And Why it May Not be Time for a Drastic Career Change
“Every form of employee appreciation has been cancelled. There are no raises or bonuses. Work is being packed onto skeleton departments because all of the ‘fat’ has been trimmed. Employees are burning out.”
“I hate putting my son in front of the TV just so I can work.”
“Trying to give 100% to my job during work hours and 100% to my kids for their school work has been impossible. Both my work and my kids’ education have suffered from that.”
“I’m working full time in a hospital while my husband is working full time at home trying to take care of our 5 and 3 year old boys. No one is getting the time and attention that we need from each other right now.”
Almost half (44%) of surveyed parents (1,300) in our pandemic study say they’re doing ‘not as well as usual’ or terribly’ as workers. And although the majority (60%) feel they’re doing ‘as well’ or ‘better than usual’ as parents, 40% do not. They’re exhausted from months of housework, work-work and childcare, without any self-care.
Many feel trapped by untenable schedules. And distanced from their core values. So, after months of life-or-death decisions, it’s not surprising that parents want upgrades to how or where they live and work. They’ve redefined what’s essential. More family time, no commute, more space and flexibility have surfaced repeatedly. But will drastic shifts ease the strain of Covid-living? Maybe.
Mental health experts weigh in for anyone considering a big revamp.
Work Life Conflict Isn’t New. It’s just On Fire
“Watching kids while trying to put in a full days work. I’m not doing either well and the kids feel ignored since I am home.”
“I’m trying to stay under the radar (at work) so, they don’t focus on my productivity too much (which has of course decreased somewhat.)”
“Finding reliable childcare to coincide with mine and my husband’s work schedules (has been hardest)…as we are both essential workers.”
Most surveyed parents are trying to do their best work. But find it’s futile without childcare or onsite schools. And everyone wants to be excellent, at everything. So, when they can’t, after months of trying, they’re devastated.
Most Lack Flexibility at Work
“There is a lack of empathy (at work.) The response we get is to just figure it out and get it done.”
“I’m the only mother in my company so I’m the only person experiencing these issues.”
“I have high expectations for myself. Also, my manager does not have children so, it is difficult for him to understand balancing work, children’s virtual school, and regular care.”
Although some parents say their organizations have risen to the need, with more flexibility and support, it’s not the norm (12%.) So, many caregivers are disillusioned and want out. They’ve returned to the nest in droves for grandparent-care or to provide hands-on help to aging parents. Others have planned relocations, advanced degrees or new jobs, to exit long-held career paths when the pandemic winds down.
But is a Life Overhaul The Answer?
Dr. Nicole C. Brathwaite Psychiatrist, Activist and Entrepreneur suggests how to put the desire for big moves into context, “I think everyone is looking for a way out or some positive alternative. And sometimes we just need to go through that exercise and consider that escape. But if you’re very serious about making changes, take a few steps back first.” As with most decisions, extra time to think can help.
Wait, Pause & Reflect
Nicole said, “It’s never a great idea to make changes in the midst of a crisis. Because when we’re overwhelmed, we use our survival instincts, not our executive function or critical thinking. When you’re calm, then you’re able to process things from a higher intellectual level.” Exactly!
She advises against rash decisions that you may regret later, “So, if you’re thinking about a job change or relocation, literally take a few deep breaths. Then, write out the pros and the cons. Hopefully, if you have some level of job security, you can utilize more time to make those decisions. Because the worst thing is to jump from one stressor to another and still have the same problem.” Right.
Tune into Your Values
Although surveyed parents are more confident in their performance at home, than at work, they’re distraught about the compromises. We’re in a global crisis, without great options. But parents still worry they’re doing badly at “everything” and want to fix it. Dr. Yael Schonbrun, Clinical Psychologist and Author advises to reconnect to your why, “I always recommend to start by reflecting on your values. That is, what you want to stand for, in each of those roles. Then, consider how you feel and what you need.”
And Apply Context for Your Situation
Yes, even our highest values can be viewed with a contextual lens. Yael explained, “For example, someone who stands for fairness, may experience a boss who is a misogynist. But if that person’s income, is the primary income for their household, standing up for justice by assertively approaching their boss may not be the right choice.” Especially in the current economic climate. She said, “Instead of speaking up to their boss, they may choose to reach out to colleagues and band together to provide behind-the-scenes support for working women. Down the road, if it felt safe enough, they might consider speaking up more assertively.” Yes!
Be (Psychologically) Flexible
Yael suggests how we can tap the resilience needed in the months ahead. She said, “Psychological flexibility, that is the ability to persist or desist in action in ways that make sense for you and based on what you value and on your life circumstances, is at the core of mental health and general well-being. It means taking a discerning approach, to pick what value we are going to stand for, in a particular circumstance.”
Values conflicts are draining and occur almost daily during Covid. Yael added, “A rigid commitment to suffering silently, is no better than a rigid commitment to speaking up, regardless of the cost to you or your family. Being thoughtful about our values and what makes sense in each situation is where wisdom lies.”
Most pandemic choices are imperfect. And many will ultimately decide to revamp their careers and keep positive lifestyle changes. But with the willingness to adjust, you can choose thoughtfully and take actions in your best long term interests.
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.
Employers, let us help you transform your workplace into an environment where caregivers thrive. Learn about Allies @ Work.
Many thanks to the talented Nicole and Yael for their expertise. Learn more about their work below:
Dr. Nicole Christian-Brathwaite, MD is a Board Certified Adult and Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist. She has significant clinical experience with adults, children, adolescents, transitional and college aged youth. After graduating from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, she joined the Adult Psychiatry Residency Program and then completed fellowship in the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship at Massachusetts General/Mclean Hospital. She is the Senior Vice President and Medical Director of Scheduled Services at InSight Telepsychiatry. She is also the Founder of Well Minds Psychiatry and the Co-Founder of SecureMeLink, a safety app to support the health and safety of clinicians and medical staff.
Nicole regularly provides radio interviews and speaks to the community about mental health and wellness, particularly in African American communities. Dr. Christian-Brathwaite is a member of the Advisory Board for the Post Partum Depression Fund of Massachusetts. Dr. Nicole Christian-Brathwaite is a member of the Board of Directors for Families for Depression Awareness and servers as Clinical Consultant to Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Lesley University, William James College, Massachusetts School Administrators Association and numerous other public and private schools and universities.
About Dr. Yael Schonbrun, PhD. Yael is a licensed clinical psychologist, assistant professor at Brown University, podcast co-host, and writer about parenting, work, and relationships. Follow her great adventure including news about her upcoming book, Inside-Out on her website, and on Twitter. To listen to her podcast exploring how ideas and strategies from psychology can help you flourish in life, visit the Psychologists off the Clock Podcast webpage. She draws on scientific research, clinical experience, and her real life experiences with three small superheroes who provide her with constant inspiration (at the times when they aren’t providing an ulcer).