The Mom Stop column: Working moms juggle tasks as home becomes office

Lydia Seabol Avant
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The Rolla Daily News

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As I write this, I’m sitting at my home office, the desk and computer that has become my mainstay through most of my working hours during the week and increasingly at night and on the weekends, too.

Save except when I’m picking the kids up from school, or helping them with their homework, trying to put in a load of laundry, pulling the dogs away from the door when UPS arrives, or one of the 1,001 other duties one must accomplish when working from home with kids. Life is easier now that the kids are back in school, at least four days a week. But it’s nowhere near stress-free, as I juggle my full-time day job of editing a magazine and teaching college students, all while being a mom of three kids, ages 5, 9 and 11.

“Mooommmmyyyyyy,” has become a normal sound as my kids interrupt my work when they need assistance finding a sock, or a toy, or they need help putting in a password on a laptop. My Zoom calls have been interrupted more than once by my barking Boxers, who seem to have a penchant at harassing neighbors walking by only when I’m working at my desk.

I know I’m beyond lucky, because I still have a job. I am not one of the millions of Americans who lost a job during the pandemic. The U.S. economy lost 22.2 million jobs during the pandemic in 2020, although 12.4 million of those jobs have been recovered.

Still, people are suffering. According to a Census Bureau household survey, nearly 18% of American households have reported their families often do not have enough food to eat. This percentage is even higher with Black families, 24% of whom have reported food insufficiency during the pandemic, and Latino families, 21% who have reported the same.

Working from home is incredibly hard. But I am thankful to be working at all.

Studies have shown that millennial mothers like myself - those of us born in the early 1980s to the mid-1990s - have dealt the brunt of the difficulties when it comes to working during the pandemic because we have fairly young children at home who require significant child care. I admire mothers like my sister, age 35, who has three children at home, ages 9, 3 and 7 months, and is still somehow working and pulling it all together. How she nurses a kid, changes diapers and homeschools a third-grader all while working a successful career, I’ll never know.

Our houses may be messy, our children may be getting too much screen time and we may be doing a lot of answering emails or other work during night time hours when the kids are asleep. But we are getting by the best we can.

My question is, for how long? And what will be the pandemic’s long-term effects on working mothers? According to Yahoo Finance, a total of 2.18 million women aged 20 and older have left the workforce between February and November 2020. In comparison, 1.78 million men left or lost their jobs during the same period.

Part of the reason could be due to the fact that the leisure and hospitality industry hires a disproportionate number of women and has been hit hard by the pandemic, reporting 3.4 million jobs lost in the last nine months of 2020. Jobs in education, which also hires a disproportionate number of women, have also been hard hit, with the U.S. Department of Labor estimating that state and local education employment has been down an average of 8% in fall 2020 compared to the previous year. The National Education Association estimates that looming budget cuts due to the pandemic could mean 1.89 million education jobs could be lost over the next three years.

If you are a working mother with young children during the pandemic, life is hard. If you are a working mother who has lost her employment due to the pandemic, life is even harder.

No one knows what life will be like in coming months. We hope more people get vaccinated and the economy improves. But one thing I think it’s important for moms like me to remember is that just when we think we have it bad or that when we think we are at our wit’s end, there’s certainly another mother who has it worse. We need to do what we can to help ourselves, but also stand up to assist others in need, too.

Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com.