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A Mother, A Career, and A Pandemic

The numbers are clear: a year into the pandemic, and working moms are struggling more than ever as they try to juggle time between motherhood and their career.  In a study conducted by McKinsey and Company (2020), the pandemic has made mothers “three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for most of the […]

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The numbers are clear: a year into the pandemic, and working moms are struggling more than ever as they try to juggle time between motherhood and their career. 

In a study conducted by McKinsey and Company (2020), the pandemic has made mothers “three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for most of the housework and caregiving”. Furthermore, it is emphasized that mothers are “1.5 times more likely than fathers to be spending an extra three or more hours a day on housework and childcare”.

The challenges that women face in the workplace are not new. The COVID-19 pandemic just happened to focus the spotlight on the challenges that mothers with careers struggle through daily,  amplifying it the more compared to pre-pandemic times. In fact, one in four women are contemplating on shifting careers, or even leaving their respective workplaces due to COVID-19. 

Measures to combat COVID-19 in particular have pushed companies to continue services through work-from-home arrangements. Though this might sound to be a good idea at first, favoring the traditional belief and idea that mothers should be physically present all the time in rearing up children – the realities of childcare and housework gradually surface as challenges for mothers. The transition to remote work exerts a greater strain on parenting, A survey last December 2020 related that half of remote workers with young children have found it challenging to get through the workday without interruption. 

Seventy-six percent (76%) of mothers with children under the age of 10 say that childcare is one of their top three most grueling challenges this pandemic, as compared to fathers with children of the same age group. Work from home arrangements have generally left employees with the impression that they have to be virtually available at all times, and mothers are all the more pressured with being available virtually 24/7 despite the looming demands of housework and childcare. The burden of childcare due to closing daycares and homeschooling have augmented the burden brought about by the current crisis. Mothers face the extra demand of homebound children doing online classes plus the responsibility of caring for family members or parents who might need extra support during the pandemic. Mothers are suddenly assigned with a brand-new role: being a homeschool teacher. The plot thickens for mothers who are computer-challenged or language-challenged. This just illustrates how disproportionately affected mothers are over fathers in terms of unpaid care and domestic work.

Burn-out among mothers with careers has become today’s typical scenario. After a long history of women struggling to be recognized for their skills and abilities and be given a place in the workforce, the effects of the pandemic are more than enough to nullify these efforts – bringing women back inside homes but with more responsibilities than ever.

Working while parenting has always been challenging. But parenting during a pandemic became a major obstacle for women in climbing up the corporate ladder. In fact, 23% of working mothers indicated turning down a promotion in order to balance their lives as workers and as parents. 

With the vaccination rollout facing its own set of obstacles, no one knows how much further the pandemic will continue to affect the workforce subset consisting especially of working women. Common factors predictive of whether an employee is considering leaving or changing careers include (1) lack of flexibility at work, (2) feeling like they need to be available anytime and all the time, (3) housework and caregiving responsibilities due to COVID-19, (4) Worry that their performance is being negatively judged due to caregiving responsibilities, (5) inability to open up to managers and experiencing discomfort in sharing the challenges they face at the workplace, and (6) feeling unable to commit wholly to their work (McKinsey and Company, 2020). 

And with women ultimately feeling the need to prioritize their homes and children over their careers, what would be a likely picture of the general workforce when the pandemic finally ends?

Everything remains to be seen. But how can employers help? Although companies are noted to have allowed their remote employees to have exercise flexibility in their time, rearranging shifts – it clearly is not a sustainable solution. Hence, employers can offer more flexibility in terms of part time schedules and unpaid leaves, sponsoring fees for childcare, not penalizing people for caregiving (giving them enough consideration as their managers), and giving room for employees to gain control over when and where they opt to work. 

Women are not just limited to childcare and housework. They are also doing much of the planning inside the home, such as for their children’s health and education. This pandemic has proven all the more that it really takes a village to raise a child. Thus, if you are a mother struggling and feeling all the blues during this pandemic, please know that you are not alone and there is always help at hand. If you are not a mother, an extra hand for a mother in need would go a long way. If you are a father, own a task and commit to doing it everyday to lessen the housework load. 

The pandemic may have taken its toll on everyone, but together we can still make this world a better place by helping our mothers get by. We have to act quickly. We have to act now. 

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