Friday before Mother’s Day in the year 2021, marks a point in time to reflect and globally celebrate (?) Working Motherhood!
The past year has been unconventional (to say the least). A lot of -muddy, troubled and previously unseen- water under the bridge. Tons of recently unearthed routines, regimes, habits. New survival skills, and core competences in the making. Still, it’s somewhat relieving to witness how some things manage to persist time.
For the past two years, Project Mamager has been answering the call of the Girl Scouts (Heart of the South) as they pay tribute to their working Mothers. Proud to report that this third year in a row will be no exception, and with a twist!
Created by the Girl Scouts Heart of the South US, Working Mothers Day is a day of recognition, aiming to honor the 70% of women with children under 18 years of age who participate in today’s US labor force. As we read on their website, this day serves to remind us all how “at great personal sacrifice, Working Mothers of the world make substantial contributions not only to corporate success, but also to the Nations’ economic growth and to the increasing strength of the American family”.
Every day, reportedly fifty-two million women in the United States balance the demands of motherhood and careers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Women now make up more of the workforce than ever before, and with 70% of the total female workforce having children under the age of 18, these women on average put in 98-hour work week factoring in work and home duties. That’s an equivalent to working 2.5 full-time jobs. And that was before the Pandemic stretched literally everyone in the workforce!
In 2017, Welch’s conducted a survey of 2,000 American mothers with kids between 5 and 12 years of age. The study revealed that a Mother starts her day, on average, at 6:23 a.m. and doesn’t conclude duties until 8:31 p.m. working a 14-hour day, seven days a week. Personally, I concur: this is my actual daily schedule; some days I even go beyond that. And if you feel like I’m some weird exception to a norm, or that these type of struggles only manifest in the States, guess again.
During April’s Working Moms of Athens Circle Meetup tackling the topic of Working Motherhood under Lockdown, the troubling message was echoed, and the struggles got a crystal clear shout-out of how much sh*t is hitting the fan (pardon the French!). The list is long, and starts with increasing amounts of perceived hardships around:
- Children and Homeschooling responsibilities combined with Work
- Supporting the Physical and Mental Health of Loved Ones
- Experiencing Physical Burnout
- Handling own Mental Health Struggles
- Living with some degree of Financial Insecurity
And these areas only begin to scratch the surface, being merely the top five challenges that the Working Moms of Athens (and beyond!) are dealing with right now, as they juggle Work and Parenthood amidst a Pandemic which looks as if it’s here to stay for much longer than initially anticipated.
Meanwhile, as we prepare to celebrate Working Mothers Day for the third year in a row, some Mothers report experiencing increasing amounts of pressure in all fronts which, should they persist, could actually drive them out of the workforce they fought so hard to become an integral part of! The Working Moms of Athens report the following common looming thoughts:
- Could my performance be negatively judged because of my overarching caregiving responsibilities?
- I feel stressed by a pressing requirement to make myself available, to be “always on” and offer work at all hours
- Housework and caregiving combined amidst the Pandemic have become a burden
- I am unable to bring my whole self to work (a.k.a. the “shadow parenting trap” as I like to call it, where we are expected to show up to work as if we are child-free and then carry on the rest of our day back at home as if we weren’t working all day)
- I experience discomfort sharing the challenges I am facing with Teammates or Managers (a.k.a. I feel more-or-less unseen and unheard)
Remember back in January 2020 when Motherly (a lifestyle brand that informs and inspires Millennial women through the journey of motherhood) and Mom Congress (the U.S. mother’s rights movement addressing the most pressing policy issues of motherhood including what we call the “motherload” – the stress that U.S. mothers carry, at higher rates than other developed countries) joined forces in declaring 2020 as the “Year of the Mother”? I bet my hat they didn’t expect that particular year to come bearing the greatest blow for Mothers in the workplace, setting us back half a decade in terms of both participation and representation in senior management roles (according to the latest Women in the Workplace report). Makes the need to take a stand in this even more pressing.
Last year had me cheering for Superhero Working Moms: those who meet the deadlines and sign up to carpool, who lead team meetings and then help with homework, who give their soul to their families, and somehow still find energy to give back to the Community. Don’t get me wrong: I still feel we are putting in heroic amounts of effort. But this year had me reach this point when I’m done cheering: I’ve gone rogue.
More and more I seek to listen, to understand, and to be heard. More and more I seek to influence decision makers. More and more I choose to take action, to challenge, and to contribute in a meaningful and practical way. I am rallying support, rolling my sleeves and diving into the work. And I’m both humbled and relieved to no longer have to be alone in this: powered by 35 Full-Stack Working Moms living in Athens, Greece, we are stepping up and helping bring about positive change onto our environments, ecosystems, teams and families.
We are the Working Moms of Athens. We aim to energize and enable Working Moms to grow into the most fulfilled and empowered versions of themselves, and generate ripple effects for cultivating a purposeful growth mindset. And we are growing into a local think tank with a global reach, eager to help forge a gender equal world.
We want to see Working Mothers celebrated on a daily basis, and tangibly acknowledged through substantial societal interventions and structural reforms. Personally speaking, I have this crazy a** fantasy where global celebratory days such as International Women’s Day, Mother’s Day and Working Mothers Day are utterly commodified. Completely powerless. Deemed irrelevant.
I dream of a world where my son doesn’t have to wait for a particular day to pack me lunch, write an appreciation card or ask about my workday. I dream of a world where Working Parenthood is equally and fully understood for both sides of the table: Working Moms and Working Dads alike. I dream of a world where Parents are empowered, supported and endorsed to bring their whole selves to Work, to transfer their skills back and forth, and to sharpen their holistic acumen. I dream of an inclusive boundless society of empathy, understanding and compassion, both within and beyond the workforce, much so that we don’t reside in the land of otherhood (that us-and-them divisive dogma). So that we no longer indulge in feeding barriers.
Till that dreamy day actually comes true, you are incredible Working Mom. And so are you, Working Dad. Joining forces – rather than on opposing ends – you form that power couple making it all come to life: doing some of the hardest work ever on your Families, benefiting both Society and Humanity. Your impact is significant, and so is your power. Let nobody convince you otherwise.