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Column: Working moms are stressed, worried and some are even leaving the workforce
Shannon Casas
Shannon Casas

My sister has been messaging photos of her office to our family text thread lately. There’s a computer screen on a desk and a keyboard with pink keys. 

There’s a baby on top of the keyboard.

My nephew, who is just over 1 year old, is looking at the camera, tummy on the desk, arms spread out over the keyboard. I’m sure he is thinking, “Mommy, why do you stare at this thing all day? What’s so interesting?”

I know mine wonder that. Only, they’re old enough they’ll just ask, “What are you doing? Are you still working? Why? What do you do? What’s in the news today?” 

So, when I see that photo of my adorable nephew, I know the struggle is real. Sure, I’d like to pick him up and squeeze him tight and watch him play with his toys — I don’t get to see him nearly enough — but I know his mommy is with him all the time and she also has a full-time job. 

He was born just before this virus showed up and blew up day care plans. So, he’s had stay-at-home parents most of his life. His dad is a teacher and has spent a lot of time at home, too, but he’s back in the classroom right now.

I know it’s been a blessing in some ways to have the flexibility to work from home with him.

But working from home with an infant that stays in one place is one thing. Working from home with a little boy who toddles around all day getting into everything is something else entirely.

Last month, 23.2% of employed people were teleworking because of the pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And parents teleworking are having a harder time getting their work done without interruptions. Imagine that. A toddler pulling at the wires underneath your desk distracts you from work.

Half of those with kids younger than 18 say it’s been difficult to get work done without interruptions since the pandemic started, according to the Pew Research Center. The other half must be lying.

“Mothers and fathers are about equally likely to say this has been difficult for them,” Pew reports. But more mothers are thinking of leaving the workforce.

Only 20% of teleworkers without kids say it’s been difficult to get work done without interruptions. 

At my house, my husband works out of the home and I’ve been working from home since last March. The distractions are few when the kids are in school. 

There’s the dog barking at the Amazon truck driver. An electrician knocking on the door from the basement with a question about where to install the new lights.

When the kids are doing virtual school, there are about two hours of “quiet time” during which I can get things done. Every other hour is filled with distractions.

That’s true for my sister, too. 

I called her up this past week just as my nephew was waking from his nap. I asked how working from home was going.

The response was simple. “It sucks.”

The difficulty has gotten the attention of plenty of national media outlets.

The Washington Post published a piece late last year titled “Working moms are not okay.”

There’s also plenty to read about how women have dropped out of the workforce at higher rates than men, four times higher in September, to be specific.

And as many as 2 million women are considering taking a leave of absence or leaving the workforce altogether, according to a report from McKinsey& Co. on women in the workplace.

“This is the first time we’ve seen signs of women leaving the workforce at higher rates than men; in the previous five years of this study, women and men left their companies at similar rates,” the report states. 

These are some of the top factors predictive of whether an employee may leave:

  • Lack of flexibility at work
  • Feeling like they need to be available to work at all hours, i.e., “always on”
  • Housework and caregiving burdens due to COVID-19

It also notes specifically that “mothers are more likely than fathers to worry that their performance is being negatively judged due to their caregiving responsibilities.”

There are a few anecdotes in the report. Here’s one from a White mother of two kids ages 7 and 11: “I feel like I am failing at everything.”

I’ve been in that place more times than I can count in the past year. 

It’s simply impossible to work full time and parent full time. 

And mothers are “more than three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for most of the housework and caregiving,” according to the report. My husband has stepped in on numerous occasions, but when a teacher needs to reach a parent, they call me. In fact, stop here, I’ve got to go pick up a kid from day care because he’s running a fever.

Another fun statistic, “76% of mothers with children under age 10 say child care is one of their top three challenges during COVID-19.”

So, yeah, the working moms are not OK. Give them a hand if you can.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident.

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