According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 865,000 women left the labor force from August to September while 216,000 men left.
- Why is this so disproportionate?
- Are women okay?
- Is this by choice?
- Are job descriptions out of balance?
- Are parenting and care taking of the home out of balance?
My struggle to work during COVID has been maddening. Juggling the tech support for my three children and running my own business that largely depends on face to face meetings has been an utter failure in some ways. Paying rent for an office haven’t used since the first week in March has eaten into my income. I find myself so confused some days, not just by all the demands for snacks, laundry, and google classroom assistance, but also how can I find the mental space to plan and move my business forward? Not only that, I still fall into patriarchal tendencies by calling my part time job a “side-hustle”, unable to value myself and my work in an appropriate way.
I find that I am quick to sacrifice myself, to let myself disappear. I tell myself that I need to absorb the stress for my children, because they are kids and their world has fallen apart. I fool myself into thinking that if I work hard enough, I can somehow compensate for their losses. I support my husband because his income is larger than mine, justifying another stress I will absorb. I let myself, spiritually, physically and vocationally slowly slip away.
Work is Hard
Work is also good for us, and good work matters. So what happens when a pandemic hits and the essential supports counted on by many moms are taken away? Suddenly we face unreliable child care, unreliable schooling, marriages that feel different because of all of the stress. These are things that keep my friends and clients up at night. How can we possibly hold space for our vocation against the tidal wave of our responsibilities? Every woman understands why almost 650,000 more women than men had their jobs swept away in the flood waters of COVID-19.
We begin with hope.
Hope can be hard to find right now. You might have been ignoring it, gently shushing it, or telling it now is not the time?
My hope is nudging me to recreate. I’m not saying blow up your life, but find the areas where you can share your burden. To do this, we have to be willing to not only see our own limitations, but also admit them to those who love us and can carry the burden that has been wearing us down. I’m asking my parents and friends for help, and my husband and I are going to reslice this pie of responsibility in a way that is sustainable for us both. Hope needs space and time to catch its breath and strengthen its voice.
My hope, it’s also asking me to let go of some things, whispering that some things needed to die. I can’t buffer my kids from everything that is hard in life, somehow creating a childhood that is abundantly filled with love, learning, friendship, and stability. That is my ego, my pride, my privilege and my own woundedness desiring those things for them. Can I instead trust that they will experience all kinds of disappointments and hardships with resilience? Can I trust my own strength to stand beside them when their hearts hurt and keep them company while they take the time they need to learn and heal? Can I demand that these little people carry some of the weight of maintaining our home? Can I let go of trying to be the perfect wife, the one who somehow juggles all the required things of each individual in the family? Yes, in fact, I can.
“My hope, it’s also asking me to let go of some things, whispering that some things need to die.”
Finally, my hope also asks me to see, to see what is and what is yet to be. It shines the light and calls for my attention so that I can see my own value. It quiets the fears that I’m not worth my own effort, or that I don’t actually know enough. My hope also crafts a vision of the future, of the beauty and the growth for myself and this world that I need to step into, not anticipatory hope, but participatory hope. I will build a ladder one rung at a time, knowing that my daughter is right behind me, using the same steps rather than wasting her time and energy building them herself, and that once she reaches the end of mine, she can begin her own construction from a much better elevation.
I’m not trying to be prescriptive here. My path isn’t going to be your path, but this storm is soaking all of us, and I want you to know that you are not alone and that it’s not hard because there is something wrong with you or the way you are doing things. I’m sharing where I am in this process in hopes that you will honor yourself in your process. I also recognize that I sit in a place of privilege; many women face challenges that truly have no workable solution. There is value in blocking out the noise and questions and surviving. Be well friends.
Where do we personally find hope?
I find it hopeful that there are movements and organizations that are fighting for equality for women in the work place in tangible and practical ways. Not just white women, but ALL women. Movements like the Womanism Movement “committed to the survival and health of ALL people” according to Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple. Nationwide movements like the NAACP and Black Lives Matter are shining lights on the systems that have failed minorities. It feels good to my soul to align with movements that champion the voice of ALL people and want the system healed so that everyone will be included and cared for. Their leadership is critical to me and many others.
P.S. There are going to be typos in here. I don’t have time for perfection and I know you understand that. My wonderful sister Rachel Lockman and I worked on this blog together. To find out more about her go to https://rachellockmanconsulting.com
And in case you missed this NYT article from July from another working mom: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/02/business/covid-economy-parents-kids-career-homeschooling.html
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