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“How Am I Dealing with This? Some Days Well, Some Days Not So Well.”

An economist's life in quarantine in numbers.

Getty Images
Getty Images

I’m an economist. I also co-lead one of the divisions of Working Mother Media. My team and I partner with companies to listen to their employees using novel technologies, then implement policies and programs to improve engagement, disrupt bias and ultimately better the bottom line. It also means I’m responsible for:

1 P&l. On which I’m rated monthly and report on weekly. There are many days it feels like I spend more time tracking how I do my job and forecasting how I think the future will turn out than actually doing my job. Corporate budgets are frozen, but my revenue number looms large. Somehow it remains the only thing in my life that hasn’t changed. 

2 days in a row that I spend absolutely terrified. My husband is a first responder (a police officer in Yonkers, New York) and in light of the current crisis, he had to go back on patrol on a rotating schedule—two 12-hour shifts in a row. At the time I write this, Yonkers has 3,051 current cases,, experiences an average of 21 violent crimes a week, and already has one police officer dead from COVID-19. Despite my repeated pleas he cannot just stay in the police car and yell at people to behave. When I met my husband, he was already a police officer so one could say that I did know what I was getting myself into. The truth is, nothing can prepare you for what it’s like to love someone who runs into danger to save others rather than away from it to save himself. It’s perhaps what I admire the most about him. And yet I still have this unshakable feeling while he’s at work that a whole piece of me is just not OK. The silver lining of course is that he has a job, a union to make sure that stays the case, and a whole six days off in a row. The days off are a true gift. We throw impromptu parties at home, we have probably made a million chocolate chip cookies, and joke that all we ever do now is load and unload the dishwasher because we have…

4 children. Our oldest, Emily, is having her 7th birthday this week under quarantine and, when I told her this morning that her birthday present might be late because of the mess outside our four cozy walls, she just said, “That’s OK, Mommy. I’ll just be more excited when it finally gets here.” I’m honestly not sure how she turned out to be such a wonderful person. My youngest is almost 11 months and is about to take his first step. Two nights ago he did a sorta half step and it was the highlight of my week. There’s still good in this world. So much of it. And it feels wrong to admit but all this bad and pain and hurt hit the reset button on our good meter. We can finally appreciate the small stuff. All…

7 people in my household. That’s right, 7. Quarantine in my house isn’t lonely. Along with my husband and my four kids, we’re also lucky enough to have chosen this to be the year to invite an au pair to live with us. And even luckier that she’s chosen to stay. She’s my lifeline. The one who has the patience and the love to sit with Emily while she’s doing her first-grade homework every morning and afternoon after I’ve spent 20 minutes before my calls start in the morning getting our persnickety printer to work while crossing my fingers each time that I still have ink.The other morning I ran around the house like a mad woman looking for two feet of ribbon for a specific assignment before I came to my senses and realized it just didn’t matter…I didn’t have the construction paper anyway. 

9 the number of cups of coffee I pour myself a day. Thankfully, most of them get cold before I drink them. 

30 the number of minutes I try to meditate. Try is the operative word.

81 percent. The share of working moms who are crumbling after both the stuff on the work side of their scale and the life side of their scale grew exponentially with considerably little warning. Indeed, a full 81 percent of working moms aren’t able to engage effectively at work right now. They all cite a similar story: anxiety in both their personal and professional lives and family pressures on steroids. This data came from a survey that a colleague of mine and I did. We, perhaps because we both have husbands who are first responders (hers is FDNY), knew our most valued community at Working Mother Media, other professional moms, were not OK. So we reached out to check with a survey and  they told us in their write-in comments that it was a “lifeline.” A chance to share and be heard. It’s incredibly easy to move fast right now. In fact, there are moments of my day that I get the sensation of a current pushing me to go even faster. But it’s even more critical to stop, to check in, to listen. To learn from others how we can all do better. What’s at stake if we don’t?

341.5 billion dollars. The economist in me saw the staggering 81 percent figure and immediately knew that if many of our working moms weren’t OK then our economy wasn’t either. Women hold up a significant piece of our economy. This 341.5 billion dollar figure represents the loss from not being able to engage effectively at work. What is getting in the way? Right now they are not only experiencing significant family pressures (childcare and eldercare) but also anxiety and stress about their personal and professional lives. It is not just a simple case of hours and tasks in the day–moms, by and large, are one of the most efficient cohorts in the economy–it is about the ability to go above and beyond for the bottom line, to shepherd our businesses and our teams through a crisis at a moment when our companies and our economy need it the most. 

How am I dealing with this? Some days well, some days not so well. Most days I feel guilty because there is now a more explicit choice at every moment: do I help my kids right now? Do I support my husband who has probably never needed or deserved it more? Or, do I put all my discretionary effort into my P&L and getting my company through this? And then, what about me? What do I need and what, from all my years of experience, do I believe companies should be doing for their employees (most especially their working moms)? Proactively reach out to check-in, to show they care and to solve problems and challenges before they lead to failed projects and productivity. This needs to happen at all levels, at the company level with a survey, at the group and team level with real and honest conversations about how work gets done in this new reality, and at the individual level with managers reaching out to members of their team. By checking in, we might be able to give these hard working parents the leg up they need to survive these unprecedented times. 

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