The saying that women are expected to work like they don't have children and parent like they don't have a job is right on the button. I am all for feminism and women's liberation, but while women may be able to choose to be free from the physical shackles of the house, it hasn't set them as free as you'd expect.
You don't need to have an enlightened read on the situation to know that it's hard to find a mother, let alone a working mother, in the upper North Island who isn't running on fumes right now, who isn't suppressing frustration at every turn and unleashing occasionally, causing momentary suspension of all irritants until the cycle begins again. In amid all the stressors of lockdown, could the outcome be life becoming easier for working women?
With everyone WFH, managers and employers, whose MO may be more along the lines of Last Home First Gone, might for the first time understand the daily juggle working mums manage. Most managers and employers are informed beings, but there is a difference between knowing how hard it is and living it.
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It would be revolutionary if those at the top, even in the most staid and patriarchal of establishments, observed how the working mums in their lives are operating right now. Acknowledging that the struggle is not going to go away once we can return to the workplace, companies could make it a priority to examine the balance between the expectations and demands organisations place on working mothers and see how we can support this group of workers better. FYI, some sensitivity training on the way those without children perceive working mums could be beneficial too. This would prompt positive cultural and systemic change and make workplaces even better.
READ MORE: • You'll never be a perfect parent - and that's okay
Last year, as lockdown novices, we embraced video calls with gusto. But this year we are burnt out. The intense up-close eye contact of video calls is scientifically proven to be exhausting. We miss body language - which does a lot of communicating for us.
Working mums are putting the kids to bed and working into the night for some uninterrupted productive hours, still trying to be everything to everyone. But we are slowly casting our screens aside, seeking stimulation that isn't two feet in front of us. Our availability tipping points have been reached, hopefully empowering working mums in particular to set boundaries around their after-hours availability once they return to the workplace. Is anyone you know desperate for more technology right now? No, we are desperate for experiences and for people. Let's keep that up.
Lockdown gives working mums a break from extracurricular activities. Sport keeps kids active, hobbies and interests socialise them and sometimes keeps kids out of mischief. But as a rule we over-schedule our kids and indulge their (or your vicarious) fancy for every activity under the sun. Enforced time out has lightened that particular load for working mums and allowed them afternoons and weekends that aren't about tearing from one activity to the next.
Thick in an age of trying to please our children at every turn and feeling like we are depriving them of some potentially incredible future achievement, if we set limits to extracurricular pastimes, have we lost sight of the fact that these activities should enhance, not dominate? That encompasses everyone in the family.
Despite no indication of a strategy, for 2022 we fervently hope this seemingly never-ending lockdown will be the last, but if we acknowledge the learnings, then for our working mums we could make a silk purse from a sow's ear.