As I sit here in a virtual meeting, trying to get my son to get his sick IN, not outside of, the bucket while making sure I’m still on mute and keeping up with the conversations, I’m reminded how incredible women truly are and the work-life balance millions are navigating daily.
In conversations I’ve had with mothers from previous generations, I say, “I don’t know how you did it.” And the response is always the same: “We didn’t.” Not because they failed, but simply because the circumstances and expectations were different. Today, the professional expectations, (lack of) support villages, financial challenges and pure overabundance of knowledge at our fingertips all contribute to the belief that motherhood is harder today. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it’s true, but what do we do when there is no village? Whether because they’re located far from family, the large numbers of women in the workplace or more interaction happening online versus in-person, many women are feeling the absence of “the village.” So much so that there is an entire TikTok movement dedicated to #wheresthevillage. With so many women feeling unsupported, childcare is vital, but many are also drowning in childcare costs. The 2020 Demanding Change Report found the national average cost of annual childcare is over $10,000 per year. And the average increase in childcare is outpacing inflation by more than 3%. And yet, if your child is sick, payment is still required and you’re stuck figuring out how to juggle being a caretaker and a professional—assuming you even have the luxury option to work remote.
Mothers are the ultimate producers
I am a producer in marketing, my professional job, and also a producer in motherhood, my personal job for life. And I expect so much of myself in both of those roles. Today’s mothers are the ULTIMATE producers. We must climb the professional ladder of success. But we must also ensure our kids have a balanced meal planned, shopped and prepared to be certain they are energized to participate in appropriate developmental activities to prepare them for daycare or soccer practice—or even adulthood. And then we must read the perfect book on how to manage feelings and cultivate empathy as part of our perfectly orchestrated bedtime routine. Lastly we—especially us marketers—must document the balanced meals on social media to show what amazing moms we are along the way. Producers and mothers can relate in those thinking terms—the end goals, the partners and materials required, and then all the logistics to get us to our end goal. Operating at both levels all the time is exhausting!
The balance of parenthood
I don’t want to discount the males in this equation either. Parenthood has become seemingly more challenging for both parties. But I think many, including my husband, would agree that women tend to be the default parent (perhaps due to our excellent production skills). In fact, the latest Skimm “State of Women” report noted that 36% of working women were doing most or all of the childcare AND do nearly 3x the unpaid care (cooking, cleaning, child/elderly care) compared to men. Which means that when there’s a sick child at home, women tend to adjust their work schedules before men. But it doesn’t change the fact that women are still going to have the same work expectations waiting for them while tending to their second full-time job. I am fortunate for the flexibility in my role at Momentum Worldwide—a huge reason I’ve been here 12 years and have stayed as I transitioned into parenthood. I have a supportive female manager (who is also a mother) and now a global CEO who is also a female and a mother. Having that perspective at the top means there is an understanding in our company culture for those times we must straddle the line. I have the freedom of flexible work hours for appointments, the ability to adjust meetings when I have a sick little one at home, and even meeting free Fridays so I can catch up and recover from weeks when being a parent throws a curveball. But I know many are not as fortunate.
Stick to your boundaries
It isn’t possible or productive to accurately say which generation of motherhood has been the hardest. But it is clear that women are exhausted and, as such, continue to adjust how they live, make choices and blend their lives to prioritize their family and personal needs in a society where they aren’t being supported as well as they should. Gender equity is not there yet, maybe not even close. But women are entitled to make choices to benefit their wellbeing (therapy, boundary setting, prioritizing personal wellness). You can’t be the best at everything, everywhere, all the time. It’s okay to prioritize and deprioritize, even if for self-preservation alone. We know women’s mental loads are heavy.
I urge everyone to extend the same grace to others that you’d want for yourself and don’t be afraid to stand up and celebrate other women! With each baby step, we continue to master the work-life blend. We can only hope to be recognized, appreciated and continue to make strides toward gender equity.
(Source: Demanding Change Report)