The COVID-19 pandemic has been massively disruptive to the global workforce. Nearly everyone has been affected, but Black women have suffered disproportionately because of the global pandemic. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly 500,000 Black women have left the American workforce since January 2020. A myriad of stories explains those 500,000 departures, including caretaking and motherhood. Black women who have been stay at home mothers during the pandemic have an additional spectrum of potential trials and triumphs to consider before they return to full-time work. But there are tools for success.
Delegate where possible
Black women may feel a pressure to do it all. There is a misconception that Black mothers need to be around to take their children to school, pack them lunch, schedule playdates, and chaperone field trips all while leading conference calls, tackling team projects, and mentoring junior people in the office. For mothers returning to the workplace, it’s crucial to release the weight of these expectations and receive help. Daycare, home cleaning services, Task Rabbits, and babysitters can all help to reduce the volume of work that working mamas have to tackle. On the work front, engaging team members to pitch in more can help to lighten the load as well.
Use your village
The famous adage says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” During the COVID pandemic, social distancing and lockdown restrictions have made it more difficult for working mamas to interact with their village in-person. However, online communities have flourished during this time. There are resources designed specifically for women who are about to embark on this transition. Dr. Amber Thornton, a D.C.-based psychologist, hosts a podcast called, “The Balance Working Mama”, which explores the unique experiences of working mothers. Tara A., a stay-at-home mother who recently transitioned to full-time work has underscored the role of virtual communities. Reflecting on the usefulness of these groups, Tara shared, “Evaluate what you have access to and who’s around you. Many things are virtual nowadays, don’t be afraid to seek out an online community or network. Social media is a useful and powerful tool that can be used to connect or find resources.”
Strive for balance rather than perfection
While social media can be a powerful tool for building connections, it can also be harmful when used to compare yourself to others. A 2016 study Anxiety and Depression Society of America found that spending more time on social media can have adverse effects on mental health and self-esteem. As working mothers see perfectly curated images of family, community, and motherhood, it can make them feel inadequate or insecure in their own experiences. It’s important to remember that social media is just a small sample of someone’s story. Rather than focusing on a flawless image, it is better to evaluate what parts of your life deserve the most attention at different points.
Research your benefits
Not all benefits packages are created equal! The United States does not offer standard paid maternity/caretaking leave, so it is crucial to dig into company-specific policy for family support. Some larger corporations offer onsite daycares that are either subsidized or free altogether. It is also worth looking out for companies that offer extensive maternity leave, allow workers to take personal days to care of family members, and have college savings plans so that you can prepare for your children’s’ futures.
Learn from other working mamas in your organisation
Before you accept a job, make sure to complete some due diligence by chatting with other women who have completed the journey before you. It is worth researching what retention is like for working mothers. Do they generally feel supported? How did they develop relationships with mentors and advocates? Are colleagues understanding when you occasionally need to log off early to address family matters? During the interview process, you should be scoping out the company to figure out fit just as they are deciding how you would align with the culture.
Transitions can be intimidating, especially when you are part of an underserved population. However, leveraging your peers and getting insight into your future employee can help make the journey much smoother.