There is no work-life balance. There is no life-life balance at this point.
The mental load of the average working mother has now been compacted like the trash in that back of a large dump truck. The unseen stress of motherhood is exhausting as it stands outside of the parameters of a mass pandemic. Now the mental load of mothering has been squished together even further with more expectations than before. Work, clean, care for, and now teach the small humans.
Unless you can survive on three hours of sleep, telework, and have the magical ability to wash clothes with your mind, this is impossible. We went from wondering what we would cook for dinner, to wondering if we should even keep the careers we’ve worked so very hard to obtain. COVID-19 is more than just a respiratory illness: it’s a virus destroying the careers of mothers (and fathers) worldwide. Forget climbing up the corporate ladder; we are hanging by our fingertips from the gutters.
If you were fortunate enough to have the ability to work from home, you may have also been fortunate enough to scar your children for life with your scary mommy screams right before your important video conference. Nothing can help your productivity like a demonic mom voice while emailing your supervisor about the big project you are working on. Let’s not even talk about the awkward video conferencing moments when your kid walks by in their underwear. Your house is a jungle, with unlimited screen time and limitless fruit snacks just to meet your work deadlines.
It is an anything-goes type of household, all for the sake of your career. Your feral children are running around hyped up on sugar and boredom. Your kitchen is like an open bar at a fancy wedding with no last call. Your grocery bill has tripled, and you may have quarantine-ordered a swing set just to get your children out from under your feet. Routines, meal planning, and mental stability have all flown out the window. You may have already burnt through your paid time off like a smoker burns through their last cigarette, all while trying to figure out distance learning with uncooperative children.
Even if you had the privilege of having help at home, your two very separate and different worlds collided. Your head may still be spinning; I know mine is. How can you possibly focus on the important budget meeting when your toddler is in the middle of the most epic tantrum in the room right behind you? You emerged from the cave of your bedroom/laundry room/closet office to fix yourself a glass of water, just as you would gather around the water cooler for a moment of reprieve. Only instead of a slight mental break, you see a massive pile of dishes that you cannot wash at this time overflowing from the sink. You must resist the urge to wipe up the Cheerios from the sticky kitchen table. Your mind races about the wet clothes just sitting in the washing machine, and you quickly snap back to the reality that you are “working” right now. And while you can visibly see the housework and mom-work you have to do, you must set it all aside to go do your “work-work.”
Everything sacred and special about home just got sprinkled with deadlines, spreadsheets, and all your work drama. The separation of work and home no longer exists. Those nice compartmentalizations boxes you like to put your life in have now officially been thrown together just like the pile of dirty laundry in your bedroom corner. Everything is a blurry mess. Work and home are no longer separate.
You find yourself thinking about that one last task you needed to do for work after you tuck your little one in for bed. While attending the weekly virtual staff meeting, your mind is on the laundry, dishes, and dinner plans. All the things that typically run through your brain can easily be pushed to the side when in your private office or around your co-workers — but now they’re at the forefront of your mind because they are visible. You can walk into your living room and see the mess. So now your brain is a tornado of thoughts about the things you did, need to do, and all the things you are no longer allowed to do: Thanks, COVID. Your brain feels as if smoke might come out of your ears.
Let’s not even talk about the new school year. Staggered schedules, distance learning, and virtual classrooms are all the working mothers’ kryptonite. Did you ever imagine paying for daycare after your child went into elementary school? Might as well hold the title of pickup/drop off super scheduling ninja to your resume, ’cause this fall will be nothing short of a juggling act. Lunch breaks will no longer be for eating your food in silence. Your lunch break will consist of you racing to the school to pick up the kids to then drop them off with daycare, family, or any willing warm-bodied human that will supervise your child until you are off the clock.
So welcome to 2020, where you are either a kick-ass employee or a kick-ass mom, but not both. This will be the death of the working mother.