Why Won’t Parents Ask for Help When They Need it Most?

“I need some grace – from myself, my spouse, my child, but especially my job. The expectation that parents can manage to work a full-time schedule from home while also caring for children is absurd.”

“More time in the day so I can finish all of my tasks (work, child care, household chores) or more money so I could pay someone to take a task off my to-do list. I am being asked to do more at work for the same pay and have more to do at home now too.”

Over 1,200 parents, primarily Mothers (93%) have shared in our anonymous survey what they need to improve work and life through Covid. Most need help. In the form of childcare, household help, work flexibility, time and money to make the impossible — juggling too many roles at the same time — doable.

Last month there was a mass exodus of women from the workforce and perhaps worse, of those who remain, 1 in 4 are considering downshifting or leaving their careers.

Can we prevent this? What if it felt safe to ask for help at work?

The Always-On Intensity is Wearing Everyone Down

“…It’s impossible to maintain the 8-5 work hour schedule. The reality is that days just become longer for parents, waking up before dawn to get work done, so that when kids wake up, you’ve already put in hours. But during kids’ breakfast, you also have the daily morning meetings that interfere with child bonding, etc.”

“…I’m either working for my employer or keeping my household going. There’s just nothing left for me.”

Whether soothing babies, chasing toddlers, playing teacher or calming teens, there are no breaks with a career thrown in. The home and work deadlines compete and collide all day long. And many parents feel trapped in an unsustainable time warp. Most have already abandoned self-care in an attempt to keep their jobs.

But Parents and Employers Need Each Other

More than half of working parents fear being a parent is a strike against them in the workplace during Covid-19. But parents are a significant part of the workforce and need to remain so, for the economy to recover.

Although organizations suffer consequences when profits and targets aren’t met, they rely on humans. And humans have limits. We aren’t designed to work nonstop. Without the candid dialogue that all healthy partnerships need, solutions will remain hidden. And parents, most often Mothers, desperate for relief will continue to leave.

And Few Ask for Help

Also according to Catalyst, 41% of mothers and 36% of surveyed fathers say they have had to hide their caregiving struggles through Covid. Historically, parents have not fared well when requesting accommodations to deal with the realities of caregiving. And women have been more likely to face backlash in the form of lost opportunities for growth.

And in our culture that praises individualism, asking for help can feel like admitting weakness. Even though the pact between parents and their careers has been contingent on access to childcare and onsite schools.

Financial Pressure Only Complicates Things

“(It’s been hardest) to not wonder if I am in the next “involuntary separation” list at work.

“My employer does a good job but the work is still there. Leave of absence or maybe like the ability to work part time would help, but we still need the money for full time pay.”

Work is about more than our professional identities, it’s mostly about money. And Catalyst’s study cites 39% percent of parents worry they’ll be terminated if they ask for help. In the midst of a global recession, where millions have faced forced unemployment, the economic risk of seeking help will feel insurmountable.

But it Comes Down to the Manager Relationship

“They should stop harassing me about hours and set clear productivity goals instead.”

“My job records my response time on all emails during work hours – which is hard with the volume of emails received along with managing multiple children and infants.”

“…Work demands have increased drastically under COVID (in-house counsel) while I’ve taken a pay cut to avoid others being laid off, taken on full time childcare and schooling and no breaks. This is a terrible time to have a demanding career. I’m struggling watching SAHM and less busy moms having so much fun while I work before and after the kids wake and put them on screens for much of their waking day. AND I’M STILL BEHIND AT WORK!!!”

We all know it’s the manager who makes work delightful or deplorable. And without an advocate, even in the most prestigious organizations, the environment can become lonely at best or hostile at worst. It’s the subtle interactions that help or hurt careers. And during Covid’s extremes as one surveyed Mom states, parents need, “a manager who understands.”

And Cultures That Embrace the Opportunity for Change

“My employer has been pretty great through all of this. Working for a nonprofit that has some dealings in mental healthcare is very helpful.”

“My company has been great. Flexible, understanding, paid time, encouraging time off to recharge.”

“My employer has been incredibly supportive. But my job itself and balancing work/life is the difficulty.”

Although it’s still not the majority, several surveyed parents have received meaningful support and flexibility at work. Now is the perfect time for organizations and managers to reexamine everything. Most caregivers want to stay in their careers if they can engage in healthier, more sustainable ways through the pandemic and beyond.


Share your experiences of how life has changed during social distance. It’s quick and the results from this study will be used to advocate better support for parents.

Your employer can use data to help you at work! Your HR, Diversity and Parent Group Leaders can set up a chat to learn more.

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