Earlier this week. I read a startling article in the Wall Street Journal, outlining the fact that nearly 1.5 million moms are still missing from the workforce after last year’s fallout. As I kept reading I came across a startling bit of data – the workforce participation rate by working mothers with school aged kids is less than those with children under the age of 5, and far less than those that have no children.
Being a working mother with school aged kids, I can attest to just how difficult the last year has been and how close I as well as so many other entrepreneurs have come to closing our businesses down in an effort to choose our families and save our sanity. I personally dealt with the crippling blow of burnout earlier this year and I’m happy to say that I’m putting necessary self care practices in place as a result. But this article bubbled some raw feelings to the surface again and made me reflect on how the pandemic has been especially hard for moms with school aged kids.
- School is a form of childcare – for the millions of working parents with school aged kids, school has always served as more than just an educational experience for their children – it’s also served a vital childcare role for working parents. Every year, when summer rolls around, parents scramble to piecemeal childcare together to maintain some semblance of routine and support. This past year has felt like one endless summer where our children are without structure or routine.
- Elementary school is a vital part of social development for kids – Social emotional learning (SEL) is a vital part of early childhood education and will continue to be in the future, even as it evolves post pandemic. This goes beyond what happens in the classroom – it spills over to what happens on the playground, or what happens on the sports field, or what happens after school. Those social interactions we used to take for granted are vital for our children’s cognitive and emotional development. But that SEL fell to working parents alone this last year, where we were asked to not only play worker, teacher, caregiver but also friend, recess buddy and counselor for our kids. I personally struggled, as did my children, and I had to lean heavily on our districts counselors once school opened back up. I don’t know what the long term effects will be from a year without SEL for my 10 and 7 year olds, but I know that this year was one of the hardest years personally, and one that opened my eyes to how vital our teachers/staff/counselors
- Most child rearing responsibilities still fall on mom’s shoulders – in any normal year, moms shoulder roughly 80% of child rearing responsibilities, from dr’s visits to sports practices to playdates, and this was quantified well before the pandemic. Even though dads were relegated to working from home and being in the throws of child rearing this past year, women still bore the brunt twice as often as their male counterparts. So all those dr’s visits, socially distanced sporting events and pod playdates still fell to mom to plan, chauffeur and chaperone.
The upcoming infrastructure bill could help greatly in providing childcare for millions of working parents, but there are other opportunities to lessen the burden on working moms:
- Spouses can step up and step in more often to alleviate the burden on the primary caregiver
- Employers can offer subsidies or access to unique childcare offerings
- More legislation can be passed to support working parents who shoulder the primary caregiving responsibilities at home