The place Do Working Dad and mom Go From Right here?
In the past year we have all kept pace with the constant changes in state rules and regulations on mask requirements, company closures, vaccinations and, most recently, state reopenings. While these guidelines have shaped our interactions with the outside world, they have provided little guidance on how to adjust our private lives. Now that we are facing a newly opened America, we are expected to pick up where we left off – a difficult task for everyone, but an almost unimaginable request for parents.
The psychological stress on parents from the pandemic was almost unbearable. Parents have been forced to cross completely unfamiliar waters – from finding a job to not having childcare, helping our children transition to distance learning, and more – all without much instruction from government officials.
Unsurprisingly, the weight of psychological distress fell almost entirely on women. It’s no secret that millions of working mothers and disproportionately large black and Latinx mothers quit work, in large part due to the increase in childcare and housework.
With the country reopening, one thing is certain: the life we are returning to must be different from how parents, especially mothers, survived the past year. In addition, it must not prepare us a similar fate for the next crisis, whatever and whenever it may be.
Change the narrative
We all have a unique opportunity to rewrite what the life we are returning to is like. It is time to address the chaotic gaps between men and women, parents and non-parents that have come to light during the pandemic. Here we should start:
- We need a fairer division of labor in the budget. Now. For too long there was a great division of labor in housekeeping. S’moresUp recently found that in more than 80 percent of families, mothers still take the lead in managing home life. This unpaid work has created huge inequalities for women on many levels, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the problem. I founded S’moresUp in the hope of helping parents overcome modern parenting challenges, such as mothers taking on an unbalanced workload. By distributing the tasks that make up a home and getting other family members to actively participate and share responsibility, we can begin to change that reality. By making these changes now, the partners can equally engage in all aspects of property management while helping to raise responsible and independent children.
- We must begin to prioritize our mental health in every aspect of our lives. The American Psychological Association found that parents were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with mental disorders than non-parents during the pandemic. The stress of keeping track of work, childcare, and domestic chores – all of that – has shown the importance of prioritizing the mental health and wellbeing of parents. Whether it’s corporate benefits that provide mental health services or simply allowing us to practice self-care, flexibility can help change the mindset that working parents – especially working mothers – have to do everything.
While parents may be the unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must decide together to change the life to which we are returning. By changing our view of what it means to be a parent – prioritizing respect, support, and appreciation – we can ensure that the next crisis we go through doesn’t lead to the same troubles parents have had in the last 18 months ago.
Priya Rajendran is the founder and CEO of S’moresUp, the company that addresses the challenges of modern parenting while helping prepare children for the real world.