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Working mothers in the Pandemic: A Juggling Act

Working mothers are holding it together by a string. As the novel Coronavirus Pandemic eases up, women look for balance, flexibility and a community. 

The Pandemic has caused devastation to the economy overall, but working mothers have taken a harder hit over their male counterparts in paid labor.

Industries including government, retail, healthcare and the restaurants, all dominated by women, have been heavily impacted by pandemic closures.Take that, and throw in childcare centers closing and schools going virtual, women have been spread thin. 

 

Safisha Thomas, owner of Fia’s Fabulous, located in Washington, DC, worried that she was going to have to close her Brick and Mortar thrift store, not only because of her other full-time job as the event planner of the United States Treasury but also taking care of her daughters who were now virtual learning. 

“In addition to making sure my responsibilities at the treasury were uninterrupted and still figuring out how I was going to make the store work, my daughters, who are your typical 6 and 12 year olds are active and want to talk and be with their friends. I immediately became not only their parent, but their friend,” Thomas said. 

Thomas, whose husband suffered a heart attack earlier in 2020 was able to stay at home with the girls while Fia tended to the store, but the constant juggling of all the balls in the air were at times overwhelming. 

Safisha, 48, who considers herself and older parent, at times felt they and her husband were not prepared, nor had the mentality at their age to be dealing with children going to school virtually. 

The Thomas Family from left to right: Johnny Lena, Frank, Sofisha, Josephine Thomas

Mothers facing societal pressure and ideas about motherhood, along with systemic failures, are causing working mothers to suffer greater anxiety and depression than before the pandemic. Mental health has taken a toll for women over the last year, causing more mothers with children, rather than mothers without children to seek mental health treatment. 

 

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit health care research group, sixty-eight percent of working mothers sought mental health treatment during the pandemic compared to forty-seven percent of women without children. 

Juliana Collins, who is a licensed social worker in the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, says that volume of intakes have increased for women experiencing anxiety, depression, and mood instability. Many of the issues that she sees women are facing are the pressures having to balance work from home while also the pressures of their own identity.

“Something that has come up a lot with the clients I see is to not disregard other people’s boundaries, but really prioritizing their own boundaries as well,” Collins said. 

Boundaries and a plan is what has helped Tracy Riller Given’s family stay afloat. Tracy who runs a boutique law firm specializing in children with needs is also a mother of two teenage boys and homeschools her young nieces who are still virtual learning. 

“We set the ground rule after a couple of weeks. We had a family meeting about times of day that we did certain things.” 

Riller Given’s organized her schedule to be more flexible in order to be there for her family. While she helps her nephew and niece-in-law who are essential workers care for their two daughters during the day, Tracy says she feels that the pandemic has helped bring back old ways of doing things. 

“I think that the pandemic helped us step back and rely on each other and create communities to help one another,” said Riller Givens. 

As the Pandemic continues to ease up, women are advocating harder for flexible work hours, backup childcare, and federal relief due to the loss in jobs as a result of COVID-19.  

The Given Family from left to right: Tracy, Jarron, Jayden, and Jeff Givens

Heather Arnet, CEO of the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania is advocating for paid sick days, family, and medical leave in the pandemic relief packages at the state and federal level. 

 

Mom's Night Off

 

“Many working moms that we work with who got pushed out of the workforce are experiencing economic fragility and food scarcity, so we are trying to meet their immediate needs,” Arnet said.”

 

The Women and Girls Foundation started a “moms night off” program that delivers 800 meals to single mothers. In addition to delivering meals, the moms night off has an online program where single mothers can find community. The online program is focused on self care and includes yoga sessions, film screenings, and trivia nights. 

 

As a result of the program, hundreds of mothers have shared their own stories and are becoming huge advocates for female equity. 

 

“I think the pandemic really exposed the inequity of our systems and show that, you know, we need to have a safety net so that families can take care of one another. And that that’s a public health issue. And that that’s a racial justice issue. And that’s an economic security issue. And that, ultimately, that these are the policies, we need to make sure that we have economically sustainable communities,” Arnet said. 

 

Interview with Heather Arnet, CEO of The Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania about her advocacy for working mothers during the pandemic

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