“Taking time to care for myself; having enough time to care for my mind and body; feeling satisfaction at the end of the day.”
“I have to stay aware of my mental health and care for myself or things get bad. It’s a job.”
Over 3,000 parents, mostly Moms (98%) have shared their stories in our research study since March of 2020. Most have managed careers (86%) through disrupted childcare or school (75%) despite doing more of everything at home. And in our most recent survey wave, one in four also care for aging parents (25%) but few are caring for themselves at pre-pandemic levels (7%.)
Society’s Unrealistic Expectations for Mothers Haven’t Changed Much
Although we’re proud of our capacity, especially in a crisis, we’re tired of the being the glue that keeps everything in place. As we coexist reluctantly, with Covid, we have to choose to elevate expectations for ourselves. And how we use our time.
In all of our past research studies, when Mothers express what they really want, it’s typically reaching the top of the Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs, more often. The barriers and challenges, in and outside of our homes continue to change. But the refrain, for what’s important, remains the same.
Here are 10 key themes from our pandemic research study, about what Moms need most, for their wellbeing.
We want access to discretionary time for our mental, physical and emotional health.
“Getting time to myself without lingering responsibilities.”
“Having enough time to find joy and do what needs to be done.”
We want wellness routines in our daily lives. Because although we love vacations and outings, the invisible work to choreograph them, means they rarely feel like breaks.
“Showering, consistent sleep, healthy food consumption or remembering to eat, making time for myself.”
“Moving my body, time to read and journal, time to eat and prepare healthy food, time to connect with spouse and other adults.”
We want to connect with our families, not just serve them.
“(We started) Daily walks/workouts, a lot more unscheduled time for our family, weekend movie nights.”
“(I’m) enjoying my kids more.”
We don’t want to return to the era of “powering through” illness and exhaustion.
“(I wish I had) ….a personal housecleaner because the mess never stops and I’m so exhausted after a full work day and then (there’s) my toddler (and) I have no energy left to clean!”
“A reduced schedule would be a godsend – I am stretched to a breaking point now, and am exhausted all the time.”
We want intimacy with our partners, in the form of equitable, reciprocal, and mutually responsive relationships.
“I wish I had a support system. Dealing with everything on my own and walking on eggshells around my husband is hard emotionally.”
“(I’m now) gardening, cooking, spending more time with husband who is WFH now…”
“(I hope to have more) quiet moments to myself with my partner.. no distractions.. no interruptions.”
We need rest. Because we are not machines and trying to optimize our time, as if we are, is at the cost of our humanity.
“Flexible work schedule. It’s extremely difficult to assist with school and care for children while trying to work. If my boss was more flexible with my work hours I wouldn’t be so stressed about completing everything.”
“(I have) lack of time to pump to feed my baby. Burden of being a woman breastfeeding in a traditionally male career.”
We need flexible expectations at work. Because most of our household and childcare responsibilities are not.
“(My company has been helpful….) they are hybrid, we have the flexibility to work in the office or 100% remotely. We get $2,500 reimbursed per year for childcare. 3 months maternity leave. My supervisor is very supportive of me being a working mom i.e. always approves pto, asks about my kids, smiles and says hi when they pop into the zoom frame.”
We need access to childcare we can afford.
“The idea that there is no end in sight and the cost of childcare is so high I cannot send my kid back.”
We need protected paid leave to care for ourselves and our families.
“I wish there was more understanding from my employer. I’m expected to do the same amount of work from home as I do in the office. I wish I could take paid leave to focus on my kids. My 3-year-old isn’t learning anything like he would in daycare – he doesn’t know letters or numbers and just watches tv all day so I can participate in endless zoom meetings and phone calls. I’m the primary breadwinner and only holder of health insurance for our family so we depend on my job. I hate having to sacrifice my parenting for that.”
“I wish my employer gave me more PTO. I really worry about how I will work and take care of sick family members since I only have a few days of PTO/year.”
And we need real conversations. We’ve lived through years of “deep fake” discourse trying to reconcile the irreconcilable differences between work, parenting and care for our own health.
“(I don’t want to keep) people pleasing, being available to others without reciprocity.”
“(I don’t want to) always say yes to everyone.”
“(I’m done with) working around the clock, always being on, having to pretend I didn’t (feel) stress or anxiety about the world or becoming a new mom in a pandemic.”
Although our ability to give with love is a strength, we want to do so, sustainably. We don’t want to tolerate extractive practices anymore. Not from our employers, friends or loved ones. We want to nourish ourselves with fulfilling activities, routines and relationships. And exercise more choice over our schedules. We’ve learned there’s no glory in burning out.
Enjoy the gift of more time. Self-care packages for Moms, delivered to your door.
Ready to put yourself back onto your to-do list? Take a TimeCheck.
Shared your story yet? Take our quick survey to change how workplaces support parents.
Employers, ready to rewrite hidden workplace rules? Become Allies@WorkTags: Manage Stress For Moms, mental health for moms, mental wellbeing for Moms, Moms Self care