By Elyn Buscani, Business Development
After experiencing a week when I was swinging between joy (hearing about a successful first day back in-person for my youngest son) and meltdown (in fear of missing a rapidly approaching major work deadline), it’s time to take a breath and start this new week on the right foot. I’m writing this blog as much for self-reflection, as for the benefit of anyone else who has experienced a similar rollercoaster recently. This pandemic has been extremely difficult for everyone, but moms are really bearing the brunt due to the loss of most outside support since mid-March – including both formal resources like school and camp, and informal providers such as older family members and babysitters.
Some mothers have been forced to cut their work hours. A study of about 60,000 U.S. households published in July 2020 the journal Gender Work & Organization showed that in households where both partners are employed, mothers “have reduced their work hours four to five times more than fathers.” However, cutting hours isn’t an option for all parents. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2017, 25 percent of U.S. children were living in single-parent homes — and 84% of those were single-mother homes.
So, how can working moms find balance when there aren’t enough hours in the day to cover all of our responsibilities?
- Make a schedule, and stick to it – Multitasking is really hard, and I definitely feel more successful, and less stressed, if I’m not trying to do everything at once. I can’t concentrate on work when I have a bored teenager with special needs staring at me. Taking him on a walk or doing a project with him recharges both of us, and I’m much more efficient when I sit at the computer again.
- Take care of your body – Just as we are instructed pre-takeoff to put on our oxygen masks first, we have to stay healthy or we won’t be able to do all of the things we have to. Being healthful includes little things like regular hydration, a consistent sleep schedule (easier said than done for parents of little ones), and frequent stretch breaks during work. It also includes bigger things, like making health check-up appointments and committing to regular exercise.
- Take care of your spirit – This is no small challenge with the 24/7 onslaught of bad news, so one thing you should seriously consider is limiting your exposure to news throughout the day. For most of the day, I stream my favorite radio station with real DJs. Studies have shown that things like spending time outside, gardening, having a faith life, having a pet, and being intentional about gratitude can help. Simply beginning the day with a shower, clean teeth, and fresh clothes does wonders.
- Find new resources for help – Many college students are temporarily deferring school or attending online with more flexible schedules. Since my son has significant special needs and requires more hands-on support, it is really hard to focus on work without the additional help for him and his learning needs. Fortunately, we’ve found plenty of caring and motivated young adults to work with him, and I’ve been able to support their initial training while working from home. My son has enjoyed being with people his own age to support him, since he still has plenty of time with his parents.
- Connect with others in your company – Since we are all working virtually in our office, my boss has strongly encouraged our company to set up Teams or Zoom calls when we are collaborating on projects rather than just emailing, and to take the time to check-in on a human level.
- Think about ways to make your life simpler – One thing that will save time on meal prep, stretch your budget, and help the environment, is to make better use of leftovers. A couple of pieces of leftover grilled chicken can make quesadillas for the family. Wilted vegetables can be sautéed to go over pasta or rice. Empower your partner and children to do more to help with household chores and caregiving.
Finally, be realistic about how hard this all is, what you can honestly accomplish, and when you need more help. I’m planning to avoid work deadline meltdowns in the future by sharing responsibilities with a coworker. Whether society, your employer, your family, or even you are putting pressure on yourself to shoulder the increased burden the pandemic has put on working moms, keep seeking balance because we have the power to learn and grow from adversity.