As a working mom, I'm tired. I’ll just say it. The to-do list grows and grows and most days I add more than I subtract from this list. The line between the workday and home life has become blurred or erased all together. The pandemic has expanded the demands on women in the workplace, creating a situation that is unsustainable. It is no surprise then that a recent study showed that 1 in 4 women is thinking of reducing their hours or leaving the workforce altogether. Common concerns of working mothers during the pandemic include burnout, mental health, financial insecurity and the health of loved ones.
The recently released Women in the Workplace 2020 study showed that during the pandemic working moms are doing three extra hours of work (e.g., home responsibilities, childcare) each day. That’s the equivalent of working a part-time job on top of everything else! The study shares some practical tips for managing stress and ways for companies to support women in the workforce.
Make work more sustainable by setting boundaries. If you’re working from home, as many parents are, it’s easy to feel like you are “always on.” Discuss productivity expectations with supervisors, and plan workdays as best you can. My sanity saving tip during the pandemic has been to set aside one day, or even a half a day, each week in which you do not work. I look forward to this time and fully focus on my needs and spending quality time with my family.
Map out your day. Each day, I write a to-do list and block out sections of my day for various tasks. Sometimes tasks overlap or can be accomplished at the same time, so I try to group activities to prevent double work. I’ve also worked really hard — and I’m not quite there yet — at giving myself permission to focus on my work- when at work, and family - when I am with my family. While this isn’t possible for all working moms, I want to encourage those that can, to allow yourself to be fully present at work and home.
Clarify flexibility. Reconsider what flexibility looks like for you and talk about proposals for flexible work with your supervisor. It’s important we reduce the stigma around being flexible at work. Many people feel guilty for using vacation days, taking lunches or asking for more time on a project, forcing us to power through without regard for our overall wellbeing. If we are transparent about our need for flexibility, and clearly define what that might look like (e.g., project completion deadlines rather than set work hours or the ability to work on weekends if you need to take off during the week), companies can better support workers. Additionally, companies are encouraged to think about creative and proactive ways to support workers like including flexible childcare options in benefits packages or adjusting leave policies.
Supporting women in the workplace:
Keep lines of communication open. Ask women in the workplace about the things that require the most mental energy during the day or tasks that are most fulfilling. Simply asking, “how are things going” isn’t likely to yield an honest answer. If there are changes coming in the company, be transparent about them and encourage and be open to feedback.
Rethink flexibility and work evaluation. Different times call for different expectations. Companies who offer flexibility in work, innovative supports for working mothers and adjust productivity expectations may be better able to retain women in the workplace.
Think about intersectionality. Remember, there is no one experience of women in the workforce. Black and Latina women, LGBTQ+ women and women with disabilities are facing additional challenges in the workplace that companies have to understand in order to adequately address.
Times are hard right now and it may feel like a lot. Well, let’s be honest, it is a lot. Uncertainty and growing responsibilities have made the already difficult job of being a working mom more challenging.
I want you to know, you aren’t alone.
Other moms feel just like you.
And the responsibility for change isn’t yours alone.
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