You don’t need a writer to tell you that these are challenging times. If you’re one of the many working mothers out there, you already know that you’re pulling double, sometimes triple, duty.
Various factors combine to explain why the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacts working mothers. Juggling career and family was never a stroll in the park, but trying to do so with children at home during uncertain and restrictive times requires a Herculean effort. Here’s why women bear the brunt, and what you can do to cope.
Why Does the Coronavirus Pandemic Hit Women Particularly Hard?
Multiple factors, including traditional gender stereotypes and continued inequality, explain why working moms have a more trying time than most managing their duties during this time. The combined effect creates an avalanche of headaches.
The So-Called Second Shift
While society has grown closer to balance, when it comes to childrearing and household chores, women continue to do the lioness’ share. 14% more women report that they are doing the brunt of childcare rather than splitting it evenly with a partner. Sadly, many male partners still expect their wives to be the ones in charge of contending with the cries of “Mom” while trying to work at the kitchen table. Interruptions can decimate productivity and concentration and derail a woman’s career path. Plus, she may feel considerable guilt over what she perceives as neglecting her kids.
67 million Americans report that they’ll have trouble paying their bills because of COVID-19, and many of those most distressed about the virus are women. In fact, 35% of women say they would face dire circumstances within 2 weeks of missing a paycheck. Why is this so?
Despite strides toward equality, women still earn significantly less than men do for similar work. This disparity becomes more pronounced when you look at African Americans and Latinas, who earn even less than their white female counterparts. This impairment means that many women entered the pandemic with less disposable income than men. Even an additional $250 can help pay utility bills in a pinch, but you can’t save what you don’t have.
Plus, if these women took time off to raise a family, they may have only recently re-entered the workforce. Unfortunately, the employees hired last are usually the first let go during a downturn. Now, many women find themselves with a new baby and few means to take care of their needs.
Ideas for Coping if You’re a Working Mom
If you are a working mother, how can you manage to do it all during the COVID-19 shutdown? It isn’t a cakewalk, but with careful planning, you can juggle multiple responsibilities and — more vitally — stay sane.
1. Make Schedules
Right now, nearly everyone in America is reeling with shock and uncertainty — including your kids. Routines help you and loved ones both avoid decision-fatigue by reducing your need to plan and adding structure to your life.
Each Sunday night, sit down and write out a family schedule for the week. Include details for each member, including dedicated times for working on school or chores and for taking rest and exercise breaks. Strive to map out at least eight to ten hours of your day. This structure soothes you during rocky times, and it reduces work interruptions because your children know what they must do and when.
2. Enlist the Troops
It’s never been more crucial to keep the lines of communication open. If you have a partner, work out a fair way to share childcare and household responsibilities. It’s okay to let the other party pick up the slack, particularly if they experienced a cut in hours and have more free time.
If you are a single mom but have older children, let them help mind younger kids, within reason. Guess what — it’s okay if you occasionally have to use the TV to play babysitter. The critical component is making sure everyone believes the arrangement is as fair as possible so that no one person shoulders every burden.
3. Learn to Accept Imperfection
Your youngest mopped the floor, but they left unsightly streaks. Let’s face it — everyone looks more than a little hairy these days, pun intended. Learn to choose your battles and accept imperfection. Prioritize. That expense report that your boss needs by tomorrow might need to take precedence over the dirty dishes in the sink.
4. Practice Self-Care
Do something for yourself daily, even if for only 15 to 30 minutes. Wake up a half-hour before the children and perform a sunrise exercise class via live streaming. When you put the little ones down for a nap, allow yourself to read or work on a quiet hobby that you enjoy. Unwind in a bubble bath at day’s end. Work on your watercolors. You can’t pour from an empty pitcher, so take time each day to refill yourself.
COVID-19 Disproportionately Impacts Working Moms — But You’ve Got This
Few people said that navigating the COVID-19 pandemic was easy, but working moms have a harder row to hoe. That said, this probably isn’t the first time that we have had to pick up the slack, ladies. You are mighty — and you’ve got this.
Kate Harveston enjoys writing about and sharing advice on women’s wellness topics, whether related to mental health or physical. If you enjoy her work, you can visit her personal blog, So Well, So Woman.