Am I left alone in celebrating Friday before Mother’s Day as Working Mothers Day?
For the past three years, Project Mamager had been answering the call of the Girl Scouts (Heart of the South) as they paid tribute to their working moms. For four years, we have been echoing, supporting, endorsing, and engaging with the content and concept of honoring Working Moms. A memento of our perspective and place in the world. Four years of co-creating momentum.
Today I entered the Working Mothers Day website only to find that, compared to last year, only the homepage banner had changed. Everything else remained the same. No new content or articles. No new calls for action. No new material. What started off as a vibrant initiative progressing their message and their thinking, now appears to have halted. The content is merely identical to last year’s content. The stories date from two years back. The Facebook page hasn’t been updated since January. The music ended. The party is over. Time has stopped for Working Mothers.
At first I got frustrated. I wanted to support this cause, to keep building on that momentum. To enrich the message with new angles, amidst an updated context, and secure more endorsement. My expectations were high from this year. But what’s actually going on here is much more authentic. Truer to our reality. Over and above what my initial expectations could grasp.
This past few years have been monumental in shaping our collective understanding around work and life. The seismic rift between where we were in our thinking five years ago and where we stand today has expanded to monumental proportions. Remember that 2020 McKinsey Women in the Workplace survey back from 2020 which showed that almost one quarter of female respondents with children under the age of 10 were thinking about leaving the workforce entirely due to the challenges amidst the pandemic? Guess what. They did!
Women, and most notably Mothers have been exiting the workforce by the thousands on a monthly basis. Nearly 1,1 million women had dropped out of the workforce between February 2020 and March 2021. The rate of unemployment was even higher for women with children. In that same time period, there were almost 1,4 million fewer moms of school-aged children actively working than the prior year. By the time the calendar turned to greet the January of 2022, the respective jobs report had found that 275.000 women had left the workforce in a month, lowering women’s workplace participation rate at 57%—a rate that pre-pandemic had not been seen since 1988. An entire generation of progress has been erased in two years’ time.
Parents want workplace flexibility, but not the traditional one that comes with a wider need for work-life balance and personal fulfilment. A different one that manages to combine dependent care and hourly long meetings. And the extreme stressors so prominent throughout the pandemic didn’t make things easy on us. The good old hierarchy of needs mantra resurfaced within.
Parent? Employee? Or all of the above? Working Mothers (sorry Dads!) were primarily called in to choose between the fundamental first-level need of taking care of their children, and safeguarding their employment, resources and security. The latter find themselves in the second level of a pyramid that is not forgiving. Bitter choices were made in the outskirts of a societal inability to secure a workable balance between the duties of childcare and the demands of work. Simply put? Parents had nowhere to put their children for much of the pandemic, with many schools closed for almost two consecutive academic years. Even as schools re-opened, parents dealt with intermittent quarantines, closures, and uncertainty. Daycare centers shut down in record numbers. The cost of childcare skyrocketed. It was a choice between sticking to a job versus paying for far-too-expensive alternatives. The double shift had become unbearable. Mothers stepped in. The rest is history…
So there’s a part of me that actually gets why initiatives such as celebrating the Working Mothers Day fell through the cracks this year. The silence of the Girl Scouts is not an omission. It’s another manifestation of our reality. Everyone’s up to here with having to actually navigate this conundrum of being granted the luxury to take a pause to celebrate. And I get that. Still, here I am. Celebrating the working mother life and everything in it. Because we can’t afford not to!
I am celebrating the fact that our Working Moms of Athens Lean In Circle has grown to onboard more than 68 members. Amidst the pandemic, the great reshuffle and all that jazz, I remained surrounded by people who chose to make their brainpower and emotional resilience available to a boutique community destined to bring each another up. The Working Moms of Athens chose to stick together!
I am celebrating the discussions we have each month, and how we are building a dynamic body of knowledge that paves the way for a memorandum of understanding with our society at large. We are capturing our needs, our thoughts, our suggestions, our ideas. We are a collective voice. A powerful one. And that deserves to be celebrated.
So this year, even if the Girl Scouts set us up on our annual appointment, we choose to show up. Hours after midnight, right after work, on the Friday night before Mother’s day, I make the deliberate choice to sacrifice some sleep and create space to capture my ongoing intention: 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 within themselves.
A lot of water has gone under the bridge this year. For the world in general, and for me at a personal level. Still, this day helps me reflect upon the fact that I still showed up to help our community grow into a local think tank with a global reach, eager to help forge a gender equal world. And many others were right there by my side. It’s for them, for you, and for us that I want to acknowledge Working Mothers Day of 2022. Because in times like these, hectic and occasionally paranoid, showing up is a good enough reason to celebrate.