Dear Emuna,

I work in a small department at a hospital. I've been physically at work during the entire pandemic. Thankfully, I have a nanny and have been able to come to work, but in doing so I leave behind three children, from ages 3 to 8. There's another mother in my department. She has two children. She isn't a team player and occasionally leaves before our duties have finished, which leaves me the obligation to be sure everything is finished at day's end. Now with the pandemic she is taking numerous days off, two weeks this month, two weeks next month. She says this is for childcare. But as a working mom myself, I'm resentful. I pay a nanny a lot so I can come to work. Why can't she? She has the same resources I do.

Of course, it's difficult in the midst of a pandemic, but others seem to manage. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, as so many articles stress. But I find that very hard in this particular instance. And I'm grateful of course to have a job right now, and a nanny, but something about this other person taking lots of time off while I leave kids at home with largely unstructured days really bothers me!

Frustrated Working Mom

Dear Frustrated,

First of all, thank you for your service during this challenging time. Your efforts are appreciated by many of us.

In terms of your complaints, I totally hear you; we have all been in situations where we feel taken advantage of or where we feel others aren’t pulling their fair share. I think there is a two-pronged response to your circumstances. I will begin with the simplest – the practical.

I don’t know your relationship to the administration in your hospital or how your team works but it seems to me that you need to approach your immediate supervisor and discuss the situation. Perhaps there is a practical resolution that you haven’t thought of. Perhaps there is room for you to take some time off as well.

But whatever comes out of that meeting, there is a more important reality you need to accept. You are only responsible for your choices. You need to live the life that works for you – the life you think is moral and ethical, the life that provides for your family, the life that nourishes your marriage and your children, the life that helps you develop your relationship with God.

Those decisions are completely UN-connected to the decisions made by the other mother in the department. Maybe she’s selfish, maybe she takes advantage, maybe there’s something you don’t know about her home life that she doesn’t feel comfortable revealing. It doesn’t really matter (although I do think if we’re very creative we probably can find ways to judge her favorably); what really counts is your response to her. And your response ultimately needs to be that her behavior is irrelevant. If you want to work less, work less, and take off days like she does. If you want to work more, work more. What she does doesn’t really matter. You have to live with the results of your choices – and you will only grow based on your choices, not hers.

Again, it’s not that I don’t understand; I do. We’ve all been there in one way or another. There is always going to be someone who appears to take advantage or games the system or seems to have it easier but, not only can looks be deceiving, but their behavior should not determine ours. We want to be people we are proud of, people whose choices we support and endorse.

It may not be said often enough but particularly during this stressful time, your actions are an inspiration to us all. And I hope that when this pandemic ends (may it please be soon God), you will be able to look back and feel good about the effort you put it, the responsibilities you took, the choices you made – even under very adverse and challenging circumstances. And I hope your colleague will also.

But it doesn’t matter. Only you know whether you chose well. I pray the Almighty gives you the strength you need to continue the fight and help others win their battle.