Professional women are speaking out about how difficult it is to balance work and motherhood, especially when the pandemic has left many parents without child care or school options.
“I was being pulled in so many different directions that it was very challenging for me,” said Romina Pacheco, an educational consultant and mom of two. “And it’s the feeling that I’m not doing a good job in any area of my existence. You know, I’m not being a good mom because I’m not really 100 percent there.”
Pacheco appeared on an episode of NPR’s “On Point,” which looked at the disproportionate way that women are being impacted by the pandemic. Not only have more women than men lost their jobs during coronavirus, but mothers are also —unsurprisingly — taking on the work of overseeing remote learning for their children. During the pandemic, moms have been spending 15 more hours than dads each week on domestic labor.
Jessica Calarco, associate professor of sociology at Indiana University, was also a guest on NPR. She was researching how moms cope with different parenting choices before the pandemic, but once COVID-19 hit, she saw immediate differences.
“It became clear that all of these changes were taking a huge toll on moms and their families and especially on families with working moms,” she said. “Moms, and especially working moms, have taken on a substantial increase in the childcare responsibilities.”
Eighty-eight percent of the working moms she surveyed said that they were more stressed during the pandemic than before. Single moms and women of color often face even more struggles, and Hispanic women, more likely to be employed in hospitality, have been most likely to be laid off.
Even women with thriving careers have had to adjust their work-life balance during the pandemic.
“With all the privileges I have, if I still feel such an overwhelming fear that I’m letting down my daughters, how can we as a nation possibly expect those who don’t have those same advantages to shoulder these burdens without any help?” U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, of Illinois, a mom of two young girls, wrote in an op-ed for Time. “Those are the mothers I’m worried about. The ones doubling as heroes in ICUs or grocery stores, trying to juggle looking after their kids with taking care of their patients or customers.”
Duckworth, a Thai American, is a veteran and former Assistant Secretary for Veteran’s Affairs. In 2018 she became the first Senator to give birth while in office, and she even brought her daughter, Maile, to the Senate to cast a vote.
Despite her impressive career, Duckworth says that remote learning challenged her immensely.
“I may be a trained helicopter pilot and a United States Senator, but one of the hardest tasks I’ve ever taken on is trying to teach my five-year-old how to add three plus five and how to write the letter K,” she wrote.
Duckworth called on lawmakers to learn from the pandemic, and recognize that the current model of balancing work and childcare in the United States isn’t sustainable. Affordable childcare and paid family leave are essential for our economy and the health and well-being of mothers, she wrote.
“With summer soon transitioning to fall, with moms trying to fit 48 hours of work into 24-hour days and the next month’s rent always seeming to be due, we can’t ignore the crises facing working parents any longer,” she said. “We don’t have the luxury of treating moms’ time as both expendable and endless—and we can’t risk our kids’ futures on the notion that mothers’ ability to shoulder the weight of the world is infinite.”