An ode to my work-from-home dining table

Pandemic life happened here: work calls during the day, home cooked meals at night, a baby’s first delicious laugh. And now it’s hard to imagine having to leave.

(Photograph by Carmen Cheung)

(Photograph by Carmen Cheung)

Every morning at 8:30, I would put on a sweatshirt and yoga pants, brush my hair, and apply tinted moisturizer and some lip balm. Destination: dining table. It was March 2020 and we had been asked to work from home.

Getting ready an hour before my 9:30 am meeting meant I had plenty of time to grab a toast and read the morning news. Sometimes after waking up and leaving my room, I would find the table from the night before: a stemless wine glass with undrinkable sips of bitter wine, a crusted slice of fusilli, drops of meat sauce now etched into grainy wood. We had had a great dinner; all cooked from scratch. It was the beginning of a pandemic and we had adhered to the lifestyle of Eat in à la Alison Roman.

Before starting work, I cleaned the table. I didn’t know it yet, but this would become the symbol of a new day, from the dining room to the desk, from the family to the workplace. I’d place a laptop, French press, mug, notepad, and pen on this makeshift desk. I was 12 weeks pregnant; our 700-square-foot condo office was being converted into a nursery.

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As a magazine editor, I had the privilege of spending my days at the table, flaunting knitted sweaters on Slack calls, playing on the fridge, and pondering the idea of ​​motherhood.

I daydreamed of the human being growing inside of me as the 2020 almanac exchanged full moons with the rise and fall of COVID cases. I laughed at work-from-home memes on social media, but in reality, less than half of Canada’s workforce had the luxury of staying home, according to a recently released Workforce Survey by Statistics Canada. Essential workers – in healthcare, transportation, waste management, and food services – dealt with their mortality on a daily basis. For the group logging in from home, standing still was doing the bare minimum in terms of public service.

There’s a 40-foot honey locust tree right outside the window and a view of the skyscrapers beyond in what was Toronto’s deserted financial district. From the dining room table, I watched the stations change six times before workplaces started demanding vaccinations. There is a commotion in the city center again, and people have returned.

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Back to the cubicles, the awkward elevator rides, the chopped salads, and the ironed shirts. The work-from-home batch is anticipating its re-entry into the outside world, where what was appropriate to do on the inside is now no. Goodbye, home clothes, digital backgrounds, and Grocery Gateway; Ta-ta noon laundry, Miss Vickie and virtual calls to catch up with your dad.

In late July, a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that 78 percent of Canadian employers expected at least a partial return to the office by October, but only one in five employees said they wanted to return full-time. Is it safe to admit that you would choose this table?

My son, Finian, is one now. He’s grown a lot since I heard his first laugh, when I discovered that he had a shrill laugh like mine. He was sitting on the dining room table in a baby seat, his mouth full of red lentil puree. I was trilling my lips as I nodded my head up and down, forehead to the ceiling, chin to the floor. He howled and the howl rolled. It is one of my best memories of a maternity leave that I spent at home.

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The table is messier now. Artifacts of a working mother are on display: half-eaten butter croissant, empty paper coffee cup; a French press containing two-day coffee; spread out magazines, a notepad and a pen; a teether and nursery art too.

I’m still in yoga pants, reviewing statistics on hybrid workplaces. The pandemic that has claimed nearly 30,000 Canadian lives is not over. A survey of 2,000 workers conducted by KPMG found that 81 percent of people believe that their companies are not equipped to manage a hybrid work model, with the majority concerned about contracting a variant of the coronavirus and 72 percent are reluctant. to take public transport.

If you asked me where to choose, I would have to be right here at this table. you?

This article appears in print in the January 2022 issue of Maclean’s magazine with the title “Dear dining table …” Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.

The piece is part of Maclean’s The Before You Go series, which collects unique and heartfelt letters from Canadians who take the time to say “Thank you, I love you” to special people in their lives, because we shouldn’t have to wait until it’s too late to tell our loved ones dear how we really feel. Read more essays here. If you’d like to see your own letters or reflections published, email us here. For more details on how to submit yours, Click here.

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