WFH Moms And The Triple-Overtime Burden Of Work, Kids, & Managing Homes

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mom waving at computer with daughter on her lap

C. Nicole Mason, President of the Institute of Women’s Policy Research, coined the term "She-session," which refers to an economic downturn where job and income losses are affecting women more than men.

The volume of work that has fallen onto the shoulders of women in the last year is unfathomable. Women have been working the "double-day" for decades and are already used to exaggerated work hours.

Waged work by day, un-waged work by night, Covid has now introduced women to the triple-day of working from home, schooling from home, and trying to keep it all together all the time — you guessed it — from home.

RELATED: Being A Work-From-Home Mom Is The Hardest Job In The World

Why should work-from-home moms upset the status quo?

You didn’t think it was possible, but your days now start earlier and end later, working crazy amounts of additional work that you had not anticipated.

Plus, the kids are home more, there are new requirements and restrictions, and you've got to pay the bills while trying to keep your family together to survive a pandemic.

Journalists and economists are weighing in, writing about the fiscal impact when women cut back on paid hours.

Katie Fleischer writes in Ms. magazine about how remote working hurts working moms. This adds to the exacerbation of inequality when it comes to the division of labor in the home.

If husbands don’t take time to learn how to run and manage a household, well, someone has to do it. And, of course, it falls on the shoulders of women.

To add to the problem, a study shows that working moms are three times less likely to receive a promotion than working dads. And while working dads have received a third of the promotions during the pandemic, only 9 percent of promotions went to working moms.

When a wife cuts back on her work hours, she’s seen as "less dedicated." When a husband keeps his nose to the grindstone at the job, he’s seen as "more committed."

Another study found that dads are less likely to experience disruption than their wives. 

There’s a weird irony here as the corporate workplace was never designed for women.

Prior to World War I, as corporate America experienced growth, the male-dominated fields of secretaries and typists set in motion an interesting dynamic: company owners, men, would look to their male secretaries in a way that resembled a father and son relationship, giving the new, young, white-collar worker an opportunity to rise in the company.

The war changed all of that. As male secretaries left their jobs to enlist, women took their places, but not without problems — women had to get past the perception that they were "loose" as evidenced in their desire to work alongside men.

But when women dominated the pool of administrative staff, that father-son relationship changed to one of husband and wife, and female secretaries became an extension of the emotional labor support that men enjoyed in the home.

RELATED: I Had To Choose Between My Daughter And My Dream Career

Corporate hours were never designed for women either.

Pre-Covid, the typical nine-to-five workday never corresponded to the eight-to-three school day.

And, not to put too fine a point on things, pre-Covid, when a working mom asked for a hybrid or flex schedule, that request was typically viewed as coming from someone not committed enough to the job and less dedicated than her male counterpart. 

And, now, ironically, corporate America is in the living rooms, kitchens, dens, and garages. The work hours have expanded, the responsibilities have grown, and women have not seen anything but a huge increase in the demand for their time.

As a result, current studies show that "she-sessions" will have dire impacts on the lives of professional women.

Passed over for promotion because of the perception that she’d rather work few paid hours, employers may think twice about hiring a woman who also happens to be a mom.

Wage gaps and hiring gaps will have long-term consequences.

Harvard economist Claudia Goldin explains that if the traditional workplace opens before schools or vice versa, "there is a very real possibility of long term damage to a woman’s career."

What can be done to really benefit women in the workplace?

First, company owners can get on board with changing the hours of the traditional workday because there is nothing traditional about it.

Second, families need to have hard, important conversations about sharing all the work of the household. Prove that you are all in this together.

Finally, and this may be a big ask for husbands, recognize that all the work that goes into managing a household is actual work, just of the unwaged variety. 

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So if your wife had to leave paid employment to take on the additional labor at home, never will you ever say, "My wife’s not working." 

Because she is. All. The. Time. She’s having her She-Session.

As thought-provoking as these suggestions may be, it was with great excitement when I learned about the work of a brilliant entrepreneur, Reshma Saujani, who seeks to challenge the trap of "This is the way we’ve always done it," recommend radical changes, and upset the status quo.

The "Marshall Plan for Moms" is Saujani’s brainchild. She, along with 49 other progressive thought leaders, took out a 2-page letter to newly elected President Biden to draw attention to the dismal government and corporate response to the pandemic, at least where women are concerned.

The Marshall Plan for Moms provides a "playbook" for government and corporate entities to foster a new vision in their support of women in the paid workplace.

"It’s time to prioritize moms at work."

The playbook encourages adult sons to take advantage of family leave to care for an elder parent, and incentivizing parental leave for dads to share equitably the burden of a new infant.

Saujani writes that "Studies show that mothers face a 'Motherhood Penalty' while fathers earn a 'Fatherhood Premium.' 

Upsetting the status quo would require 'unconscious bias training' for employees to root out the stigmas that moms face for caretaking and push leaders to regularly speak out against these biases."

The pandemic laid bare a lot of problems and challenges faced by millions of families across America.

While life during the pandemic has been more than a little scary, it could get even scarier will be if women and work-from-home moms don't challenge the mentality of "This is the way we’re always done it." 

RELATED: Why So Many Moms Dread Returning To Pre-Covid Times — And How We Can Support Them

Regina Lark is the principle at A Clear Path, LLC. She is the author of Psychic Debris, Crowded Closets: The Relationship Between the Stuff in Your Head and What’s Under Your Bed, now available on Audible.

This article was originally published at ProVisors' Thought Leadership . Reprinted with permission from the author.