Care for the Caregivers: Work Flexibility in the Era of Covid

What Employers Need to Know

“…I am working 12 hour days right now remotely and barely have time to feed people let alone do a good job keeping the kids schedules organized.”

“Understanding from work that we need to reduce our hours to support homeschooling. And support our children.”

Since late March, over 1,000* parents, primarily Moms (94%) have anonymously shared the pandemic’s impact to their work and lives. Most are working from home (71%) without childcare or on-site schools for their children (70%.) When asked, ‘what should their employer change’ overwhelmingly, they want variations of the same theme, flexibility.

They need discretion over how many hours and when they work. Ideally, in the form of: flextime and/or hours, sick leave, increased personal and/or paid time off.

Captivity is Officially Over

“Longer lunch break since I’m not only catering to myself for lunch.”

“Flexibility for kid wrangling times.”

Work has always revolved around captive time. Usually in an office or building. And pre-Covid, we were paid for hours of Continue reading “Care for the Caregivers: Work Flexibility in the Era of Covid”

The States with the Most Childcare Sanity Will Surprise You

A book review and conversation with Motherland’s Author Leah Ruppanner

Covid has forced Mothers everywhere to reevaluate work/life tradeoffs. And without access to childcare or school, millions have left their jobs, despite the global recession. Because trying to work and care for kids full-time does not set anyone up to thrive. And like all living things, we need the right conditions to flourish. Leah Ruppanner, Author and Co-Director of the Policy Lab at the University of Melbourne, went in search of the ‘Motherlands’ for her new book. Those idyllic places with childcare sanity where Motherhood and work can coexist. What she found was surprising.

Mothers Are Opting Out in Record Numbers

Pre-Covid, life fit around the work calendar. And caregiving often fell into the hours before and after. Kind of. Work hours in most careers have increased in the past decade. Which makes finding space to care for our kids, parents or selves, a constant source of conflict.

Leah explained, “People believe, ‘I personally failed because I couldn’t make work and family work. And everyone else seems to be doing this great job’ but the truth of the matter is, that it’s a structural issue. If a woman working in Massachusetts or California, where childcare is $4,000 a month, was told Continue reading “The States with the Most Childcare Sanity Will Surprise You”

This is not About Self-Care. This is About Your Sanity

Mental health was precarious for parents pre-Covid. And as the crisis continues, over 1,000* surveyed parents, mostly Moms (94%) admit they’ve eliminated time spent on their own wellness to cope with the added workload.

They’re overwhelmingly working from home (71%) without childcare (70%) and report doing ‘terribly’ or ‘worse than usual’ as caregivers to themselves (72%.) They’ve paused exercise, hobbies and date nights. And many refuse to take vacation time out of concern for job security.

Many achieve career success by ignoring well intentioned advice about balance. We’re incented to run, not rest, in most industries. Pre-Covid, more than half of Americans didn’t take all of their paid vacation time. But everything is different now and breaks have become critical.

When asked, ‘what’s been the hardest?’ many cite increased challenges with emotional and mental wellbeing.

“Keeping up with mental health.”

“Maintaining routines even when feeling depressed and unmotivated.”

“Not having a ‘finish line.’ We truly don’t know when this will end, and it makes it hard to keep going and do the right thing.’’

Self-Care Is Essential

For parents, faced with an uneven back-to-school and wobbly job market, self-care may seem frivolous. Yet, like the masks and the other health protocols we follow, it’s vital. Dr. Charmain Jackman, Clinical Psychologist & Founder of InnoPsych said, “It starts with your mindset. You really need to understand that self-care is important. It’s not about pampering, like getting a pedicure. Self-care is about giving your mind and Continue reading “This is not About Self-Care. This is About Your Sanity”

Childcare Never Quite Worked Before. It’s Time for Something Better

Let’s not conflate childcare and school. Working parents need both and always have. It’s true, most Americans with children over the age of 5 have relied on school as their primary childcare. But, the frequent holidays and mid-afternoon pickup, meant it was a partial solution at best for most workers. And having a credentialed expert, to expand your child’s mind, is not the same as keeping them fed and entertained.

Covid-19 has disrupted childcare arrangements for the overwhelming majority of over 900 surveyed parents* (71%.) Despite their need to continue working (84%) mostly from home (72%) with their kids.

“Non-stop days of homeschool followed by long evenings/weekends of work and making sure kids eat healthy, learn, get outside and feel ok while balancing a very demanding job.”

“It’s the unknown. Will the kids go back in the fall? How to balance their work and mine…”

“The expectation that work output should not be impacted despite having to care for my child full time. I stay up really late every night now to fit in the work hours.”

“Not being able to send my child to school or activities while I work. I must keep my child home to protect the family from COVID, sacrificing my ability to Continue reading “Childcare Never Quite Worked Before. It’s Time for Something Better”

Help Is Not On the Way (And It’s Not Going Well)

Can Psychological Safety Can Make Work More Sane Right Now?

This is part of an ongoing series, to share results from the pandemic research study. This update is from nearly 400 parents, primarily Moms (91%) who responded between March 30 – June 6th about how COVID-19 has affected work and life, including what has been the hardest.

“The instability of both my job and ability to secure safe childcare (many will call out with late notice after finding out I work in healthcare.)”

“… uncertainty about when life can safely return to normal and perhaps more importantly the anxiety that my partner is likely going to be asked to return to work before we feel doing so meets our own personal threshold of risk.”

“I was working remotely then requested to be furloughed as both my husband and I were working remote with our 10-month-old and it was too much without help.”

More Responsibilities at Home Have Come at the Expense of Work

Surveyed Moms and Dads have leaned into their family roles during this time of crisis. 68% felt that they were doing the same, a better job than usual, or really well as parents and, though by a smaller majority, as spouses/partners. However, most (58%) felt that they were doing terribly or not as well as usual in their performance as workers and most (60%) sacrificed self-care routines to make space for the added responsibilities.  There are, however, exceptions. One surveyed Mom shared, “My kids are 9 and 10. They do their schoolwork and play/watch TV on their own while I’m working. My partner is now working from home, too, so I feel like I have more help than usual. I’m more productive now than I was when I was going to my workplace.”

Help Is Not On the Way for Most

The work/life juggle after having kids tested even the most optimistic parents. But in this pandemic, childcare, a prerequisite for working parenthood was disrupted for the overwhelming majority (74%) of those surveyed. And people are breaking under the strain of trying to do the absurd – work, Continue reading “Help Is Not On the Way (And It’s Not Going Well)”

Self-Care Is the First Thing to Go in a Crisis

Nearly 400* parents shared anonymously how the pandemic is affecting their lives. This is the first in a series of updates with results.

“With the lack of childcare, I have no time to work or take care of our apartment. I earn a lot less than my husband and work for myself in an industry that has slowed down, so I have taken on the vast majority of the extra childcare and schooling. With only one kid and a small apartment with no yard, this feels like a full-time job! I love parts of it but would enjoy it more if I got breaks. The timeline is overwhelming.”

“My son is 3 and he DESPERATELY misses school and doing things with us. Both my husband and I work full time and cannot take shifts. We feel like terrible parents and terrible employees. For 14 hours a day. Every day. There is no break, nothing to look forward to, no sanity.”

We’re responding to epic change while doing more of everything. There’s more housework, childcare and involvement in activities for our kids. And more required to stabilize our work, families and communities. When the pandemic disrupted life, we didn’t know how long it would last. So, we eliminated self-care to make space for the added responsibilities. Unfortunately, COVID19 is just one of many threats to our wellbeing.

Establishing habits that support our mental and physical health can take years! In this crisis, it’s hard to even think about self-care but it’s critical to manage the stress that also harms our health. Most (61%) surveyed Moms report doing ‘terribly’ or ‘not as well as usual’ caring for themselves.

The Pressure is Unforgiving

When asked ‘what’s been the hardest?’ in this pandemic the list of concerns is long and varied. Moms worry about everything from their own Continue reading “Self-Care Is the First Thing to Go in a Crisis”

How to Make Healthy Choices Under Extraordinary Conditions

Social Distance Friendly Care for Yourself and Your Family

“Over the last couple of days, I’m recognizing I need to preserve my mental health to support my family, patients and colleagues. A lot of us who are caregivers and helpers, tend to have the urge to do as much as possible and often forget ourselves,” said Dr. Nicole C Brathwaite, Psychiatrist, Entrepreneur & Activist.

Moms, already Allstar-givers, have added homeschool and helping neighbors, while facing huge shifts to work, routines and income. It’s a gift to remain kind and resourceful in a crisis and with so many in need, it may be tempting to ignore self-care.  Caregiver burnout is real and strategies to protect mental health, become more critical in uncertain times.

Set New Boundaries To Preserve Energy

Nicole’s career is filled with meaningful work she’s passionate about. However, with the new obligations at home, she’s intentional about balance. “I have to make sure my family is safe and I’m well rested so I can provide the best care. It’s also the advice I’m giving to my colleagues who are working on the front lines of this pandemic,” she said. As we show up for our communities and families, we need different boundaries. Nicole said, “I’m setting aside time during my day for physicians and nurses who are directly exposed to COVID-19 and are completely Continue reading “How to Make Healthy Choices Under Extraordinary Conditions”

Can Self-Care Be Your Secret to Professional Success?

How do you transition from intrapreneur to entrepreneur, with your boss’ blessing, then sell and expand your company? With a disciplined approach to self-care and smart systems at home. Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, entrepreneur and Supermom, has built an extraordinary career while nurturing her creative soul.

Ambitious Moms face a dilemma. The rules for growth at work change just when requirements at home increase. Solutions to outsmart the wage and achievement gaps elude most women. Why? Work infrastructure doesn’t really favor working Moms. To succeed, despite this, requires mental energy and creativity. Resources most Moms lack. What if self-care, dismissed by most to save time, is the Continue reading “Can Self-Care Be Your Secret to Professional Success?”

If Setting Better Boundaries Can Improve Your Life, Why Don’t You?

“I think part of the problem is that I hardly have any boundaries. I’ve given up eating, sleeping, showering on a regular basis just to maintain work and family. Forget self-care, tv, movies, reading or seeing friends. No time!”

“I’m not sure what to say about this… I don’t know that I have rules for myself at home, other than the ‘alone time’ trigger, which is less a rule than an escape clause…”

What rules do you set to protect your time? What routines help you keep commitments, to yourself, and others? In an anonymous survey, nearly 200 Moms shared their experiences setting, modifying (and yes, ignoring) their personal boundaries. We spend so much energy navigating external boundaries, the barriers between what we have and want, that we forget to erect our own. Protective ones.

Strong personal boundaries are the answer to over-do and never-done. The tenuous states of anxiety most Moms call home. We fritter from must-do to have-to and rarely make space to think. Practicing regular self-care, or just relaxing, begins to feel impossible. It’s scary when the life we wanted doesn’t leave room for what we need. We do it for our children, partners and communities. We do it because it’s  Continue reading “If Setting Better Boundaries Can Improve Your Life, Why Don’t You?”

Ask for More! The Roadmap to Equal Partnership At Home

#MomsSelf-Care #ShareTheInvisibleWorkLoad #StrongCouplesBuildStrongFamilies

In most families, household and childcare logistics fall to Mom. The complexity of scheduling everything, from doctors appointments to play dates, is more laborious than you think. Stress, from juggling impossible schedules and the always-on mental to-do list, becomes oppressive. By the time we realize it’s unsustainable, we’re exhausted and desperate for relief.

Eventually, the epiphany that one person needn’t ‘own’ all of the kid and household planning in a two-adult family, brings hope. Until then, trying to renegotiate with our spouse, kicks off an unexpectedly draining and emotional chess match. Love for our kids is unconditional, but the spousal bond is different. We trust and commit with strings. We expect mutual support of our dreams and well-being.

“Even mothers who work for pay are still doing twice the amount of housework and child care as fathers,” Continue reading “Ask for More! The Roadmap to Equal Partnership At Home”

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