COVID brought a huge change to the work-life balance that was already hard to maintain. Working moms concerned about job security during a pandemic are now at home full time with their children, navigating work, kids, and domestic needs at once. Our question is, is there enough COVID help for working parents? Read more to find out, you can also check our Youtube summary here.
Our first guest Stephanie shared how her situation before and after COVID hasn’t changed dramatically because she still has her job. We agreed on how the situation is more challenging for working moms who may have lost their jobs and underwent a pay-cut. We acknowledged how ‘We are all in this together but differently.
We talked about some of the key issues working moms face during this difficult time of working from home while attempting to maintain a balance at home.
- It is extremely difficult to access childcare.
It is very difficult to have access to childcare because of COVID guidelines and physical limitations, even for parents who can afford it. Affordable childcare is a major need for not only working moms but parents overall.
- It is very challenging to adopt and balance multiple roles at once.
Since kids are remote learning during the pandemic, moms become teachers to their kids. Naturally, kids find it hard to focus on school when they are home, which puts a greater pressure on moms to ensure their kids’ learning. For moms who have multiple kids in different ages, this is even harder because both kids are not learning the same content and need double the time and effort. On top of motherly responsibilities, there are now more house chores to deal with and it’s challenging to find time even for grocery shopping. All these are even more challenging for single moms who don’t have a spouse in the home to help them.
- Working is less productive.
Having to deal with house responsibilities, children and work simultaneously makes everyone more tired and less focused, slowing down productive work. A few noises in the background can be enough to lose track of thought during work, presentations or meetings. On top of environmental distractions, there are mental challenges. The added roles of being a teacher to children, a spouse to their husbands while working is difficult and brings down productivity. Sadly, employer’s have a lack of understanding for these changes and how they affect productivity. The only way to have the same productivity is to not sleep at night and that’s not feasible for to maintain their mental and physical health.
- With all these stressors, the mental health challenges are one of the hardest parts of working from home.
On top of being distracted and having more to do, going between tasks of taking care of children and working causes a constant ‘stop start stop start’ and ease burnout.
- It is a greater challenge to find the right priorities and balance in relationships for working moms who live with their partners. Unfortunately, there is no equality at home. One of the working mom’s for our Live session mentioned how she noticed from her social circle that husbands are occupying the office room in their home, leaving women to work on the kitchen table which adds to the challenge of being surrounded by home responsibilities.
Positive Changes in The Workplace:
Despite these challenges, there are upsides too. Here are a few positive changes observed by Suzanne of Mompowerment, since she started working from home during COVID.
- Despite employer’s lack of understanding for the decreased productivity, they have greater empathy for working moms during this time. Employers can visually see the challenges a working mom has with trying to balance kids, home responsibilities and work and how these interruptions are unavoidable.One example was how her colleagues would spontaneously have to Zoom call each other, and how it lead to another working mom having to pick up and give an entire brief about an ongoing project while she was changing her son’s diaper on Zoom. After that incident, there were less spontaneous Zoom calls from employers to provide more space.
- Women have been contributing more during meetings because ZOOM calls prevent hierarchy with multiple screens randomly being shown and stacked up. This provides an environment that’s more liberating and democratising for women to break down barriers in speaking up.
- Men see how it’s like to be involved in the daily life because they are home with their spouses. They get a better understanding of women’s live struggles and female employees don’t have to pretend anymore that they don’t have children.
How can we solve these issues?
Our second guest Suzanne, founder of Mom Powerment also gave very insightful tips on how to solve these issues and make the home a better and more balanced place for working moms. She pointed out that the underlying issue is that women don’t advocate for themselves enough, whether it’s at home or work. She talked about how negotiation is frightening for women because they don’t want to lose jobs or be turned down. She reflected on an experience she had with a former employer. There seemed to be an unwritten rule for moms who were employed with that company. Unlike other employee’s, working moms didn’t leave work early and even continued to work when they got home. Suzanne realized she did not want to follow this path since she was going to become a new mom herself. She negotiated with her boss to work part time while maintaining the same benefits for her return from maternity leave. Other moms witnessed the negotiation she made with her boss and were surprised.
Lack of advocacy isn’t only in the junior levels, however. Women tend to question their power even in managerial positions. Instead of telling employers ‘I need you to do this’, they ask employees ‘Will you or can you?’.
So, how can this issue be solved to ease the struggles of a working mom?
Women need to realise that men will not offer to take on responsibilities, so they have to ask and not be shy about it because it’s needed. Suzanne addressed these issues by learning from the women in senior positions in her workplace. They were her role models to mimic and learn from. Instead of asking people if they can do something for her, she now follows a strategy of collaboration through giving others options to choose from while being firm on her expectations. This allows to be collaborative and non-threatening while empowering women to take charge.
One of Suzanne’s examples was when she wanted to write a second book but couldn’t balance it with home responsibilities. She first asked her husband about his opinions on her writing a second book, when he was really enthusiastic about it. She also offered him responsibilities to take over so she could accomplish her goal. She gave him an opportunity to choose from a few options to not be threatening and they started to collaborate on house work. For this to work, Suzanne emphasized how women have to be okay with the way their husbands do those tasks.
This insight Suzanne provided on this issue was very empowering. However, where do women start to have these conversations?
Suzanne’s strategy was making a list of her expectations from her spouse, and being honest and clear with her husband about them. It’s crucial to ask and have these conversations because ‘You get what you ask for or don’t ask for’. With the changes COVID forcefully brought, it’s a good time to recreate relationships, whether its personal or professional. As our previous guest Stephanie mentioned earlier, COVID pulled back the curtain to face everyone’s situation and their issues, so women need to start acting to improve their situation. Burnout is easier to happen these days and we need to act on issues and ask more to solve our issues instead of pushing through and struggling.
What can you do to avoid Burnout as a working mom?
- Your partner truly should be your ‘partner’. Share in each other’s successes and work as a team. When Suzanne needs to use the office, her husband does the best he can to move things around and give her the space without sacrificing from his job. To provide the balance, she does the same for her husband.
- Plan your week and share it within the household and colleagues you work very closely with to let them know of your schedule.
- To optimise your planning, check tools you can utilise. Because of the virus, there are more tools you can use. For example, instead of going out for groceries, you can use online grocery stores to save yourself time.
- Have the calendar reflect your values. Effectively add things in your calendar that actually matter to you. Don’t assume you will get into things such as workouts, alone time with your spouse or activities with kids later. Have all activities you want added in your calendar.
- Lower your stress, anxiety and help your mental health by having small self care rewards instead of big monthly ones. You can read a book or go on a walk. Did you know that reading a book for 6 minutes can lower your heart rate? For this small reward to be truly relaxing, make sure to not choose activities that will cause anxiety (like reading a thriller book or watching a horror movie)
- Starts your day with a self care check-in. Ask yourself ‘What do I need to adjust in my day to ensure my success?’ This will allow you to know what to do when things come in your way.
- Be more intentional with your time. What do you need to do to accomplish something and how do you make that happen? Identify these and add it to your schedule. Self quarantine gives us more flexibility than ever. Use it to your advantage, not disadvantage! Don’t book too many meetings back to back to avoid numbing your mind. Make your work meetings action oriented so people use the meetings to discuss and not listen to presentation of ideas. Finish tasks that can be written on emails instead of booking more meetings.
In summary, here are our the most important takeaways you should remember:
- Organise your week, make self-appointments to maximise your time
- Re-negotiate on your obligations with work and your spouse
- Self advocate
- Have self gratitude and have small moments of calmness
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