Nicole Peyer, 44, of Oakland, CA, was furloughed from her job as a sales consultant for a national wine and spirits distribution company in April 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Peyer was rehired after four months, but her needs had changed: With two elementary-aged children at home, she requested a more flexible schedule that would allow her to share childcare with her husband, but her bosses refused to budge. “I suppose they wanted to hear that I was more concerned about my career than my children,” she explained. “My job, which required me to be out in the field and see clients, was incompatible with the fact that I suddenly had children to look after at home because daycare and school were closed.”
Peyer departed two months later, unable to balance full-time employment with childcare. She’s now striving to find a feeling of purpose that isn’t limited to cooking and cleaning. “I’m no longer waking up and checking my phone first thing in the morning. My current preoccupation is commuting the kids about “she explains. “I’m still in contact with my previous teammates, and I feel bad that they’re working and I’m not.”
Because my children are now my bosses, I have a lower sense of self-worth.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women spent much more time on housework and childcare than men before the epidemic, even when both spouses worked full-time. Working women like Peyer took on even more duties when schools and daycares closed as a result of COVID-19. Even in the best of times, many mothers are forced to leave their employment to raise their children, putting their careers on hold until their children are old enough to start school.
When stay-at-home women do decide to return to work, they’re frequently confronted with workplaces that don’t fit their new lifestyles and bosses who don’t understand their demands. There are a few things moms (and employers) can do to make the move work for them.
Many mothers were forced to leave the workforce as a result of the pandemic.
According to Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University, the industries that disproportionately recruit women, which are normally “plentiful and largely protected,” were the hardest damaged by the pandemic. The service, hotel, and retail industries are among them. Goldin estimated the change in labour force participation rates between the year before the pandemic and the year after the pandemic using microdata from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement, and discovered that four categories saw the most change:
Women between the ages of 25 and 34 who did not have a college education and whose youngest kid was between the ages of 0 and 4 had a 5.9% drop in labour force participation. Non-college educated women between the ages of 25 and 34 with a kid aged 5 to 13 witnessed a 4.7 percent reduction. Women between the ages of 35 and 44 who had their youngest child between the ages of 5 and 13 showed a 4.9 percent reduction.There was a 3.1 percent decline in college educated women ages 35-44 whose youngest kid was 0-4 years old.
“The basic line is that women have suffered a significant setback,” Goldin argues. Those with school-aged children were more affected than those with younger children among college educated women. That could be because, in many regions, daycare facilities stayed open even while schools shifted to virtual instruction, she argues.
Courtney Motz, 39, has direct knowledge of the effects. She was laid off from her job as an events director at a restaurant in Wilmington, NC, where she had worked for nearly four years, in March 2020. She sent out a few resumes at first, but with schools closed and a 7-year-old at home, she opted to wait it out. Motz explains, “I wasn’t willing to pay for childcare only to go back to work.”
After a year, she says she’ll never work in the service business again, where juggling job and family seemed impossible. She explains, “I couldn’t take a personal day unless I obtained a doctor’s note.” “I’d close the restaurant at midnight, turn around, and come back at 8 a.m.”
“Leaning out” moms frequently lose their sense of self.
Those difficulties that mothers experience at work are deliberate. According to Hilary Berger, Ed.D., LPC, career counsellor and founder of Work Like a Mother, the workplace was originally created to match the realities of men’s lives, and concerns regarding everyday childcare obligations are still not often incorporated into the equation. “[Many employers] don’t recognise or value the various roles that women play in their lives.] She claims that a woman’s professional job is not disposable. “It’s a part of who they are.” That’s why it’s so difficult for women to leave their jobs – their confidence, as well as their professional identity, is sometimes lost.
She continues, “Being a mother is a beautiful position in life, but it’s utterly ‘other’ focused; you’re focused on your children’s and partner’s well-being.” “Mothers gradually become unnecessary and, in many respects, invisible. They almost blend into the background.”
Motz has firsthand knowledge of this occurrence. “Since I haven’t worked, I’ve definitely struggled with depression,” she admits. It’s been difficult for me to shift my perspective to what my new role is meant to be, and live with the reality that it’s primarily in the house.” She also concerns about what she’ll do if she needs to return to work for financial reasons, knowing that she’ll have to return to school to change jobs.
While it is impossible to predict exactly how the post-pandemic job market will look, Pamela Stone, a sociology professor at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, and co-author of Opting Back In, What Really Happens When Mothers Go Back to Work, is optimistic that women who choose to return to work will be able to do so. She continues, “Employment prospects are a result of supply and demand.” “There’s every reason to anticipate that jobs will return once we’re back in business.”
Even if employment are available, we still have a long way to go in terms of equalising the playing field for working mothers at home and at work. “If this pandemic occurred and men were forced to abandon their professions to care for their children at home, workplace and government regulations would have kicked into action to provide more acceptable and survivable tactics so that men were not forced to forfeit their jobs,” Berger speculates. Women like Motz will have a tough battle ahead of them, especially after a break.
Working mothers with children are frequently forced to make compromises.
I have to admit that this is a personal interest of mine. I opted to re-enter the job (pre-pandemic) after six years as a stay-at-home mum to raise my son. Despite the fact that I am a college graduate with over a decade of experience in corporate accounting, I had received zero interviews after submitting roughly 30 applications for jobs that I easily qualified for.
I started to wonder if my time away from full-time work had rendered my previous work experience useless in the eyes of potential employers. My chances remained gloomy even when I began applying for jobs that were below my skill set. When I found myself in a temp agency, deflated, completing a simple computer skills assessment, I understood that finding a job wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d hoped.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Rather than aspire to be full-time mothers, Stone claims that many professional women are pushed out of their jobs due to a lack of support from their employers. She looked at a group of 43 college-educated women who worked for an average of ten years before quitting to raise their children.