Fighting Through the Pain
March 12, 2021 - This is not your typical blog. And it certainly is not the one I had planned to write on the Equal Rights Amendment when I started yesterday, but yesterday was anything but typical.
Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the WHO declaring Covid-19 a pandemic, and tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the day our twelve-year old son last stepped into a school building. How do I know? He told me, reminding me it was Friday the 13th. As he talked, I could see the pain on his face, even more than the pain when his nine-year old sister started going to school two days a week.
And when we were done talking, and I knew he couldn’t hear me, I broke down sobbing. Wanting to take away his pain and feeling completely helpless. Reflecting on the year. What all kids have been through. The lost lives. More than half a million deaths, just here in the United States. Lost jobs. Shuttered businesses. Families working while helping with homeschooling, and families that can’t help with homeschooling because they are unable to work from home. Food insecurity. . . .
With all of that swirling in my head, I started worrying about the long-term damage this could have on kids, including my son and daughter. Recalling instances when I wasn’t at my best, even though I was giving it everything I had in the tank, feeling overwhelmed and helpless with no end in sight.
And then, as expected, I started beating myself up.
And then I was too emotionally drained to finish this blog.
And then I beat myself up some more.
Then it hit me. We women beat ourselves up too easily and often. I know I do. I know many of my friends and family do – and because I know what they do and who they are, I know them as true ROCKSTARS.
Women like me – and maybe you – who feel this way, are not alone, particularly today in the pandemic. According to a recent study by McKinsey and Co. and LeanIn.org on the impacts of Covid-19 on working women, women are overwhelmed by feeling the need to be “always on” and are stressed and exhausted more so than men, and some women more so than other women. For example, LBGTQ+, disabled and Black women are more likely to be exhausted than other women.
One of the driving forces behind these feelings is that women, particularly mothers, have taken on more. Mothers are three times as likely to take on most of the housework and childcare and 1.5 times more likely to spend three or more hours a day. Latina and Black mothers are 1.6 times and two times more likely to be doing all of the housework and childcare, and single mothers are doing it all. Nonetheless, 72% of men still say they are responsible for half of the housework and childcare duties.
One participant in the study described her pandemic experience, and it’s a great glimpse at how many of us are feeling:
I feel like I am failing at everything. I’m failing at work. I’m failing at my duties as a mom. I’m failing in every single way, because I think what we’re being asked to do is nearly impossible. How can you continue to perform at the same level as in the office when you had no distractions, plus being asked to basically become a teacher for kids and everything else with online learning? I’m doing it all, but at the same time I’m feeling like I’m not doing any of it very well. I also worry that my performance is being judged because I’m caring for my children. If I step away from my virtual desk and I miss a call, are they going to wonder where I am? I feel that I need to always be on and ready to respond instantly to whatever comes in. And if that’s not happening, then that’s going to reflect poorly on my performance.”
-WHITE WOMAN [IN THE STUDY], TWO CHILDREN (AGES 7 AND 11), VP
While these feelings are more than natural under the circumstances, it is untenable for long periods of time. Not surprisingly, one in four women is contemplating downshifting careers or leaving the workforce all together. Based on recent projections from McKinsey and Oxford Economics, it is currently estimated that women will not return to pre-pandemic employment levels until 2024, two years (!!) after our male counterparts.
So what we do?
When we feel overwhelmed, helpless, stressed and/or exhausted, we need to recognize that we are not alone. We need to stop beating ourselves up. We need to recognize that we are not at our best, and that is ok. We need to fill our tanks, so we can get back up tomorrow. And we need to get back up and fight for gender equality because we have a long way to go.