The Never-Ending Workday
I centered my giveaway this past week around the 2020 LeanIn.Org & McKinsey study. Why? Because I cringe at the thought of almost 2 million women leaving the workforce as a result of Covid19. I strive to help women understand that, from making their beds in the morning to rocking it at work all the way to finishing the dishes at night, they don't have to do everything alone. In fact, I encourage women to solicit help (mainly from their spouses). The unfortunate reality right now is that we are all struggling in different ways and no one knows how to talk about it.
I can confidently stand here and tell you that, as a mom boss with the full support of a stay-at-home hubby, I still struggle to manage all of my tasks. How do you women do it? They are superheroes! They have more hours in their day! They don't sleep, do they? I'm not as good of a mom. Those are the types of thoughts that go through my head, and yet I always manage to forget that I [help] provide a roof over my child's head, clothe and feed him, protect him from all harm, love him dearly....and that's all that matters. So why am I, like so many others, still mentally struggling?
The truth is that, throughout Covid, I feel mentally pressured to always be online - a topic that the aforementioned study discusses in detail with its reader. There are so many kinks that have to be worked out with this new way of working. Even as an experienced professional I still struggle to navigate the system - I can't turn off at the end of the day by leaving my work phone and computer in the car because they sit on my desk in our home office. I get calls from 5 am until 6pm and, in an effort to show my boss that I am not slacking just because I have a child and am physically at home with him, I feel the need to log on and continue my workday once my son goes to bed. If I receive a call while I step away from my computer, I fear they think I am taking advantage of the at-home situation. I could go on, but I think you get the gist. This is not ok.
As a mom there are expectations society has placed on us and, as a result, we believe that our jobs are less important than those of our husbands and therefore must take a back seat when it comes to corporate success. But do we really have to choose between having a career and a family? Do we really have to subject ourselves to such anxiety, forcing ourselves to be "on" at all times? As a mom, I sometimes find that we try and live up to everyone's expectations without clearly communicating what we feel. As a manager, I find the biggest source of problems is often communication, or lack thereof. I think this could be a first step in taking some stress off our plates. But what exactly do I mean by that?
When my dad was sick I knew that there would be days where my performance was subpar, but probably even more where I would want to bury myself in work to cover up the pain I was feeling. I went straight to my boss and the client after he was diagnosed and explained the full situation to them. I asked them how they wanted me to handle it when I needed to suddenly leave or request extended time off. I knew who to hand my workload off to when something came up. I also told them to come straight to me if they felt my work was suffering in any way. We had a plan.
In a time where a significant part of the workforce is undergoing a similar situation, I have to ask myself, "What is preventing us from speaking up and telling our bosses what our home situation is? This isn't a one-off personal situation, this is an [almost] everyone situation. We should be able to speak openly about these topics. We should be able to put together a plan with our bosses." Today, I encourage you to speak up:
Setup a meeting with your boss and explain to them your home situation. Help them understand what has changed for you throughout this pandemic. Make sure you put a plan together. If you need to work from 6-10am and 6-10pm every day so that you can be with your children while your husband works, tell them that. If you need to get your kids setup on zoom at 10am everyday, tell them that. If you need to be offline from 2-4pm every day, tell them. I can't remind you enough: You don't get what you don't ask for. There is nothing wrong with telling them the complexities of your life and what you need to get through this, especially given the current pandemic. (And if they react negatively, send me their phone number!).
If it were me, I would take it once step further and recap what was agreed upon in the meeting with a follow-up email. I like to do that to make sure nothing was misunderstood, and to cover my ass ;) I have had bosses in the past that "forget" or go back on their word and this prevents that from happening.
No matter what you choose to do throughout this tough situation, always remember that you are a great mom. If you and your husband decide that, what's best for your family, is for you to leave Corporate America, just know that you will be missed. But before you take that leap, I encourage you to talk to your boss. You will never get anywhere by keeping your mouth shut, so figure out what exactly you need and speak openly with him/her.
Oh, and, this article would look a lot different addressing the managerial perspective.