Shelley Smith

Shelley Smith

First of all, if you are unfamiliar with the term “placemaker,” don’t worry. You are not alone. The term only began being used outside of planning circles within the last decade or so, though the movement was born back in the 1960s in response to the federal policy of urban renewal.

Early pioneers championed cities designed for people, with walkable streets, welcoming public spaces, healthy environments, accessible services for all, and lively neighborhoods. In a nutshell, they felt like communities, and all of the wonderful intangible attributes that make them more than just a place, were being threatened by destructive development patterns. Now, the word placemakers is more or less an umbrella term for a wide variety of professionals and can apply to urban designers, architects of all sorts, preservationists, developers, public officials, or really just about anyone that enjoys living in a nice place and wants to keep it that way. After working as real estate development professional and preservation designer for most of my career, some colleagues questioned my decision to move back to my hometown to take an administrative position with Motlow State. But as a community college, it is very much a positive placemaker. But enough with the history lesson, where am I going with all of this?

As a mother of two small children I am a homemaker as well as a placemaker. Work-life balance is hard on a good day and working remotely presents a whole new sets of challenges. I realize that we are in the middle of a pandemic and I am not insensitive to the fact that there is a lot of suffering in the world right now. I think it is important; however, to still try and find joy and bright spots wherever we can.

First, I think it is important to acknowledge the way the health crisis has managed to bring us closer together as a community while we practice social-distancing and self-isolating at the same time. Second, working from home has caused me to rethink what work-life balance means to me. I love being able to spend more time with my children. And, being forced to figure out this whole remote-work-thing has opened my eyes to new possibilities for how to be a good placemaker and a better homemaker to boot.

This experience has also led me to connect with colleagues in new ways as we empathize and commiserate with each other while making the adjustments to our daily lives. I hope you other remote working parents have begun settling into your workflow under the “new normal.”

There, of course, can be glitches associated with this remote-working situation. For instance, last week I thought I had my microphone on mute during a conference call with three high-ranking executives. Although repeatedly saying “go get your pants on” (to my son, not the executives) during an important conference call might be frowned upon under normal circumstances, they offered me words of encouragement and understanding instead.

Finally, members of the community, not just parents, have all begun sharing information and resources to help each other more than ever. So, in the spirit of sharing, if you are a parent with school-age children at home with you, visit the Motlow library’s Active Guides section on their site at where you will find some great resources for parents.

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