It's been five months since lockdown began, and for many South Africans, this has meant mastering the fine art of juggling competing priorities: the personal and the professional.
For working moms, who often carry the bulk of childcare responsibilities in the home, the adjustment has not been easy.
"These are not normal work-from-home conditions," local CEO Phillipa Geard tells Parent24, likening lockdown to "an extreme social experiment".
"Women have probably worked more hours, paid or unpaid, during lockdown than previously. Thousands of women write to us, telling of their hardship and feelings of giving up," Geard says of the moms seeking employment via her online recruitment company, RecruitMyMom.
'The demand for employees is nowhere near where it was'
Expectedly, Geard says, RecruitMyMom has seen a huge rise in jobseekers, coupled with a decrease in employment opportunities since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
"The demand for employees is nowhere near where it was in previous years. Since the beginning of lockdown, the number of employers employing staff has decreased significantly. Some put the jobs on hold, others have withdrawn the posts completely."
But this trend has begun to shift as we move through the levels of lockdown, Geard tells Parent24, with "companies coming back, reviewing the jobs and some reopening them".
Independent contractors and freelancers have also been in "higher demand".
Yet despite the many hurdles families have faced in the past months, Geard believes lockdown has essentially created new opportunities, with employers now assured that working remotely does in fact work, something employers have resisted in the past.
"This will have an enormously positive impact on women, particularly those seeking more flexible work in future. This means once the economy is fully operational, more women can become economically active and work from anywhere, provided they have internet connectivity."
'Make sure you have your oxygen mask on before putting it on everyone else'
Still, balancing a workload and family responsibilities remains a slippery slope, and we asked Geard, a mom herself, for tips on making it all work. Here's what she told us:
Take care of yourself
My first piece of advice is to make sure you have your oxygen mask on before putting it on everyone else. If moms do not take care of themselves, which many don't, they cannot effectively look after others.
Moms need to set boundaries. These boundaries include setting work hours, including a lunch break if working full-time. Set boundaries with the family. Everyone needs to understand (where possible, toddlers might not get this) that mom is at work, and what the procedure is if help or assistance with, for example, schoolwork is required.
Ask for help
If mom has a partner, ask the partner to share the load. For single moms, this is more difficult, so close friends or family may need to assist. Communicate with your employer and colleagues. Let people at work know if you are not coping, and what needs to be put in place to assist you to cope. If an employer is requiring a meeting at a time that is inconvenient with small children, then speak to your employer.
Exercise is important and should not be neglected during lockdown. This might mean taking a family walk to get everyone outside, or even doing an online exercise class. This will help release adrenalin caused by the stress of the day, and release endorphins.
Determine your source of strength
Finally, each of us needs to establish where we find our source of strength spiritually. Whatever it might be, spend time building yourself up spiritually. This source of strength will help carry you through dark days.
Adopt a silver lining outlook.
You are much stronger than you think. Adversity, as hard as it is, causes growth, and if we, as moms, can harness that growth, when lockdown has passed, which it will, we can only go from strength to strength. The world will look different, but just maybe the pain of this lockdown is positive and very exciting.
Share your stories and questions with us via email at chatback @ parent24.com. Anonymous contributions are welcome.