It’s time for other family members to help around the house. The pandemic exposed a dirty little secret when it comes to domestic duties in America (i.e., moms do all the work).
With the success of the vaccines, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel of this difficult period in our history. But before we jump back into the routine of the normal life that we lived in 2019, it would be a shame not to pause to reflect on what we have learned during this time. The social isolation caused by the pandemic really was an opportunity for a collective pause, and a global self-assessment about who we really are, and what we really want in life.
As a part of this series called “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic”, I had the pleasure to interviewKatherine Wintsch.
In her role as founder and CEO of The Mom Complex, Katherine helps the largest companies in the world such as Walmart, Johnson & Johnson and Wells Fargo develop better products, services and support systems for mothers.
In her latest venture, Katherine combines 10+ years of groundbreaking research with her own personal journey in her popular book Slay Like a Mother — which Parade magazine named one of the “top 10 life-changing self-help books of the year.”
Katherine’s sought-after research has been featured by the TODAY show, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Working Mother magazine.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?
Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, my childhood was pretty ideal in terms of being surrounded by love and support. However, all the external love and approval in the world wasn’t enough to fill me up because even as a young girl, I always felt the need to do more, be more and accomplish more in order to feel worthy of the love around me.
For 20 years, I suffered at the hands of what I refer to as my “Dragon of Self-Doubt.” Despite both personal and professional success, from the time I was a teenager to well after I gave birth to my first child, I lived with the deep-seeded sense of love anchored by the warped belief that I wasn’t good enough and that I always needed to do and accomplish more in order to feel whole.
Eventually, I went through years of therapy, read dozens of self-help books and binged on Oprah episodes every chance I could. Along the way, I discovered I was desperate to impress other people because I was so unimpressed with myself. And then I decided that nonsense had to stop. I did the hard work and the homework to learn to love myself, mistakes and all, and now I’m helping women around the world do the same. It’s incredibly rewarding to share the message of Slay Like a Mother in order to help moms slay their dragons of self-doubt, and I’m living proof that it can be done.
Are you currently working from home? If so, what has been the biggest adjustment from your previous workplace? Can you please share a story or example?
These days I split my time between working from home and going into my office which is just 2.6 miles from my house (easily bikeable if I was sporty enough to pull it off). It’s been a blessing to have both locations to choose from because as many families experienced during the pandemic, having a full house of human beings on Zoom calls most of the day can quickly turn into a sanity-sucking experience.
The biggest adjustment to my work schedule has been travelling less. Pre-pandemic, I was constantly cramming myself onto crowded trains, planes and automobiles in order to attend client meetings and book talks. At the time, I thought constant travel was required of consultants and authors; however, converting to a virtual world quickly proved otherwise. I’ve been able to provide love and support to mothers all over the world without having to put my own world on hold along the way. I didn’t realize how much travelling drained me until I was forced to hit pause on the behavior and there’s no doubt that I’ll never travel that frequently again. The juice just isn’t worth the squeeze for me.
What do you miss most about your pre-COVID lifestyle?
Not much, to be honest. Pre-pandemic, my family was on the go all the time — constantly over scheduled and out of breath. Fast forward 15 months and our lives as a family are slower, easier and calmer due to the extra breathing space accumulated from not constantly being in the car driving to and from work, school and sports.
I see a similar trend with the women I study around the world. Of course, mothers have missed spending time with extended friends and family, but it’s the sense of calm within their nuclear family that’s worth savoring. With so many networking events, sports tournaments and volunteer opportunities wiped off the calendar, mothers are becoming very selective about what makes it back on. We’re witnessing a global re-evaluation when it comes to mother’s rethinking what’s worth their time and what will waste it.
The pandemic was really a time for collective self-reflection. What social changes would you like to see as a result of the COVID pandemic?
Women need more help at home. Period. Mothers have been carrying a heavy burden at home for decades with many experts estimating that women remain responsible for up to 2/3 of the world’s unpaid labor — meaning domestic labor in and around the home. It’s important to note that these responsibilities not only include a heavy physical load (cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping, etc.) but an increasingly weighty cognitive load that comes from plotting, planning and worrying about those responsibilities before, during and after they are completed.
Thanks to the brave work of Eve Rodsky, author of Fair Play, and many other female pioneers, we’re finally starting to discuss and address the inequities at home that continue to create inequities in the workplace. I believe that if we continue to see a lack of support for mothers at home (from their partners), at work (from their employers) and in terms of affordable childcare (from the government), then we will continue to see the birth rate in the US decline. My research shows that women are not going to keep having children if they have to keep doing all the work.
What if anything, do you think are the unexpected positives of the COVID response? We’d love to hear some stories or examples.
In my opinion, two positive outcomes from the pandemic include a centrifugal force back to spending time with our own families and a greater appreciation for the lived experience of other families. Spending more time at home with less crowded calendars forced millions of families to face the heartbreaking reality that not all Americans have access to the same level of care and support in this country. Witnessing the inequities Black Americans face while being disproportionately affected by COVID, job loss, maternal mortality and racial injustice has been an eye-opening experience for many. Now it’s time to make sure we keep our eyes open and aim toward the actions necessary to create a more just and equitable world for all.
How did you deal with the tedium of being locked up indefinitely during the pandemic? Can you share with us a few things you have done to keep your mood up?
During the pandemic, I’d say the goal of most mothers wasn’t to keep their moods up but to simply just keep going. Over the past year, over two million women left the workforce either because their positions were eliminated or because of childcare restraints at home. Finding it hard to stay positive when facing so much personal and financial uncertainty, many mothers tried their best to squeeze in a few sanity-saving moments here and there. I’ve heard stories of mother’s carving out a meditation space in their laundry room, signing up for sessions with a virtual therapist or just locking the bathroom door for a few extra minutes of peace and quiet. Every little bit helps!
Aside from what we said above, what has been the source of your greatest pain, discomfort or suffering during this time? How did you cope with it?
The greatest pain I experienced during the pandemic came from watching the senseless deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor play out on every screen available. It was heartbreaking to witness and caused me to question so much of what I’d been taught and exposed to when it comes to the lived experience of Black Americans. I coped with the situation by diving into books, movies, documentaries and podcasts that focused on narratives not often discussed in high school history books. The insight I gained propelled me to speak up about racial injustices, attend protests in support and become more involved in local and national politics in order to help put an end to these injustices.
I also coped by educating my children on racial inequities (and the systems from which they stem), so they have an opportunity early in life to build empathy and a desire to help individuals who have been marginalized for decades. As a mother, I can’t right all these atrocious wrongs overnight, but I sure as hell can make sure my children are part of the solution and not the problem.
For the rest of my life, I will continue to expand my knowledge, insight and empathy when it comes to race in America. While I dislike how long it took me to recognize the importance of this conversation, I have been forever changed by the knowledge I have gained. I’m grateful to all the authors, filmmakers and artists who continue to populate the world with messages we so desperately need to hear.
Okay, wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic? (Please share a story or example for each.)
You can view my video of “Five Things Mothers Learned During the Social Isolation of the COVID-19 Pandemic” here.
- It’s time for other family members to help around the house. The pandemic exposed a dirty little secret when it comes to domestic duties in America (i.e., moms do all the work). Without a busy life pulling everyone away from the home, mothers everywhere started to notice that they’re not the only human beings capable of making dinner, taking the dog to the vet or moving the clothes from the washer to the dryer. These days partners and children are doing more chores than ever before and if mom has anything to do with it, this trend is here to stay.
- Overscheduling is overrated. When the world started slowing down, many mothers started questioning why they ever put so much on their plates in the first place. Previously poised to say yes to every opportunity in sight, mothers are now questioning how, when and where they spend their limited time. In fact, moms are cutting back on so many activities that many of them now consider the word “MORE” their new favorite four-letter word.
- Mom needs her space. Without being able to get out of the house for a much-needed break, moms started getting creative by finding micro moments of me-time. For example, taking a walk around the block, listening to a new podcast or calling a girlfriend to vent about everything going on in the world. With all the added stress and pressure during the pandemic, moms have realized that their own mental health is more important than ever before and that taking a break isn’t selfish, it’s imperative.
- Other families are hurting. Before the pandemic, many families were focused on their own lives, schedules and futures, not often taking the time (because there was none) to check in on other families or raise concern for families that were different from their own. However, being at home and hitting pause caused so many families to witness and finally understand that marginalized people were being disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and that social and racial inequities continue to exist in this country. This eye-opening experience has changed the perspective of many families and now it’s time to make sure we change our actions, behaviors and policies moving forward.
- A virtual world isn’t all bad. While the pandemic may have held us back from concerts and beach trips, going virtual also made time consuming tasks like parent teacher conferences, committee meetings, piano lessons and therapy sessions a lot easier to commit to. There’s no doubt that social isolation was incredibly hard for most families, but the upside of keeping some time-consuming activities virtual in the future is incredibly appealing and is likely here to stay.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you during the pandemic?
“She wasn’t waiting for a knight, she was waiting for a sword.” — Atticus
I love this quote because it empowers women to avoid waiting for other people to save us and encourages us to start speaking up so we can save ourselves.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I’ve learned a lot from Arianna Huffington over the years — specifically the idea of creating your own “third metric” for what drives you beyond titles and money. After seeing Arianna speak at the THRIVE conference years ago, I vowed to define my third metric as ‘impact’. Meaning, I’m on a mission to impact and improve the lives of as many mothers as possible. I’m proud of the work I’m doing, and I believe Arianna would be proud to know she was the catalyst for me helping women around the world slay like a mother.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
If you want to see if the negative voice in your head is the meanest mean girl you know, check out this video. If you want to know that you’re not alone in your battle to love yourself, watch my TED talk on the topic. If you want to learn to slay your dragon of doubt and come out victorious on the other side, readSlay Like a Mother.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!