Talking to other working mothers, it’s clear that even the most optimistic of the bunch have realized that life has changed for good… at least for a long while. I’m not sure how anyone thought the pandemic would be a 1-3 month blip in our working lives given how fast the virus spreads and without coordinated federal political leadership, but everyone is now aware this shit has gotten real. All too real.
Professional women I know are discussing quitting the workforce to take care of their kids. Women who contribute 50% of the income to their families. Women who need their jobs. Women who rely on their husbands as breadwinners but who love their careers. Who never saw themselves as stay at home mothers. All now facing the reality – my company has given me no choice but to quit (or get fired, eventually.)
I find it bizarre that my company has not addressed the issue of being a working parent in a pandemic at all. I mean, there was a brief mention, there was the generic comment about how family comes first — but no follow up. No tactical advice how we can do our jobs and be parents and all that entails. Even though schools have announced that the school year — at least the first half of it — will be remote — workplaces have the upper hand and have no reason to offer any more flexibility. We are in a recession. You are lucky to have a job. Take it or leave it. Plenty of other people out there willing to take your place.
I’m fortunate in that as the breadwinner of my household, my husband’s part time job enables him the flexibility to watch our son. I’m also pregnant and yes that was planned but we both know it will be a huge challenge in the winter when our new baby is born. At least I’ll on maternity leave for a few months. Hopefully by then there will be a vaccine or treatments. Either way, I am in a position where I can likely work from home for the long term, and we will shelter in place with my in laws who can help watch our older son while we survive the first year of parenting in a pandemic.
I’ll go back to work–because I have to. I didn’t think I’d get pregnant this quickly but I knew it was possible. I determined that I could survive through the end of this year and go into next year on maternity leave for a few months, and then return in the late spring and hope my boss offers some flexibility to get back up to speed. Unlike my first child, which I had when I was just 9 months into employment at this company, now I’ll have been here three years. I feel like I’m in a bit better place. They can certainly get rid of me, but I don’t think that is their top priority at the moment.
Long term if COVID doesn’t go away I’m not sure how this works. We’ll have two kids under 3 and bills to pay in a HCOL area. We’ll figure it out. I always tell myself I’m lucky that my kid isn’t in school – that we aren’t expected to homeschool while we work. Yet at least that would provide some structure. I worry my son is falling behind socially because he can’t see other kids. That is what hurts the most. But if we allow him to see other kids we put ourselves at risk for getting COVID (which is extra bad if you’re pregnant) and then we can’t see my in laws which means no socialization with them and no childcare. We just had to make that tough decision.
We have a year before my son turns three and I’m really hoping by then the world makes sense again. I’ve given myself mentally until then to just survive whatever is to come. So now that’s 12 months of having a child, not losing my job, and reassessing next August. I’ve committed (to myself) to stay in my current role at least until the end of next year (if I can) in order to vest my entire initial grant, then start looking for a new role the following year. If all goes well, I’ll be in a solid financial place to start really thinking about work life balance in my career choices — and certainly to focus on finding a company that actually did something meaningful during this COVID craziness for their working parent employees. Not just lip service. Actual policy changes and support. Even if the pay isn’t the best, I’ll be at the point of my life where I want something stable with a company that actually cares about its employees.
Until then, it is just about survival.