July 17, 2020

Working Moms: Another Coronavirus Hero Businesses Need to Acknowledge

March 2020 began a seemingly impossible journey I was not prepared to take. Like many other parents around the globe, I was about to get a crash course in how to raise children, be a day care provider, a responsible citizen and also a full-time employee all simultaneously. I panicked slightly, but ultimately was looking forward to what I thought would be some down time from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. 

First, I want to start by acknowledging that:

1) Moms are not the only people who had to navigate this newly of living. Parents in general were thrown to the wolves, whether they are in a single parent home or have a partner to share the responsibilities with, it's a lot for any family. This is not a competition, we all feel each other's pain.

2) I was fortunate to not have school-aged children during this pandemic. I cannot even begin to imagine the frustrations that parents who were expected to be teachers as well have to endure. You parents are the real MVPs.

3) I was on a furlough period of 8 weeks from April to June. I had a break. Many parents did not. If I'm feeling as burnt out as I am, imagine how essential workers are feeling?

The experience of raising two toddlers, one being autistic while working full time and being a single parent has been eye opening. It's completely changed the way I view the systems in place for support, a teacher's role in a child's life (with some insights from my teacher besties) and how business expectations are completely unreasonable for parents in the age of coronavirus. In the way we are living today working virtually, we have a choice....be a mom or be an employee. But you can't really achieve both. And if you can, you cannot give them each the attention they deserve. 

I'd like to think of myself as fairly business savvy. I tend to always be diplomatic in business and can see things from many perspectives. So when I say that expectations are unreasonable, know that I do understand that business isn't personal. In America, our culture is very separated where we treat mothers and fathers like they should parent like they don't have a job and on the flip side, their jobs treat them like their responsibilities of being a parent shouldn't be relevant to their work. We compare productive in employees on the same scale when we each have our own obstacles to overcome that are vastly different.  We do this so that things are fair. It's the same playing field for everyone and your personal obstacles are not a business's problem. Many companies even judge an employee's work ethic by how many hours they put in after their daily work hours and on weekends! 

But then I stop and look at all I've been able to accomplish in the age of Covid, and I'm pretty damn proud of myself. I've been able to keep a two year-old busy while my four year-old received home based ABA therapy Monday thru Friday, all while attending meetings, meeting deadlines, running a side hustle as night and on the weekends, and finding time to somehow give a shit about myself too. I may forget a detail or two or take a little longer to drink my morning coffee now, but dammit I'm doing it.

I should be proud. I am woman, hear me roar. So why do I feel like such a failure all the time? Like balls are dropping in all areas of my life and I cannot seem to balance them all at the same time?

The answer is WE ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO. We are not supposed to balance all of this at the same time. It's almost impossible, and yet here you are parents, making the impossible possible. It's not secret that parents are superstars. We know this. We know we are valuable and useful in the workplace in ways childless employees cannot be. We are used to juggling many schedules and meetings and homework and deadlines. We do this on the daily. And now we are doing it tenfold. 

So when do we give ourselves the recognition we deserve and stop living by antiquated corporate culture? We need to change the game. In the new world order, we need to demand flexibility and respect for our lives outside of the office walls. We need to hold balance and proclaim that we can be valuable without feeling like we need to make up for something. We are smart, adaptable and dedicated to the people and things we care about. Make sure you are treated that way!

I'm not trying to state that being a parent makes you a better employee than another person. I'm stating that we bring value in a different way. The truth is we need both parents who can adapt quickly to changes, and non-parents who may have the time and capacity to make change. But what we really need to put back into business right now is compassion and empathy. No longer will the brick and mortar 9-5 structure work for all. And if you try to shove your employees into this box, you're just going to shut out a huge portion of your workforce that is talented, driven and inspired to have a career. Your patience is required. These people are critical to your business. 

But don't expect your employees' families to suffer so your business can thrive. Because if you do, they will leave. And they will find an employer who appreciates what they bring to the table and respects that not everyone lives to work. We work to live.

*DISCLAIMER* When referring to business expectations, I am not referring to pressure my employer has put on me. They have actually been wonderful and the people I work with have been so understanding. I am referring to the pressure I put on myself to "do it all". Just wanted to make that clear so it didn't sound like I am bashing my employer. They rock! :)

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