Many mothers of the world experienced an extreme shift in their lives — well beyond the travel loss of their routines — when all the country of the world began to scuffle with the novel covid-19 two months ago.
The working moms lucky enough to have avoided the virus or recovered from it are juggling jobs and child care with an intensity that has never before existed. They are home-schooling while working.
Tasks that had been outsourced to schools, grandparents, nannies and sitters are now falling squarely on parents and disproportionately on mothers. It is surreal for some of the women, who often found themselves feeling that their busy jobs kept them away from their children. Now, they are spending more time than ever with their kids — but this isn’t what they had in mind.
Even before school closures and stay-at-home orders were implemented, balance could feel tenuous for single moms and women married to men, who have traditionally spent less time caring for their children.
Although men have nearly tripled the amount of time they spend on child care since 1965 and the number of men who are stay-at-home fathers has doubled in the past 20 years, disparities continue in what has been called the “invisible work” of parenting.
Women shoulder the planning, the organizing and the remembering of everything that needs to be remembered. The mental burden that comes with that work has grown exponentially in current weeks.
These are stressors for hourly wage employees and Silicon Valley suits, for entrepreneurs and health-care workers and for moms on Capitol Hill. In interviews, eight working mothers said they are looking for silver linings — a quick hug from a child before a conference call or the pride that comes with keeping a business afloat against tough odds.
But, as Mother’s Day approaches, most concede that thriving is out of reach. Surviving is enough.
Working from home brings up unique challenges for mothers. With schools closed and childcare unavailable during COVID-19, many parents are left to juggle the responsibilities of their jobs with taking care of their kids. If finding balance was hard before the pandemic, it’s pretty much impossible now. Despite the stress, uncertainty, and abundance of family “quality time,” there are unique and beautiful moments of closeness that the long hours in close quarters create.
Liz Von Hoene, Quarantined With 3 Kids
“The family that’s quarantined together, cooks together, cleans up together, swims together, and finds creative ways to not be bored together,” says Liz Von Hoene, a 54-year-old fashion and advertising photographer who has five children, ages 13 to 28. Liz and her partner, Rebecca Weinberg, are presently at home in Atlanta with three of the kids.
Liz usually travels for work; with that on hold, she’s had idle time to fill. The family is taking the dog on long walks and going for drives together. They put on an outdoor movie night. They do workouts in the yard. “Rebecca Weinberg loves to DJ, so she hosted a Zoom family and friends dance party for all to let loose,” Liz Von Hoene says that their younger son, Rex, has been hitting the home gym, and working out with his big brother in the backyard. They do push-ups using milk gallons!
Mindy Byrd, Quarantined With a Toddler and Baby:
“It’s survival mode over here,” says Mindy Byrd, who’s been at home with her partner, her three-year-old, and her 11-week-old in Portland, OR since March 6. “We’ve allowed more screen time than I’d like to admit, and have been letting [my toddler] stay up later, after the baby goes to bed for some one-on-one time with mom and dad. I’m trying to keep the mom guilt at bay. Letting him make messes when we typically try to keep the house clean has become more frequent — for work-from-home sanity reasons — while we make masks, paint, and color together. Oh and there have been so many Popsicles.”
Mindy and her partner are both freelance artists. They welcomed baby Sonny into the world not long before the coronavirus hit the U.S. “Our family is adjusting to our own new normal within the world’s new normal, one that keeps us inside a small space together every day with no breaks,” she says.
The 38-year-old says she’s glad that her children are too little to really grasp what’s going on. “My oldest son curls up next to me sometimes, and in his saddest voice says ‘Mom, I miss my friends every day,’” she says. “And it makes my heart hurt. But then he jumps up and runs to his train set, forgetting our emotional moment seconds earlier… Watching the world through their eyes is a blessing.”
Tyra Mitchell, Quarantined With Twins:
Tyra Mitchell, a mom of twin two-year-olds who’s based in Washington, D.C., says her family is missing the playground. A lot. But she’s still trying to find gratitude for the moments of joy while she’s at home with her daughters.
“The best thing about being quarantined with my minis has been having the chance to be more present,” the 26-year-old says. “Since our movement is limited, I have to be more creative in our daily activities. My girls absolutely love art and being outside so that’s how we spend most of our time. We’re fortunate to have a spacious backyard where they are able to run around freely and interact with nature.”
Tyra’s daily routine isn’t so different, despite social-distancing measures. Her daughters still take naps and go to bed at the same time, and her whole family is still following the same plant-based diet they were before the coronavirus. “Although, we have upped our vitamin intake, especially vitamin D when we’re inside for periods of a time,” she says.
As a self-employed freelance photographer and DJ, Tyra is used to being home with her children unless she’s on assignment.
“The most challenging part of being quarantined with my daughters is no different from my usual challenges as a stay-at-home mother — when I’m trying to get work done or need time to myself and they want my full attention. It’s not easy and gets really frustrating at times because you want your kids to be happy but you also have your other priorities.”