“I hate to say martyr complex. But we’re conditioned in our culture to accept a certain amount of suffering as normal,” said Emily Fredrix Goodman, Communications Leader and Activist.
Yes, the economy is heating back up. Companies are hiring and businesses have reopened. But the childcare shortage, already dire, is worse. And as we face another choppy fall, exhausted Moms are forced to pick up Covid’s loose ends. Again.
We respond to extreme stress in different ways. There’s fight, flight or freeze. And when the pandemic hit, many froze. And remain stuck in mountains of dishes, laundry and emails.
But neither, Covid or the childcare crisis, are ending anytime soon. So we need new ways to coexist with the chaos. It is possible to restore some of your lost energy? Yes. As Emily discovered, we can start with small but intentional steps.
Start With the Problem that Frustrates You
Childcare was already limited and expensive pre-pandemic. Emily said, “I was feeling the caregiver crisis myself. And as a consumer of the news, I would feel how I’m feeling and then not see this story elevated, to the degree that was necessary.” The downstream impact is so much bigger than women’s participation in the workforce.
But it wasn’t covered in depth. And as a former journalist, she was appalled. Emily explained, “Last fall when school started, then not started, the numbers were just too hard to ignore. And I also just had a birthday so, I was feeling kind of reflective. And thought, what makes me happy? It’s writing. And it’s doing this. So, I wanted to put it all together.”
Lean to Your Strengths
Emily decided to cover the story herself. “I’m a reporter by nature and track trends in my current role. I thought, we’re all really stressed out. So, I’m going to take a lighthearted tone because otherwise we’ll hit our heads on the nearest, hardest object.” Sigh.
She decided to learn Substack and the ease of using gifs, sealed her commitment to the project. “I thought, I love gifs so, it’ll be fun! And that Friday I wrote my first newsletter because I knew the labor report was coming out.” She sent it to family and a few neighbors. Emily said, “The next week, I got a little braver and put it on Facebook. Then, it started taking off!”
Trust Yourself to Evolve the Plan
Although we make historic contributions, to every field, women are socialized to be perfectionists. So, we’re less likely to believe in our new initiatives. Emily said, “With the newsletter I thought, I can create prototypes and obsess over it. But I’m going to just start it. Two and a half months in, I decided weekly was too much for me and the news cycle.”
So, instead of talking yourself out of your brilliant idea, begin and adjust. She added, “Put your systems in place and then change them as you need to. But by starting, you’re going to get that momentum going.”
And Make Space by Letting Things Go
With Covid’s increased mental and physical workload, how can drained Moms, make space for themselves? Emily said, “I was just speaking about this with some new Moms, who are about to give birth, at work. I have a little chat group for all of us to share best practices because it’s a daunting time. Look at your main pain points and figure out what you can either offload, do less of or do at 70% instead of 100%. Maybe it’s not when or how you wanted it, but it’ll still get done.” Amen!
If you Can Pay for Care, It’s Worth it
Emily and her husband found a local program to ease the strain when their son was remote learning. “Remote kindergarten is the worst oxymoron you can think of! But we finally got him offsite with the YMCA and it was like a huge burden had lifted!”
The pandemic has surfaced some new options. But in the US, childcare still costs more than mortgages in most cities. Emily admitted, “That cost as much as when he was in daycare. And I guess luckily, we had never stopped paying, because he had just finished preschool. It was so worth every penny, from our perspective, as two working parents.” Although finding full-time childcare, can be difficult. And expensive, there are ways to get creative.
And Even Small Doses of Relief can Have Big Impact
She said, “Also look at your budget to see what wiggle room there is, in terms of getting yourself some help. I even looked around the neighborhood and said, okay there’s a fifth grader who can play outside with my 6-year-old. And if we pay a fifth grader 5 bucks an hour, even for an hour or two on a weekend, that offers us some relief. So, even micro dosing relief, by having a younger child look after your even younger child, helps.”
Despite how isolating the pandemic has been, many have forged stronger local connections. Emily said, “We have a great community in my suburb. If I’m stuck on a call and my husband is stuck on a call, I can ask someone to get my child from camp. Or sometimes, I’ll tell my son to ‘go play in the in the front yard for 10 minutes where I can see you.’ But I can still do this other thing. Micro dose childcare in any way you can to breathe a little bit.”
Upgrade Your Flexibility at Work
Many industries are facing labor shortages. Which means workers (finally) have more negotiating power. Emily said, “Look at your options because it’s a great time to be in the talent market. You might be able to get remote work or more flexible hours. Or something that feeds into your passion so, you’ll feel better about working. Look at it holistically. Because it’s not as if when you hire a sitter or quit your job, all of your problems are solved. Every action has a reaction. Lean on your networks for tips or to help you get into the marketplace.”
Yes. And historically, women who take career pauses have a difficult time returning. Emily said, “If you can take it, there’s also FMLA leave. And you can split that up. You don’t have to take the 12 weeks at once. You can take FMLA once a week for the next 12 weeks and maybe that will create some breathing room to figure stuff out.”
And Grab Yourself Some Quiet Time
When asked what she’s doing for self-care, Emily said, “I’ve been realizing lately that I like silence. So, for me self-care is being able to think. I crave quiet reflection time so now I’ve built in parts of the day where I’ll go out for a walk or do something silently, like drive. We all talk about going to Target as the new going to the spa! My mom used to do this, just drive in silence and now I understand why she did that.” In every study we’ve conducted most Moms prefer to relax solo. And Emily added, “I’m a huge fan of music and podcasts but I know that I also need to kind of erase things. So, for me it’s a lot of silence and being gentle with myself. Because I am a person who always has to have a project and my to-do list is filling up an entire app! Even for my hobbies, I keep a huge list of things I want to watch or do. There is self-care is that is outcome focused. But now, it’s more about enjoying quiet and introspection.” Amen!
And Creative Expression
Quiet has given her the room to reengage with her creative interests. “I’ve realized I like to write even more than I thought I did as a reporter. So, it’s finding these creative outlets for myself too,” Emily explained. “Writing the Caregiving Crisis is a form of self-care because it’s fun for me to have the quiet time to think and produce things. I also freelance for a local publication in my town. So, who would have thought that attending the planning board meeting is actually fun? But I get to miss bedtime, which is nice and I also get quiet. Stitching together a story and then putting it out there in the world is almost like a puzzle to me. So, now I’m really cognizant of what I need each day.”
Although many people made big pandemic moves, to new countries, cities or careers, small changes are often less daunting. And easier to move forward right away. So figure out the little changes that will bring you relief.
Share your pandemic experiences! How are the latest changes affecting your life? It’s quick and the results from this study are 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 Emily Fredrix Goodman!
Check out her amazing newsletter the Caregiving Crisis and her essays about parenting on Mother.ly. And follow her great adventures on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
Emily Fredrix Goodman is a writer and mother in New Jersey, where she lives with her husband and son. After a career as a journalist, she now works in communications. She writes the newsletter Caregiving Crisis, which examines the economic implications of the pandemic’s toll on caregivers. Via the free newsletter that is equal parts media and news analysis, piecing together of trends and snarky gifs, Emily aims to inform a population that is otherwise too busy to do it.Tags: Achieving Goals, Childcare, Manage Stress For Moms, mental health for moms, Moms Growth, Moms Self care, professional development, Self-Care For Moms, work life integration for Moms, Working Families, Working Moms