***This article is part II of a 3-part series by guest blogger by Ashley Reckdenwald at Working Mom Notes.
Recap: How we got here, why we are here, and how to fix it.
Each and every one of us have been pushed into a corner, back against the wall, asked to make a choice: Work or child rear. We were making our long-awaited arrival into the business world as (almost) equals and have effectively been knocked back “in our place.” Women have actively left the workforce because we have been put in an impossible situation due to lack of options and support with regards to childcare and work culture. In the wake of a world pandemic, there is also the concern of public health and safety for our children. We are scared for our children’s health and wellbeing while also fearing job security. And if we are able to maintain job security, will it be at the expense of our children? Mom guilt is reverberating to all corners of the planet while we shuffle forward, doing our best as we burn out and become a shell of our prior selves. No one is winning.
Working moms have always needed more support than they have received. As they walk a tightrope, attempting to balance work on one side and home on the other, the rope is thinning and the weight on each side of the balancing pole keeps changing. One misstep and it all comes crashing down. Life as a working mom has always had its challenges, but these challenges have been exacerbated by a monumental shift. This shift only supports the current systemic structure and nothing more. History repeats itself time and time again but, it doesn’t have to.
Part 2: Why are We Here?
In some circumstances it’s our place of employment: They aren’t offering flexible work conditions or office culture doesn’t account for the possibility for female advancement. This is frequently seen when women endure the “Motherhood Penalty,” a term coined by sociologists to describe the systemic disadvantages women face in the workplace after they become mothers as compared to childless coworkers. Other times, it’s a lack of support in our own homes. Whether it’s intentional or not, women take on the brunt of the childcare and household responsibilities.
The toll of taking on both career and childcare in a pandemic without proper resources has caused women to experience symptoms of severe stress and burnout, tacking on an additional 20 hours to their workweek on average as compared to men as they shoulder the unpaid labor. To make matters worse, Black and Latina women are spending more time than that (over 21 hours) and furthermore, single moms are not surprisingly taking on the most (81 percent of single mothers are spending 21 or more hours per week on housework, compared to 62 percent of women overall). On average, women do 75 percent of the world’s total unpaid-care work. They are carrying the burden of a mental load and executing the majority of tasks relative to all non-market, unpaid activities such as caring for children and elderly, cooking, and cleaning. Now more than ever is proof that women do more.
Women have taken to all outlets to unleash their fury and stress. An article released by Scary Mommy, titled 2020 Will Be the Death of the Working Mother states, “Unless you can survive on three hours of sleep, telework, and have the magical ability to wash clothes with your mind, this is impossible. We went from wondering what we would cook for dinner, to wondering if we should even keep the careers we’ve worked so very hard to obtain…Forget climbing up the corporate ladder; we are hanging by our fingertips from the gutters.” None of this is conducive to overall well-being.
There are a lot of important issues being addressed around the country at this very moment in time, so it’s hard to get anyone’s undivided attention on this very imminent and detrimental problem that working women are facing. It yet again shows that we often find ourselves clawing our way to a seat at the table while screaming, “We need answers! We need practical solutions!” as people cover their ears and turn the other way. Working moms are scrambling; they’re nervously awaiting government news and they’re frantically researching childcare options while weighing if and how they can continue working. They are overwhelmed, overburdened, and overstretched.
Will the daycare that is available be as good as what we had?
What if my child gets sick?
What if I get sick?
I am wrought with guilt over the idea that if something happens to my child, I may never forgive myself, but what am I supposed to do? We need to survive.
Will schools be open?
How am I supposed to help my child with their virtual lessons when I have work to do?
Will I have to quit my job? Then what?
Can I afford not to work?
I have to work, how am I going to do this?
How am I going to continue to juggle it all?
I call to working moms nationwide: We can do this better. We can make this better.
*Stay tuned for part III of this series!