Working moms became a teacher, cleaning lady, cook, full-time mothers, and full-time employee overnight since the lockdown
I have so much compassion for working moms: they combine two demanding, yet highly satisfying roles you can ever find: being a mother and work maybe because I’m one. I know the guilt attached to pursuing your dreams when you should take care of your children; or the feeling of proving yourself constantly at work when you leave early to pick up the kids. In regular times, working moms juggle two full-time jobs without complaining, and often with class. Now, with the Covid-19 lockdown, they’ve added to their plate the role of teacher, cleaning lady, cook, entertainer, Buddha, and often mediator. The pressure is definitely on them!
The Pressure from Work
In the time of lockdown, I have the privilege to be still working and earning money. As a Coach, I meet with my clients remotely. What I observe is the impossible equation working moms face of performing as expected in the office and at home, sometimes with two children under three years of age, and an absent husband. As the report on Closing the Gender Gap from Goldman Sachs (2018) highlights, there is unconscious bias at play here. Actually, and borrowing from the Center for Right Relationships, there is rank (power over someone else due to a role) and privilege (an advantage often unconscious that eases life). The office is expecting the mother to abide by rules defined for people who do not care for children, be it, men or women. The leader might use rank to ask the working mom to attend meetings beyond the time to pick children up. When they offer policies to adapt to working moms’ schedules, often, it creates a bias that traps the woman at a certain level of the hierarchy.
The Pressure at Home
The privilege is more subtle. Men don’t often see it, but working mom does work more. They need to be available around the clock both for work and the family. The Census Bureau shows 12.9 hours spent rearing children on top of full-time job and leisure time, whereas fathers only spend 6.9 hours. Companies often use their rank to expect moms to give everything. It is a rank because the leadership asks moms to perform like men who don’t carry the charge of caring. They want a triangle to fit a square. The problem is the women are devoted, and they will go the extra mile to become a square.
In the end, they feel exhausted. When working moms try to ask for lenience and flexibility, it shakes up the privilege of the men; often asking to stop using a privilege feels like coercion. Conflict or misunderstanding emerges as a result. So working moms feel the pressure to be perfect on all front.
Consequences On the Family
An exhausted, perfectionist mom can’t tap into her compassion and ability to care when she is pushed too far. It might sound outdated what I’m about to write, but I do believe it to be true: mothers, more than fathers, have a unique ability to love and care that men can never really equate. It doesn’t mean they are exempt from caring skills, far from it. Fathers can be loving and present too. But the way a mother does it, the loving-kindness, the fondness, and the soft touch, is unique. A mother, when she can tap into that ability because not all women can be a mother, can put her desires aside to take care of a child, or any person for that matter. It is essential to save this valuable skill.
Doing it all, being judged, and feeling to prove herself endlessly is not sustainable behavior. It is conserving the idea that women have to do more to get by. It is model sons and daughters will replicate, and we see how vicious the circle is. Where the women won in working more than their grandmothers, they lost in time for them and space to breathe.
The Need to Help Mothers Wonder and Feel Wonderful
With the pandemic, working moms have to add even more roles to the heavy load that is theirs. My heart goes to single moms, be it of disabled kids or not, young or old. I cry out of fear for all the mothers who are trapped with their persecutor, who also feels trapped and might lash out, using his rank and privilege because he feels terrible, and she is a good enough excuse.
What a mom need is to wonder at the beauty of her children. To welcome them as is, accepting their emotions as a sign of healthy growing human being. When you are exhausted, feeling pressure from everywhere, and not having your regular outlet like gym, yoga, drink with the girls, even work, you might lose it.
Already in regular time, I would love to offer working moms more help so that they can breathe, and wonder at the beauty of their children. Now it might become an urgency. It is sometimes complicated for working moms to ask for help; it is not entirely accepted. The bias is that if they chose to work, they have to bear the consequences. I see it differently: they should be praised because they contribute two times to society: they support the economy, and they play a crucial role in raising the human beings of tomorrow.
In my latest book, Raise a Human Being, Not a consumer, I wrote an entire chapter on the ability to wonder. It is often an overlooked parenting skill. In this time of lockdown, I believe it is an opportunity to read about it and revisit it. The result would be more lightness in time of lockdown. When the frame is rigid, the heart has to soften. The first who needs to do it is mothers. Fathers can help, of course, marveling at their children should be a shared responsibility.
Let’s marvel at the new behavior, expressions, attitudes we discover being with our children 24/7. I sure did reconnect with them, played more with them, and found a new way to relate with more fun and fewer chores, as everyone is contributing.