Hi, former working-mom goddess,
Balancer of boardroom and teacher conferences. Master of glass ceilings and spit-up cloths. So you now find yourself a stay at home mom during this pandemic. Welcome. Take off your pumps and stay awhile…like for the foreseeable future.
Moms like us are leaving the workforce in droves and we’re largely doing so in angry, dejected and panic-filled isolation. Since we’re in this together, I thought I would share a few pieces of wisdom that I’ve learned over these last few months that you may need to hear too.
Grab your goldfish crackers, turn on a relaxing episode of Peppa Pig and strap on a healthy dose of anxiety. Let’s dive in.
Your privilege does not negate your pain.
I am privileged. I have a partner; we can exist on a single income and we have security in a very insecure time. I am also in pain.
There is a misconception that stay-at-home moms are living the dream right now—where some moms are pulling their hair out balancing work and kids full-time, we are frolicking happily, with face paint, in Covid-free streams, exploring nature and engaging in quality family time. What right do we have to be pained?
And yet, the price of the health, safety and happiness of my family was paid for with my goals, dreams, and a large part of my identity and self-worth as I became a stay at home mom.
What I’ve learned is that pain is not competitive. There is no prize for “most pain.” My pain and your pain coexist and don’t have to be relative to each other. My feelings of privilege kept a mask on my pain for too long and stopped me from letting in the empathy, compassion and healing I needed from others during a difficult and unexpected life transition.
You can grieve your career and still love your kids.
If you’re like me, you are ready to jam your, now useless, heels straight into the eye of the next person who tells you to cherish every moment of your tantrum-filled, highly-touched, seemingly Clorox-sponsored existence. Often other moms will assume that I am in pain because I am self-conscious of my skills as a mom and I secretly don’t believe I can do this. That’s incredibly patronizing.
I am grieving a loss of self that I clawed and bled and fought to earn as a working mother in this society—an identity that seemingly disappeared overnight, largely without my consent.
When others with good intentions tell you that you’ve “got this!” or that “the kids really have it the worst in this situation” know that you are not alone. Know that there are others out there who are behind you nicely coughing “bull” behind these well-intentioned commentators.
Of course, you’ve got this! That isn’t the point. The point is that in order to “got this” you had to give up something precious to you and it is okay to grieve.
You are on a new journey and that takes time to sink in.
Statistically, your story for rejoining the workforce is not going to be easy. Your peers are surpassing you. For me, even if I jump back in exactly where I left off I will be a year behind my cohort and it will likely take me another two years to re-earn the stripes I’m going to need to earn that dream job I was supposed to take a few months from now.
You will hear “It’s only a year”(is it though?) and “Employers will understand” and “You’ll jump back in where you left off.” I don’t like being lied to, lying to myself or being belittled.
We are on a different path than we were a few months ago and we are unlikely to return to the same spot, have the same growth potential, or even return to the same industry. We are on a new path. It may not be the path we wanted, but here we are.
I don’t know what is on the other side of the big question mark ahead and what gives me peace is not pretending to.
Hey, stay-at-home warrior. Zoom playdate princess. Human hand sanitizing station. You’ve got this, and I’m sorry that you have to. Feel free to cry, to really just let it go, have a second snack-pack of organic gummies as you romanticize the PowerPoint presentations of yesteryear. And know that you are not alone.