3 Things Every Working Mom Needs to Hear Right Now
Ten months. We’ve been living in this suspended-reality for ten months now. That’s almost an entire year of juggling work, challenging childcare and school situations, and a never-ending series of impossible decisions. We’re stressed, exhausted, and burned out.
It’s no secret that working mothers have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. We’ve added additional childcare and household responsibilities to our already-very-full plates, and our ability to access any help outside our own households disappeared overnight. As the pandemic has dragged on, and families have faced the impossibility of our current situation, it has been women – who consistently earn less than their male counterparts – that have been pushed out of the workforce in droves (source).
The new year and the vaccine bring a glimmer of hope, but we’re still months away from any semblance of “normal”. As we summon our strength to get through what is *hopefully* the final stretch of this pandemic, here are 3 things every working mom needs to hear.
3 Things Every Working Mom Needs to Hear Right Now
1. This is hard
Balancing work and family has always been hard. Balancing work and family during a pandemic takes it to a whole new level.
Our situations all look very different, depending on our job and where we live. Some of us are working from home, while others don’t have that luxury. In some areas, children have returned to in-person school, while others have been remote learning since last March. Regardless of your individual situation, every working mom needs to hear an acknowledgement that this is hard.
Facilitating remote learning and providing full-time childcare while trying to get in a full day of work is unsustainable. Even if you have the ability to trade off with a partner, you’re likely squeezing work into all hours of the day. You’re making countless impossible choices between work and your children every day, dealing with non-stop interruptions, and may feel like you’re failing on all fronts.
If you’re a parent working on the frontlines, you have the added fear of bringing COVID-19 home to your family, on top of the enormous stressors that you’re facing every day at work. You may have faced the impossibility and huge unplanned expense of arranging childcare with no notice – and grappled with the guilt of doing so.
If, like me, you’re lucky enough to have your kids back in school, you know how fortunate you are. But with the return to in-person school comes a whole new set of worries. The daily threat of exposure notices, and low threshold for sick days, means you’re regularly scrambling for childcare – and waiting for the other shoe to drop. The physical exhaustion of the early days of the pandemic has been replaced with emotional exhaustion, as you deal with with the daily stress and uncertainty of sending your kids to school in a pandemic.
Regardless of which situation you find yourself in, parenting during a pandemic – while trying to keep your career afloat – is difficult. No breaks, constant uncertainty, and limited ability to seek help outside our own households. We’ve been living in this crisis mode for so long that it’s become normal. But let’s take a step back and acknowledge that pandemic parenting is hard.
2. You’re doing an incredible job
Is your child spending more time on a screen than they ever have before? You’re not alone.
Does your child’s imaginary play now include “working” and telling family members to be quiet because they’re on a phone call? You’re not alone.
Are you sending your child to school or daycare every day with a knot in your stomach, wondering if you’re making the right decision? You’re not alone.
Social media can give us the impression that everyone is rocking pandemic parenting, with colour-coded schedules, daily family walks, and fresh-baked sourdough bread. I assure you that is not the case.
We’re all exhausted, worried, and doing the best we can in terrible circumstances. We’re dealing with unprecedented levels of stress and uncertainty, while trying to create stability and normalcy for our children. Every day, we’re making countless decisions that have no right answer. If your children are safe and loved, you’re doing an incredible job.
3. How can I help?
The one thing every working mom needs right now? Help. Help from our governments and social systems, help from our employers, help from our partners if we have them, and help from our friends and loved ones.
We’re all familiar with the saying “it takes a village”. Perhaps the biggest challenge of this pandemic for working parents is the fact that our village disappeared overnight. Many of us were barely hanging on by a thread before the pandemic – and now that thread has been taken away.
From our governments and employers, parents need the ability to care for our children during the pandemic, without the fear of losing our jobs. We need sick leave, affordable childcare, and the flexibility to take care of our children when that childcare suddenly disappears. We need open and honest conversations with our employers about the challenges we’re facing, and we need those conversations to be more than just lip service. We need our workplace leaders to model appropriate boundaries – and to respect ours.
Support from friends and family is so hard right now, when everyone is struggling to keep their heads above water. However, even in the world of physical distancing there’s so much we can do. We can drop off meals, we can trade off childcare with those in our bubble (or even take the kids for a walk if being inside is off limits right now), we can reach out to provide much-needed support with a phone call or text. Heck, even a few minutes of Zoom babysitting can provide a much-needed break.
This pandemic will end, and we will return to a “new normal”. If we want working parents to be up to the task of rebuilding that new normal, we need to provide the support that parents and families need now.
To my fellow working moms – I see you. This is hard, and you’re doing an incredible job.