“Giving my best to a company that doesn’t really care about me, at the expense of my kids.”
“I will miss the flexibility of WFH and the better quality of life as a full-time single mom.”
“There is lip service to people having work boundaries. But the expectation is still that you will always be available to take meetings, answer emails, etc. Also constant meetings means no time to do any work during the day. So that means working late. For parents late often means coming back online after kids’ bedtimes (so for me that’s post 10 pm).”
Over 2,500 parents, mostly Mothers (96%) who are in the paid workforce (86%) have shared their stories. In our research study, many are torn between the need for time alone, self-care and their long list of responsibilities. Although, it’s impossible to meet everyone’s expectations at home or at work. They’re often harshest on themselves.
Work has strong pull. It meets practical needs, like financial security and health insurance. And emotional ones, like societal contribution, skill mastery and belonging. But Moms, continue to face the dilemma of how to show up enthusiastically, in a system that wasn’t designed for them.
Almost half (48%) said that they’re less committed to their jobs. Because for most, commitment to work in the pandemic, comes at the expense of every other priority in their lives. Can we fix it?
Work Confidence Has Improved, at a Price
In our most recent wave, most (60%) feel like they’re doing as well or better than usual at work. At the beginning of the pandemic, it was the opposite. With more than half (58%) feeling like they were doing ‘terribly’ or ‘not as well as usual’ as workers. But the steady improvement in work performance for most, is at the expense, of everything else.
Many organizations want to go ‘back to normal’ when nothing really is. Covid continues to disrupt childcare for the majority in our study (75%.) And increase the time and mental load for managing daily life. Overwhelmingly, they spend less time on self-care (60%,) interests (72%,) and relationships with other adults (71%.)
Most Don’t Want the ‘Old Normal’
“I changed jobs during the pandemic to be able to work from home full time. I am now with a different company entirely than when the pandemic began. I am able to flex my schedule as needed and work 100% remotely.”
“They allowed lots of people to continue to wfh but anyone a manager & above cannot. That would make sense if I (a manager) actually had employees in the office- they are all wfh!”
“I work as a school social worker and shifted to at home (distance learning) sometimes during the school year. I no longer have after school or summer childcare due to concerns about safety during Covid…”
Almost 2/3 (63%) of surveyed Moms began working from home during the pandemic. And want to continue doing so, either full or part time. Losing the commute is one of the few pandemic time savers. So, most are unwilling to give up the space repurposed for family, healthier habits or managing housework. And they’re becoming increasingly clear about what they need.
They Crave Enlightened Leaders & Work Cultures
“…Not having clear expectations or communication from leadership.”
“Constant emails, lack of process and strategic discipline, inability to plan, general lack of respect for anyone below a certain title.”
“… Cameras on for nearly all Zoom calls, pressure to make sure we are showing our Board we are all being “productive” while working from home.”
“(There is) lack of support to get my job done and have a family.”
Better Pay and Conditions
“…Salaries are very low and there was a freeze on raises and employer contribution to our retirement account in 2020. So, although these freezes have lifted, we are further behind in our compensation in spite of working 70-80 hour weeks…”
“To cover those who were approved to continue working from home or were furloughed. I am now doing the jobs of 3 people.”
“Up until this summer, they followed CDC guidelines requiring masks. But now they are not and I’m afraid of bringing COVID home to my higher risk child.”
“Getting time off when I need it, NOT when it is given to me.”
And Reasonable Work Hours and Expectations
“The unspoken assumption that you should always be available- I feel like I can’t even take a lunch or break as that will show me as “away”
“Telling me in my performance review that I have to be available for 7ams–when I’m getting kids ready for daycare.”
“The expectation that since we are working from home, employees are expected to be available to work any and all hours the company demands because we are given then privilege of working from home. The expectation that employees will have childcare for nontraditional working hours.”
“…I was told that because it’s my first year as a director-level employee in this ambitious organization, I’d likely have to be putting in 60-70 hour weeks to be able to be both “in the weeds” and at a high level. Hearing that as one of only 2 people … with kids—from the only the other parent in the org—I was really taken aback. Where does she, of all people, think I’ll find 20-30 additional hours each week? And in this day and age, does that even sound remotely healthy or reasonable?”
They Need Space for Family Life
“…They will continue harassing me because of the needs that I have to take care of at home.”
“Even though I’m in an executive-level role and should be able to have an impact on the culture and expectations, I don’t feel I can. The company founders are younger and don’t have kids and have a very different view of work/life balance.”
“I’m the only one with kids and the younger single males don’t understand my desire to leave work on time instead of working long hours.”
Because for Most, Work Demands are Nonstop
Pre-pandemic, the amount of hours required from most senior roles and service professions, continued to climb. And trying to outsmart the Motherhood penalty, often means meeting the always-on-expectations. Usually, in the years when childcare and unpaid work at home, expands.
The pandemic, of course, broke everything. So, the gap between what’s expected and possible, continues to widen for many. One third have considered reducing their work hours, downshifting or leaving the paid workforce altogether. And it’s all at odds with how ambition is defined in our society.
Commitment to Career = Hard Work
“I put in 120% all of the time.”
“I work my ass off everyday.”
“I show up every day despite my debilitating anxiety and depression.”
When asked, ‘how do you demonstrate commitment to your job?’ the answers were all variations on the theme of self-sacrifice. As one surveyed Mom shared, “I work hard and I work long hours.”
This is the culture we’re in. Work excellence has been analogous to overwork for a long time. Despite the pandemic’s negative impact on mental and physical health. We can’t put that genie back in the bottle overnight. So what can you do, to improve your wellbeing and work/life in the meantime?
So, They Don’t Speak Up About the Problems
“…I have up to the point when I hear HR and leaders getting defensive. Plus (my) fear of retribution/ being cut from growth opportunities for being a whiner.”
“Knowing it will be held against me when promotions and raises are given.”
But There are Other Options
Surveyed Moms overwhelmingly lack the psychological safety to renegotiate schedules or keep healthy work/life boundaries. When asked, only 3% felt they could ask their manager for what they need. The fear of retaliation and loss of growth opportunities keeps them silent.
In the meantime, career commitment can’t be at the expense of health and other priorities. Work is important to many of us. But most work rules, management practices and paths to leadership, aren’t family-friendly.
So, find your tribe. If you have a difficult manager, consider leaning on an Employee Resource Group. Or parent advocacy group for support. Speak with your trusted besties or mentors, to help you gain perspective. Ultimately if you can’t get what you deserve, to make your life and work fit together, ride the rise in employee power. Remote positions and job openings, due to worker shortages, may allow you to upgrade.
Ready to reclaim time for your wellbeing? Take a TimeCheck.
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.