The Burden of Women "Having It All" In a Post-COVID WorldWhen the pandemic began and schools closed their doors, everyone was crazy understanding. While not everyone had children at home learning, on top of our trying to figure out how to work, it felt like we were all in the same boat. Or at least on the same waters, helping one another paddle toward the coastline.

(That was a terrible analogy. I’m sorry.)

Now, nearly a year later (359 days, to be exact), people have begun to lose patience. Some schools are fully open. Some are on a hybrid schedule. Some have been quarantined (like us) and some are about to go on spring break.

People are exhausted. And, while we can see normal life coming up in the near future, we’re not quite there. We still have a ways to go and this day after International Women’s Day, I’d like to spend a little time talking today about all of the women who are out there, trying to have it all. 

I’m Exhausted. You’re Exhausted.

I’m not going to sugar coat this: I’m flipping exhausted. Not the “just need a good night’s sleep” exhausted. I sleep just fine; thank you very much. I’m the bone-tired, head is always fuzzy, back of my eyes hurt, exhausted. And I know I’m not the only one.

Our school reopened on a hybrid schedule on January 19. While I still had “second grade teacher” listed on my resume, it was only two days a week versus five. I got a full six hours, three days a week to focus on work. Uninterrupted bliss.

We were in school for two and a half weeks before we had a 12 day February break (do not get me started on why we need winter, February, and spring breaks—it’s always been a source of contention between me and our school). 

After February break, we went back to school for three days and then got a message that a friend had tested positive and the class had to quarantine for two weeks.

We are just nearing the end of the quarantine. We get to go back to school in a couple of days! WOO HOO! But then spring break arrives on the 24th. Blah.

The chaos of the back and forth while trying to keep a business afloat and clients happy and colleagues engaged and motivated is way too freaking much. Not to mention the grocery shopping and the cooking and the laundry (SO MUCH LAUNDRY) and the cleaning and just trying to keep things moving. 

Women Are Leaving the Workforce 

It’s no wonder women are leaving the workforce at four times the rate as men. I have several friends who have either taken leaves of absence or full-on quit their jobs. This is not good. Not good at all.

I do recognize there are lots of men who are the primary caretakers, single parents, and/or do more than their share at home so please don’t take this as a personal affront to men. That’s not the case at all. 

I’m focused on women for two reasons:

  1. Yesterday was International Women’s Day and we need to do more to continue to balance and provide equity; and
  2. The data shows three million women have dropped out of the workforce in the past year. Three million women.

And, of course, I am a woman who is trying to have it all, balance everything, and lean in where I can—without letting anything fall through the cracks.

I love men. I mean no disrespect at all. And I’m exhausted.

The Burden of Women”Having It All” Is Too Much

The burden of homeschooling, cooking, and cleaning has taken a massive toll on a lot of families. Even when men are doing more than they’ve perhaps done in any other generation, it’s still not half. The Labor Department finds that married mothers do almost double the number of household chores and parenting as married fathers.

In fact, at the end of 2019, women held just more than half of all payroll jobs, for only the second time in history. Now, they account for 100% of jobs lost in December, alone. 

An article published by CNBC just last week said, “One year into the coronavirus pandemic, women are not OK.”

Recent projections based on economic scenarios modeled by McKinsey and Oxford Economics estimate that employment for women may not recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024—two full years after the recovery for men. 

The implications are far-reaching—and could result in a widening of the gender pay gap, said Emily Martin, vice president for education and workplace justice at NWLC.

It’s a House of Cards

I often describe it as a house of cards. For so long, we’ve worked to balance everything: creating support networks of friends or family, if they’re close by, to help with childcare during non-school hours and during breaks, creating businesses to help with the needs that weren’t yet fulfilled, and outsourcing what we could afford to do—cleaning, laundry services, school pickups, after school care, daycare, and more. 

But when the pandemic hit and we all went inside our homes to work and live and play, our house of cards fell down completely. We couldn’t even ask our parents for help—they also had to socially distance themselves. And, while things have gotten marginally better, we haven’t been able to recover to pre-pandemic times.

In more ways than one—I can’t wait to hug all the people! Heaven forbid if you see me at my very first conference post-pandemic. You’ll introduce yourself and I’ll hug you! 

There are things we can all do to make sure women still have a voice in the workforce if they so choose. 

Vulnerability Without Boundaries Is Toxic

I believe it was Brene Brown who said, “Vulnerability without boundaries is toxic.” Or something to that effect. So now that I’ve been vulnerable and admitted how exhausted I am, let’s talk about how to fix it for all of us—not just women, but everyone.

I mentioned that yesterday was International Women’s Day. While, in years past, it has been a day to celebrate the women in our lives who we admire, respect, and motivate us, it’s changed a bit this year—for obvious reasons.

This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” It’s meant to celebrate the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the pandemic while highlighting the gaps that remain.

And it’s not just about women who are trying to have it all or, heaven forbid, lean in. They are also at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19, as front-line and health sector workers, as scientists, doctors, and caregivers. 

When women lead, we see positive results. Some of the most efficient and exemplary responses to the pandemic were led by women. And women, especially young women, are at the forefront of diverse and inclusive movements online and on the streets for social justice, climate change, and equality in all parts of the world.

I see this in my nieces who are in high school and college. They passionately care about their fellow humans and they fight for equality and inclusion in every aspect of their lives. So much so that every time I see something else they’ve done, I think, “We’re going to be OK. We’re going to be OK.”

A Challenged World Is an Alert World

But we can’t rely on the younger generations to save us. We have to all get involved—everyone, not just women—because a challenged world is an alert world. 

Individually, we’re responsible for our own thoughts and actions—all day, every day. And we can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. 

Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, and this year’s International Women’s Day is asking us to choose to challenge. Not just on the day, but every day. 

We are invited to send in our #ChooseToChallenge images. Strike the #ChooseToChallenge pose with your hand high to show your commitment to choose to challenge inequality, call out bias, question stereotypes, and help forge an inclusive world.

Challenge Stereotypes, Biases, and Inequality

Of course, just striking a pose and posting your selfie to social media is not enough. An equal and inclusive world means we should choose to challenge stereotypes and behaviors and biases and inequalities. Every day. 

We have come a long way, but there is a lot more work to be done. And not just for equality for women, but around diversity and inclusion, too. As you think about how to challenge the things that happen around you, consider how every one of us has been in this pandemic for a year and we’re all experiencing different levels of exhaustion and vulnerabilities. 

If someone at work is struggling because they absolutely cannot balance it all anymore, show them some grace. If emotions are high, remember there are other things going on outside of just work that are contributing to the tears or the anger or frustration. There are many options for making things work so women can balance it all successfully, but it does take patience, flexibility, and empathy. 

Let’s Do This!

If you’d like to talk about your vulnerabilities with boundaries or would like to join the movement for equality and inclusion, join us in the Spin Sucks Community

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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