There’s no doubt that the COVID 19 pandemic has impacted every single one of us in ways we weren’t anticipating. In March of 2020, our lives were turned upside down and we were forced to pivot and respond with little to no direction or support.
One group has been hit particularly hard and that’s mothers, especially those that work. According to a study conducted by Maven, nearly a third of the thirty-five million working moms in America were suffering from symptoms of burnout (headaches, chest tightness, fatigue, hair loss, nausea, lack of motivation, irritability, and increased crying) in late 2020. Not to mention, more than half of mothers with children under 18 reported a marked decrease in mental health since the pandemic began.
Mental health demands have risen and providers are struggling to meet demands, which means people, especially mothers, are coping on their own terms. While coping can look like developing a new exercise habit or practicing meditation, for many overburdened moms this has looked like an increasing dependency on alcohol. Women’s drinking has actually been on the rise for two decades, but during COVID it hit an all-time high. According to a study conducted by RTI International, mothers with children under the age of five increased their drinking by 323% since COVID began. There is also a great deal of stigma around substance use and motherhood. Moms are expected to hold everyone’s needs in the household, which often means neglecting their own. Admitting that someone has come to rely too heavily on a substance is hard for everyone, and doubly hard for parents whose children look to them for support.
The bottom line is, things need to change and we need to provide better support for mothers across the board. But what does that look like?
Better Support Inside of the Home.
The 2021 Women in the Workplace Survey conducted by McKinsey & Company found that 81% of women and 63% of men are in dual-career couples. Within opposite-gender, dual-career couples, women are four times more likely than men to take on tasks at home, regardless of who earns more. In addition, women in opposite-gender couples are more than twice as likely as men to prioritize their partner’s career.
Women are devaluing their own work experience and taking on more of the unpaid labor and childcare work at home: a recipe for stress, anxiety, and burnout.
We need to turn to solutions like the Fair Play Method developed by Eve Rodsky that helps create a household system for how to divide up household tasks fairly, based on your families’ individual needs. The Fair Play Method helps rebalance all of the household “to do’s” so that everyone, including mom, can reclaim time and sanity.
Better Support Inside of Organizations.
In a summer 2019 survey, employed moms were more likely than employed dads to say being a working parent made it harder for them to advance in their career. Working moms were also more likely than dads to say there had been times where they needed to reduce their work hours and felt like they couldn’t give 100% at work, because they were balancing work and parenting.
It’s critical that every organization offers unconscious bias training so that employees are aware of the types of unconscious bias women face in the workplace. Lean In Org provides a comprehensive digital program available to everyone that helps organizations and individuals combat the everyday bias that women face at work. This bias is often the root of what’s holding women back from being promoted, praised, and compensated properly.
Organizations also need to adopt flexible working norms. This expands outside of providing the option to work from home. It means also empowering employees to set their own schedules, which ensures no meetings occur during school drop off or pick up times, and adding virtual components to all events and activities so everyone can participate.
All Time is Created Equal.
The last shift is hard, because it’s one we as a society have to collectively take on, but it’s critical if we really want to make life easier and more fulfilling for mothers. We must view all time spent equally.
“An hour holding your child’s hand in the pediatrician’s office is just as valuable as an hour in the boardroom.” – Eve Rodsky
Until we can make this massively important shift, we will continue to devalue and deprioritize time spent on unpaid labor and childcare. This way of thinking has monumental impacts on how we treat women, especially mothers.
This blog was written by Tara Ryan. Tara is a technology leader turned career and life coach on a mission to make life more fulfilling for women. Through her business, Infinidei, she helps both individuals and organizations become acutely aware of the challenges women face in the workplace so they can implement policy, programming, and changes that create more equitable working environments.
Making the connection between the importance of supporting women (and individuals and families) in the home and workplace so that they can in-turn, be able to be there to provide the protective factor of connection to children, is key. Family connectedness has several components. Connectedness refers to the feelings of warmth, love and caring children get from their parents or primary caregivers. Children who feel support and connection report a high degree of closeness, feelings of being understood, loved, and wanted. A parental presence is related to connection; it refers to a parent/caregiver being present during key times: before school, after school, dinner, bedtime and doing activities together. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found this to be one of the strongest protective factors against all risk behaviors.