someone in your community and to ask for help if needed.