Working parents everywhere broke out in a cold sweat when the Covid-19 lockdown was announced.
Not only were schools and daycares closed, but now nannies and childminders were not able to come to work.
Work that for many carried on, at home.
As a working mom of two young kids, I was among those who floundered at the thought of taking care of the kids while managing my full time job remotely. All while stuck at home all day, every day.
While my husband is hands-on and does his share, I'm the 'default parent' since I work from the lounge while he is tucked away in his home office.
So I'm the one who is interrupted for snacks and bathroom breaks and questions about geckos life cycles every ten minutes.
Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful to have a job through this crisis. And to be with my kids a lot more. But wow, some days are hard.
And there's no real end in sight. Daycares are still closed indefinitely, and the president has urged us all the work from home.
Now imagine having a small baby and a toddler to care for. Or a child with special needs. Or triplets. And what about single parents?
We're not just working from home
Employers need to understand that we're not just working from home - we're doing our work from home due to a national lockdown during a global pandemic.
We were forced to change our lifestyles, literally in the space of a few days, and all of the carefully balanced support and assistance we had in place is now gone.
But with no-one to advocate for us, we have to stand up for ourselves.
Working mom Cathryn Reece is another parent who gets it, she has a new baby and a toddler to take care of, and a job that moved online while she was on maternity leave.
She recently posted a plea on the Facebook group South African Moms With Careers, asking parents, but especially fathers, to help level the playing field and insist on workplace gender equality as we all try to hold on to our jobs and a sliver of healthy family life in this pandemic.
Read Cathryn's post here, and share your thoughts and experiences with us at chatback @ parent24.com:
Gender equality in the home and workplace has always been something I’ve advocated for at work, but lockdown makes it more important than ever for us to get right.
Most of us with children - regardless of age - are struggling right now to work full time from home and care for our kids full time, especially when having to factor in schooling requirements.
These pressures are uncharted. But they also risk widening the gender divide at work for women everywhere.
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Dads, I beg you, now more than ever, please TALK to your employers and colleagues about your responsibilities at home right now and the difficulties you are facing in coping with them all.
Please consider the long-term implications lockdowns will have on your capacity to work full time all day, every day, and normalise these discussions far and wide.
Because if you don’t, the natural assumption by employers everywhere is once again that it is appropriate for moms to be bearing the brunt of these stresses, that moms are naturally working less at their day jobs already (unlike dads) and that moms are therefore less valuable as employees right now.
I can assure you moms everywhere are thinking about what three more, six more, or 12 more months of lockdown might mean for their capacity to earn an income and their long-term career prospects.
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We’re thinking about needing to take unpaid leave or quitting our jobs to make sure our kids needs are met right now and this makes us more and more vulnerable to bias and prejudice at work, wage gaps and discrimination.
Simply put, if we as parents normalise the idea (through silence) that only moms are multitasking at home right now, and that in the end it is only up to moms to make a sacrifice, working moms will always feel like it falls to them to sacrifice their careers for their children and employers will always expect it of us.
Dads, for the sake of moms everywhere, please remind your your employers every day that you are a full time parent too.
Please put in place clear boundaries on your time that make it clear to everyone you work with that you are actively parenting too right now. (“I’m sorry I can’t make that midday Zoom call, I need to put the baby down for his nap.”)
That it’s hard AF.
That right now you are also not coping, also thinking about the difficulties that lie ahead, and also need more time in your day to make sure your kids are okay.
Please dads, for the sake of moms everywhere, talk about these things every day so that there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that you are working as hard as moms are to look after your children’s emotional and educational needs right now and that a full day’s output of work is impossible.
As working moms, our careers and employment opportunities and earning potential is gravely at risk if working dads stay silent.
We need employers to realise that moms AND dads are putting their children first right now, because otherwise women will continue to bear the brunt of expectations and prejudice.
Are you coping with the extended lockdown?
Share your story with Parent24. Anonymous contributions are welcome.
Email: Share your story with us via email at chatback @ parent24.com