Working moms are tired of trying to figure out how to juggle kids and working from home during the pandemic. That is not a figure of speech to simply say they’re fed up, but rather, it’s a fact backed up by stats.
According to a survey of more than 40,000 workers done by McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.org recently, one in four women were looking to either downshift their careers to be able to better handle their responsibilities, or they decided to leave the workforce entirely to focus on their home life.
In the month of just September, it was found that 860,000 women left the workforce, a stark contrast to the more than 200,000 men who did the same-.
And a survey from FlexJobs of 2,707 people from late August to early September found that 25 percent of working parents chose to reduce their work hours while 15 percent decided to quit. They found that 38 percent of those who quit don’t plan to return to the workforce.
“Our job is the only lever we have to release the insane pressure we are feeling from all sides in this moment. And in no way is it an easy
decision,” said parenting coach and Google’s Global Head of Inclusion for Women of Color, Stephanie LeBlanc Godfrey. “The likely impact to our financial standing and career trajectory is tremendous, but without access to the resources that make it possible to work and raise a family, our hand is forced.”
Perhaps the strain of this time has shown people what’s truly important to them and pushed them to prioritize their families, or maybe it’s really a lack of support from jobs that is behind such weighty decisions. Those who haven’t completely jumped ship at work are downshifting their lives to accommodate work demands. Examples of this include moving in with older parents for support with kids and completely altering how their family gets through the day-to-day. Godfrey can relate to the latter.
“At first I kept all sorts of wonky hours, including having my family live on a west coast schedule to accommodate their virtual learning schedule and my intense work schedule. Then, thanks to a friend and co-worker sharing their carer’s leave experience, I had this aha moment like, wait a minute, carer’s leave would be beneficial to me too,” she said. “At that moment, I made the decision to move forward with leave and planned the details around me stepping away from work for six weeks to be present for my girls when they started school in September. Up until that moment I was doing the best I could at keeping the balls in the air, but it came at the price of my kids and husband not getting the attention they needed and deserved and having nothing left to give myself at the end of working late hours to keep up at work.”
Carer’s leave could be an option for many. Godfrey says it’s one of a few different ways working moms could get better support through their jobs.
“Immediately, companies should, if they haven’t already, support and model the use of flexible work schedules and carer’s leave,” she said. “It’s not enough to make the statement. Leaders need to model what self-care and flexibility looks like and be transparent about how they’re
making adjustments to handle their own work and home priorities. Without that, folks are just waiting on someone to make the first move and we all suffer in that kind of environment.”
She also said it’s necessary that employers create environments where women aren’t afraid to speak up about what they need due to fear of retaliation, sidelining and a hit to their career trajectory. Without an emphasis put on that, mental, emotional, and physical health is affected, which all impacts work output.
“What would it look like to have a psychologically safe work environment where you could tell your manager whats up and work through a resolution that benefits both parties?” she asked. “That manager/direct report duo needs a company’s policies, programs and processes clear and concise so that it is easy to connect with the support and benefits needed when there are moments of crisis.”
In the meantime though, Godfrey said working moms should connect to support from friends and those in similar situations. In addition to that, they need to also give themselves the grace and space necessary to make it through these unprecedented times.
“What I have done is work on building up enough good will in the professional and personal areas of my life, so that when I’m ‘failing’ in one area, there is this what I call a ‘space of grace’ that is bestowed on me and I bestow on myself,” she said. “The guilt, the fear of missing out, the fear of logging off, and/or the negative self talk doesn’t last for long.”