LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Since the pandemic started, many parents are working from home all while trying to care for their kids. Some worry this could lead to more women leaving the workforce, reversing years of progress.
Mary Kate Reed is a full-time working mom of three. At the start of the pandemic, her husband was also working from home. Since June though, he went back into the office. That means, for most of the day, she's at home with her three children trying to squeeze work in when she can.
"It can be difficult. Some days are better than others," Reed said. "My work is flexible. As long as I get my work done and I get my hours in, everything is all good."
What that often looks like is starting her day at 7:30 a.m. to get some uninterrupted work time in until 9 a.m. Then, once the kids are up, she gets done what she can when there is time. Once her husband gets home at 3:30 p.m., she gets a little more done. Then, she shifts to making dinner. Finally, once the kids are in bed, she can finish up the workday. That's a long and tiring day. While it works, for now, she said it's not a good long-term solution.
Of course, some working dads can be in the same boat, but studies show that women are more commonly the ones taking on the caregiving on top of work responsibilities. Business strategy advisors, Boston Consulting Group, found working moms are spending 15 more hours weekly on domestic labor than men.
With cases on the rise, Reed and her husband have to figure out the best solution for their family.
"It is definitely a concern when we think about do we send the girls back to daycare? What are we going to do with NTI? It's going to go at least the next six weeks. How long can we keep this up?" Reed said.
Her oldest son is in school at Jefferson County Public Schools. When the new school year starts up soon, it will be online only for a while. If she's the only parent at home, that means she has to schedule time in the day to help her son with his NTI learning.
The non-profit Catalyst reports women are twice as likely as men to take on the homeschooling responsibilities. Kentucky Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Ashli Watts, a working mother herself, worries this balancing act could harm progress made for women in the workforce.
"We want more women in the workforce. We want more working mothers, so we don't want to do anything to hinder people's ability to have a career and have a family. Unfortunately, if we don't get this right, it very much could hinder that," Watts said.
We are already seeing this play out. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic's latest jobs report, 11.2 percent of women over 20 are unemployed. That's a full percentage higher than male unemployment in the same group.
Watts said workforce flexibility is going to be crucial in helping working moms stay in their career fields during this unprecedented time. Reed said, if more women leave the workforce, it would be a shame because many have worked so hard to get to where they are.
"We as women tend to overwork ourselves to be sure that our workplace knows we are valuable employees, while not wanting to give up our roles at home. I think now more than ever, that paradigm has shifted. It’s impossible to achieve this balance that we, as women, feel we need to achieve," Reed said. "It's not sustainable to do two full-time jobs every day."
She said she is lucky that her employer has been accommodating and understanding. She said she has enough support from her employer and her family, so she doesn't feel like she has to choose between the two. She said she loves her job and has no intention of leaving it. She does however know, that not all workplaces are as supportive which may cause some women to make a tough decision that could negatively affect the progress of women in the workplace.
No two days are the same. Reed has this message for other working moms who are in the same boat.
“I'm making sure I give myself some grace. Some days are going to be worse than others. Some days are going to be fantastic. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad mother or bad employee," Reed said.
She said you can do it. Just take it one day at a time.