Before you give working mothers some advice, consider this.
You know, if you just... All you have to do is... You'd find a job if...
Every single time someone starts off with these statements when talking about my journey with finding work, I tune out. I'm done. I'm not being nasty, I know people are trying to help. But the fact is, that anyone who has been in a stable, established working environment before, during, and after the pandemic cannot understand how difficult it is to secure work in 2022 as a stay-at-home mom.
Why? So many reasons. The first one to discuss: Everyone wants to stay home now.
Remote work is in high demand
The joy of working in your comfy clothes. The beauty of working a flexible work schedule in the comfort of your home. The comfort of knowing you're saving on daycare by working with your children home.
Yes, it was wonderful. But now everyone knows the secret.
Everyone and their mother's brother's dog wants to work remotely now, even if they don't need to. Even if they don't have kids. Even if they are perfectly capable of working out of the home. The pandemic introduced the world to a whole different way of life, and all generations are taking advantage of the perks.
Which, honestly, good for them. I'm happy so many people have realized they don't need to work in toxic working environments and that flexible schedules are available. But the competition for quality work has been insane.
High demand equals lower pay
Now that the demand for remote jobs is so high, trying to find work worth the pay is harder than ever before. I'm being offered $10 to write articles I used to take $50 for. For the younger writers who have no children or distractions at home, who can bang out 10 blogs before breakfast, it's no problem. They can stack up a bunch of low-paying remote jobs, work in their bed or on the beach while ticking away all day funding their lifestyle.
Boy, do I wish I had done this in my 20's. It's not so easy to do as a parent.
There's no point in working for pennies when you have kids. The effort and time of the job must be worth the pay. We don't have time to "just work to get out of the house." Who came up with that phrase anyway? There are plenty of other activities I would rather spend my time doing out of the house than working a low-paying job that results in zero income after childcare expenses.
New time constraints for remote work
Here is the new trend I can't stand in the world of remote work. While more companies are offering the option to work at home, many of them–MANY of them–still want you to be available during the 9am -5pm hours of the day.
Again, for the people who are switching to remote work for fun and enjoyment and a healthier lifestyle, it's no problem. Parents who were working remotely because they require the flexibility and do not have enough support to meet the standard 9-5 expectations of a typical job, it's a big problem.
Kids get sick. Kids get hurt. Schools have events. Sports start at 5 pm. Dinners need to be made and houses need to be cleaned. Children who are at home deserve to be paid attention to and not stuck in front of a TV all day so that mom and day can be available remotely for work.
The new time constraints are debilitating and cut the remote work options in half for the parents who used to work before the kids woke up, after they went to sleep, during naps, while on the toilet. Pretty much any time they could.
Working mothers deserve liveable pay and careers
In our society, mothers are still the default parents. Sure, it's getting better. There are more fathers who are stepping up to the plate to level out the sacrifices that mothers have to make. The idea of equal responsibilities among spouses makes it possible for both partners to keep a career or establish a new one without giving up all their sleep or time with the kids to do so.
It's not happening enough.
I am a prime example of a woman who went into the working world with the promise to myself that I would always maintain a job. After surprise baby one, I had to switch careers because I could no longer "meet expectations." After surprise baby two, I had to switch careers because I could no longer "meet expectations." After surprise baby three, I had to give up a perfect new job offered to me shortly after I realized I was pregnant. I KNEW I couldn't pay the daycare fees for three children under five with the salary they were paying.
I was a wreck. I wanted a career. I worked hard, went to college, and moved across the country for a career. Not something to pass the time until I had kids.
When I started freelance writing, I knew writing alone would be my career. Eventually, I would aim to write creatively only, but for now, business writing was paying well. I could work whenever I had time and the kids could stay home. I was making $3,000-$5,000 a month. Then the pandemic hit, and the one career I could depend on was diminished to a gig that high schoolers have picked up as a hobby on the weekend.
So I switched to creative writing for no pay, working on my books, and volunteering for Moms Who Write to help other aspiring mom authors. I've worked so hard and put in the hours for no pay, doing the same work I would have received thousands for a month before. And every time I tell someone about what I'm doing, how proud I am and about our aspirations and goals for the future, their reaction is similar: What a fun hobby. Glad you're doing something.
Something...as compared to...just being a mom?
Working mothers deserve support in the workplace
There is no playing the victim card going on here. Mothers who want to work are being failed. We are not being taken seriously. We are being offered meaningless tasks to keep us busy and when we desire to be paid, the opportunities often lie just out of our reach to accept. We don't have the extra support or we can't accept the pay or we can't work the grueling hours or someone needs to raise the children.
So some of us are being forced to step into the roles of boss bitches, which is simply a play on words to hide the true label: mothers who are forced to work for themselves, keeping 24/7 hours and giving up sleep, so that the rest of the world can continue to work within the comfort of the 9-5 day and we will still watch all the kids. Others are trying to comprehend how to make the simple parts of our life meaningful.
The reason why so many mothers turned to remote work to begin with was to avoid the challenges we often face in the workplace. Studies show that the majority of companies value mothers the least compared to other employees: fathers are valued the highest, followed by men without children, women without children, and mothers last. Not only are fathers seen as better employees, but research has also found that they are more likely to receive a raise after becoming fathers, while mothers are more likely to be penalized.
I recently found another fantastic article highlighting how tough it has been on mothers in the workplace since the pandemic. This publication by McKinsey & Company dives deep into the pandemic-related disparities mothers have experienced on top of the pre-existing challenges. It's heartbreaking to see how many women have suffered in an attempt to feel valued and appreciated and useful outside of the home. Heartbreaking– sadly, not surprising.
Working mothers deserve better..,period
Mothers deserve better. We deserve the opportunities and grace that men and younger generations are getting in this new world. The ones that promote healthy and productive, and supportive working environments, with pay that allows us to live and support our family.
So please, if you will, stop telling your mom friends that they just need to [enter advice] to get a job. This world is different now for working moms. While gender pay gaps close, parenting pay gaps increase. We can't pretend otherwise. What we can do is support one another and start asking for real change.
Stop allowing mothers to be devalued while fathers rise. Stop accepting the idea that mothers are less committed because they are literally helping to raise our society–all the future clients and customers companies depend on. Stop making excuses for why mothers have trouble finding work and offering advice such as taking it easy or just taking any job for fun. STOP TELLING OTHER MOTHERS THEY ARE ACTING LIKE VICTIMS WHEN THEY EXPRESS VALID CONCERNS AND DISPARITIES IN THE WORKPLACE. That would certainly be helpful.
I have more to say on this in the future. Until next time, keep dreaming dreamers.