Pricey Employers, Working Dad and mom are Not OK
Working parents across the country have been holding their breath together in recent weeks. I wish, hope and pray that schools will open and stay open. I dropped my kids off their first day of school last week and felt like I won the lottery.
I woke up at 5 a.m. My husband and I made lunch including post-it notes with knock jokes on them. We chose their outfits the night before, prepared a healthy breakfast with fruit and Cheerios (OK, yes, half a donut each, it was the first day of school) and helped them put on their masks and backpacks with all their school supplies.
After setting her down, I hopped down the street. I yelled at random strangers once or twice for joy. I almost organized a flash mob dance in the middle of Jersey City.
For working parents like me, teaching their children full time means the following: I get about six hours of uninterrupted work. I can go to the bathroom by myself during the day without a child pounding on the door asking when I’m ready or running in if I forgot to lock the door. All I have to do is focus on muting myself on my Zoom calls. About my husband who eats all snacks. I can have lunch alone without anyone taking away my chips or the cheese slices in my sandwich.
And most importantly, I miss my children and they have a chance to miss me.
However, the joy I felt was fleeting. I hear from friends whose classrooms and schools are already closed. I read articles about the rise in the delta variant and its effects on children. I’m researching when vaccines will be available for children under 12. I am preparing for when my children’s classrooms are closed; it almost seems inevitable. And finally, when I am forced to take up my second job as a teacher, cook, referee and full-time CEO again – our company’s Chief Entertainment Officer.
Working parents are not okay. We are stressed. We’re on the edge. Some of us saw glimpses of our old life this summer where we could travel, meet grandparents, and even leave our kitchen to go to restaurants. We are afraid that our children will get sick with the new Delta variant and feel withdrawn into our houses, close our windows and doors.
Many offices have announced that the long-awaited return to office plans will be delayed at least until early next year. And I want to scream out loud! I want to put on a dress and high heels, commute, and be back in the office. I want to go to the bathroom by myself and have lunch alone. I would like to be able to have personal conversations with adults again. But I don’t have the energy left to scream. Because I can hardly bring up a whisper.
Therefore my request: Don’t force us back into the office when we switch back and forth between face-to-face and virtual lessons every day. Because it’s that simple: if daycare centers and schools don’t stay open, we have no one to look after our children. We have no choice but to sit back at our kitchen tables, the couch corner or a place in the hallway.
Do not reduce all the benefits that you introduced earlier. Now is the time to double up and re-invest in scholarships for caregivers, mental health services for adults and children, and access to virtual after-school activities.
Don’t send us another bottle of wine. Think about inclusive gifts when you want to say thank you and show appreciation to working parents. Get to know our kids and think about what is age-appropriate: meal vouchers, board games, iTunes gift cards, a surprise pizza for dinner, a craft box, books, donuts, a balloon delivery or maybe even a whole chocolate cake.
After all, don’t pretend that isn’t happening. The gap between working parents and parents without children continues to grow. We wish we could meet you for a drink, work and collaborate in person, or join a live team outside of the company. And we can’t. Our kids may soon be virtual again if they aren’t already. We may not have the privilege of having stable childcare. We may not feel safe visiting you; Sure, we are vaccinated, but many of our children are not yet. Just because we can’t be there in person doesn’t mean we’re less committed, less committed, or less ambitious. We are some of the strongest personalities you will ever meet – because despite everything, we are still standing.
So employers, please come to your working parents. Please don’t ignore them. Please don’t leave her. This pandemic is not over yet. Winter is coming. And I predict this will be a very long winter for working parents.
Mita Mallick is Head of Inclusion, Equity and Impact at Carta and loves living in Jersey City with her husband and two young children.