Our roles as women have changed and morphed and we are handling more than ever – juggling, balancing the needs of everyone else during a time when we, as families, are together more than we are apart. Here we are over one year later, and we are exhausted and drained. We have been overseen and forgotten. As mothers during this pandemic, life went from being full to being overwhelming and demanding to say the very least. Our roles have changed, our bodies and minds can feel it, and our mental health is deteriorating.
How Has the Pandemic Impacted Working Mothers?
Little to No Downtime
Being a working mom during this pandemic translates into being the CDC for your home, the meal and the snack preparer (number of snacks per day: unlimited), your child’s teacher or academic coach, the employee, the wife, and the movement/exercise monitor. Those are just a few of the roles that have become part of my newest job description: Pandemic Working Mom.
Taking on all of these additional roles, alongside a school schedule that is either all virtual or hybrid for a few hours each day means we have and perhaps a spouse who also works in the home means we are NEVER alone. We are always surrounded by another person who has a question, request or demand. I know I relish that time at the end of the night when the house is silent and nobody is making any demands on me. Sometimes, I fall asleep before my children do out of sheer exhaustion, and I miss my silent time.
As mothers, we are constantly processing information in our heads, whether we are aware or not. “Do we need more toilet paper in the bathroom upstairs? Did my son brush his teeth? What should I make for dinner tonight? When is that dentist appointment? When is my next Zoom call? When is that deadline for that XXX?” and the list goes on and on and on.
As mothers, we love our families, but we need some time apart because, you know, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
No Boundary Separation
For many of us, there is little separation between home and work. The physical ability to walk into an office building or space where you are supposed to be present at a certain time is now gone. We work at our kitchen tables, dining room table, or set up a table in the bedroom. If we are really lucky, we may have a designated space in the house, such as an office, but even then, it’s still a part of the house, and our children are there and can find us with great ease.
We try to be efficient and run a quick load of laundry or fold laundry during a phone conference where we are “just going to listen,” or begin to chop up vegetables to get dinner started, and we are constantly interspersing our work and home life. Our ‘efficiency’ is creating a mental energy drainage as you’re processing the demands of multiple worlds all at the same time.
In the past, we processed work tasks at work and then went home and processed and followed through on home tasks at home. Sometimes, the two worlds blended but that was the exception and not our routine.
These additional roles we have taken on, having no down time or time alone, and balancing two worlds at the same time has created high levels of stress for working mothers. High stress can translate into difficulty falling asleep, maintaining sleep, gaining sufficient and productive sleep, as well as over eating or under eating, and having low energy. Low energy can manifest itself as irritability, low tolerance for your children’s behavior, and ultimately burnout.
Your self care is of the utmost importance right now. When you reach the burnout point, it will take a whole lot more self care for you to come down off of the ledge. Be proactive and take care of yourself regularly by doing any or all of the following:
- Leave your house at least once daily
- Exercise regularly – yoga, walk, exercise video, etc
- Take time each day to read a book or listen to an audible
- Set boundaries for your work time – depending on the age of your children, set designated times when they CANNOT disturb your work. Set up a sign on a door or in a space near you
- Assign daily chores to your children that are age appropriate; make allowance or spending money dependent on the completion of chores. Reward extra chores with extra privileges or spending money
- Seek help from a family member or friend to relieve you for a few hours each week; set up a day and the time span and make it a regular thing
Being a working mother during this pandemic has been overload to say the very least. Mamas everywhere, take care of yourselves first. I know that’s not something we are good at but take time for yourself each day to avoid burnout.