I’ve always worn a lot of hats. I’m a senior officer in the Air National Guard. I’m an executive at Comcast. I’m a mom of three 15-year-old girls. I solo parent during the week while my husband works in another city.
All of those jobs have become more complicated in recent months, with both coronavirus and a national reckoning on race; I’m also the wife of a black man and the mother of three girls from China.
I’m wearing more hats than ever. And yet I feel like the disparate parts of my life have somehow become unified, for the first time.
Those different parts are still challenging, of course, and in some ways even more so now. But everything is synced: I’m thinking about keeping my family safe from coronavirus, and then activating Guard teams to help keep other people safe from coronavirus. I’m doing a bunch of video meetings for my Comcast work in the dining room, and then my girls are asking me about the conversations they sometimes overhear. I’m watching the news about protests and talking to my husband and kids about the race dynamics we live every day.
There’s a real humaneness in that situation.
At times, it seems like I’ve had to live a bifurcated life, pretending that I didn’t have a spouse or kids, or had to get dinner on the table.
But now work is in our personal lives, literally. The dog is barking in the background of someone’s video during the meeting, while another person on the call has a toddler crawling into his lap. I’ve now talked to the kids of colleagues whom I didn’t even know were parents. I feel people are so much more gracious with all of that now. There’s a true sense that we’re all in this together.
Not everything has been easy, of course. My husband commuting back and forth to us in Philadelphia from his job in Atlanta during the week has been more challenging because of coronavirus, for example.
And in the early days I could hear my teen daughters picking up messaging from social media: 2020 is terrible, 2020 is something bad is happening to us.
I decided I had to very clearly set the tone of living intentionally. 2020 doesn’t happen to us. We get to live in 2020—and there are many people who won’t have that gift. So what do we want our family life and individual lives to be?
It doesn’t mean we stick our heads in the sand. We are engaged with what’s going on in the news and have open conversations about the race crisis. We listen to CDC guidelines and keep ourselves as safe as we can during coronavirus.
But we’ve also talked about the goals we want to achieve this summer. We eat dinner slowly, with cloth napkins that we later wash and hang to dry on the clothesline. We make baked ziti and use the sauce jars as flower vases to bring to our neighbors’ doorsteps. We exercise and we play Uno and we really talk.
We take time to recognize the ways in which we are lucky, when others are not. For me, beyond our health, I’m also grateful for the opportunity to do work that matters. People need connectivity right now as they work from home, and I’m at a company that brings that to them. As leader on Comcast’s Military and Veteran Affairs team is really rewarding — many of our colleagues have been called up to serve their communities over the last few months, and we offer a ton of benefits like a concierge team of HR professionals who help with the logistical challenges of balancing military obligations with a civilian career.
I want our girls to remember a house that celebrated those bright spots even during a challenging time. A house that wasn’t a place of fear but one that talked openly about the protests, the pandemic, our concerns, our future. A house where all of the juggling and the go-go-go and the different hats … suddenly calmed down and morphed into something unified.
I hope we all remember this as a time when we could say, from now on, I have to live only one life. Because we get only one life.
Disclaimer: Comcast is the parent company of NBC Universal. Know Your Value is part of NBC News.
Rebecca Gray is the executive director of Military & Veteran Affairs at Comcast NBCUniversal overseeing military community strategic engagement. She has worked in both the commercial and nonprofit sectors and has proudly served in the U.S. Air Force for more than 25 years.