Confessions of a Working Mom
My alarm goes off... “Mom, my zoom link for class isn’t working!”... The phone rings, it’s an important work client... An email comes in from my son’s teacher, she warns me that he has been distant during virtual classes...
I am going to lose my mind!
As the first day of school begins, working parents are in a state of panic amid school districts’ announcements that schools in Chula Vista, San Diego and Los Angeles County will resume with 100% distance learning. For my two beautiful children, as of August 3rd, the Sweetwater Union School District in South County has already begun 100% distance learning.
I AM GOING TO LOSE MY MIND!
As a working mother, with two children in internet-based learning, with an active duty husband, trying to balance it all has been a struggle. The hardest part about working while my children are virtually learning is that I feel like I am letting everyone down: My kids for not having all the answers, for not being present, for getting frustrated with them and the situation; My team for missing emails, for being slower on assignments; My clients for not being able to assist them instantly as before... The anguish and shame are only matched by how isolating and lonely this experience is. I can only imagine how many mothers and fathers share in my struggle.
Understanding that this is not easy for working parents and their children is vital! Children are losing out on valuable social skills and hands on learning. Teachers are unprepared and lack support from the district, state, and the federal government; meanwhile parents are expected to just ‘figure it out’. It is completely overwhelming and the impact this is having on our children’s and parent’s mental health is truly concerning.
Unfortunately, neither our local leaders, nor the federal government seem to have an answer for this pandemic born predicament. While the Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employee Paid Leave (“FFCRA”) allows some employees to take up to 12 weeks leave at 2/3 their regular salary to care for a child whose school or childcare provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, many families can’t afford the pay cut and maddeningly, the FFCRA does not apply to all employers.
Fortunately, my team has been, and continues to be supportive and understanding during this difficult time and having that support has made all the difference. The key to making it work is open and honest communication. I don’t always know what I need or how the team can support me, and in all honesty, I am figuring it out as we go. There are times where I can work uninterrupted for a few hours while my kids are in their virtual classroom, other times, there is utter panic as we figure out how to get their electronics and books, submit assignments, log into virtual meetings or navigate the 12 programs necessary for school. It’s all new to us and we are doing the best we can.
As leaders in the legal industry and employment law experts, our team has discussed the multitude of ways employers and employees can use this opportunity to reshape the status quo of the workforce. Employers should prepare for the impending disruption of parents learning how to balance work, teaching and childcare. Especially those who have elementary age children or younger who need more hands-on guidance. Choosing to work should not be a punishment for parents and with countless people being let go and suffering finically, many parents simply can’t afford to not work, or for that matter, pay for private tutors. Businesses need to create an inclusive work environment for parents who are responsible for the health and education of tomorrow's leaders.
The first way to support employees with children returning to school is to start asking what they need and involve the entire office. Fostering an inclusive environment where everyone on the team is part of the discussion and the solution will help employees have more empathy for what their co-workers are going through. Employers should routinely check-in with their employees and monitor their mental health. Providing extended and flexible working hours, offering child-care stipends, and keeping an open dialogue are paramount not only for the moral good, but a happy employee not bogged down by being a parent, a worker, and a teacher at the same time is a productive employee.
For all of you out there experiencing these struggles, I want you to know that you are not alone.
We can do this, together.