Working mothers have searched for an equilibrium between caretaking and job responsibilities for far too long. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, mothers had to figure out how to parent, teach, and do the job they were paid to do – all while under the financial and emotional stress of a pandemic. Many women have struggled with the extra burdens, but these strains are not something that can be relieved by mothers alone. The exhaustion and burnout that women face stem from systemic issues, including a lack of a national pandemic policy, a disproportionate amount of job loss, deepening racial inequities, unequal division of household labor, and inadequate financial support from employers and government interventions. Primal Scream – recent New York Times series – highlights the struggles of millions of mothers and suggests support.
Many mothers are burned out with no end of the pandemic in sight. When the times get tough, Dr. Pooja Lakshmin suggests taking the time to center oneself, but the most critical reminder is that many persistent frustrations they feel and problems that arise are due to choices made outside of themselves. Lakshmin asserts, “Nine times out of 10, the solution [to their guilt, apathy, or exhaustion] is a family friendly socio-economic policy that has yet to materialize in the United States.”
Some other solutions can come from national policy, like the expanded Child Tax Credit Bill, state policy, or from employers. Offering paid childcare or flexible schedules for working mothers would expand their ability to give attention to what is necessary without fatigue. Most importantly, it is crucial to remember that the demands of working mothers are not static. As life unfolds, women will need a menu of supports in order to thrive, not just stay afloat. For more policy options that protect women as we recover from the she-cession, read our report “Build(ing) the Future: Bold Policies for a Gender-Equitable Recovery”.