Women are already discriminated against when it comes to the gender pay gap, and mothers in particular are still advocating for more pro-breastfeeding policies. As the world tries to ease back into “post-pandemic” life, working moms face a new set of struggles.
Early 2021 birthed a phenomenon called the Great Resignation, which saw 4.4 million Americans leave their jobs in last September alone, according to the World Economic Forum. For mothers, juggling work and raising children has always been difficult; however, the pandemic brought it to new heights and presented a new set of complexities.
Our fifth annual State of Motherhood survey illuminates just how complicated the tectonically-shifting workplace has been for moms, with our data showing the reverberations for the American mom. Here’s why.
Out of more than 17,000 women who responded to our survey, 26% said childcare issues are the number one reason they made a change in their professional life in the past year. More than the majority (58%) reported that the stress and financial burden of childcare has made them consider leaving the workforce.
“This was definitely a factor in deciding what type of work arrangement would be ‘worth it’ for my family,” Nancy P. (not her real name) tells Motherly about her choice to continue working from home. “Going into the office would have made my time away less valuable since a large percent of my paycheck would be going to childcare.”
Related: What I didn’t understand about being a working mom until I was one
While working remotely has allowed many moms the opportunity to navigate their careers and care for their children, this flexibility hasn’t been the answer for everyone, and many other moms have left jobs entirely. In our survey, 46% of moms who are not working any more point to childcare issues as the reason why.
“Due to the pandemic, I reduced my hours starting in 2020 so I could care for my kids full time,” Kimberly J. tells Motherly.
As Covid continues to ebb and flow, childcare facilities are still working out how to best deal with outbreaks, and many shuttered their doors for good—or at least long enough for moms to figure out a different permanent solution.
“I lost my (once a week) part-time job with the stay-at-home orders in 2020,” Rachel W. tells Motherly. “I was pregnant at the time with my youngest and was planning to work until the summer when I was due. My daycare provider shut down the same day, and eventually as time went on decided to just call it retirement.”
These problems also prove to be affecting Black women disproportionately: 10% of Black moms report having zero hours per week of childcare, which is double that of white moms and more than triple that of Hispanic moms. Black mothers are also much less likely to report stability in employment, with 42% reporting their employment status was unchanged, compared to 58% of white mothers who said their employment status was unchanged in the last year.
Combining a career with motherhood is becoming less feasible
Though many moms have figured out how to work from home while caring for their children, it’s not that easy for everyone. And not everyone has a job in which they can work from home. Add on childcare issues the pandemic has created, not to mention rising prices, and it’s no wonder the thought of being a working mom has become less appealing.
“There needs to be better options to support working moms if we want to continue to see them in the workplace.”
Feelings about combining career and motherhood have become more pessimistic this year with 23% of participants saying they don’t think it’s possible to combine them (up from 17% in 2021) and even worse among non-working moms at 30% (up from 26% in 2021).
“For me, Covid created a pause and overall re-evaluation of how and where I will be investing my limited time and energy,” says Nancy P. “I believe this type of thinking is what is creating the Great Resignation. There needs to be better options to support working moms if we want to continue to see them in the workplace.”
Dissatisfaction with employer support
The United States is one of just six countries without any form of national paid maternity leave and one of eight without national maternity leave, according to data from the World Policy Analysis Center at UCLA. President Biden has been pushing to change that, but opposition from his own party has made the chances slim. For now, companies are able to create their own policies, and our survey shows that the majority of women are not satisfied with their employer’s level of support.
More than half (55%) of participants cite that their employer can better support them with longer, paid maternity leave. And the dissatisfaction doesn’t stop there: 48% of currently employed mothers report being unsatisfied with how their employer handles flexibility with their schedules/time off needs.
“I was a middle school teacher and given the current state of education and the complete lack of support by my school’s administration (including personal attacks from them), I decided to leave my position last June,” Caitlin K. tells Motherly.
Freedom to work remotely
Perhaps the biggest way in which the pandemic has rocked the workforce is by proving how many jobs can be worked remotely. As Covid becomes more manageable, companies have requested workers to return to the office. But that’s not an easy transition for moms who’ve been able to work from home.
“My plan was always to put my baby into childcare and go back to work as soon as possible, but the minute I met my little one that changed. There was no way I was going to leave her with a stranger,” Nancy P. explains. “I had proven throughout Covid that I could do my job from home and I became hellbent on continuing to do so. When I was told to come back to the office five days a week my immediate response was a firm ‘no.’”
For others, like Caitlin K., that meant quitting her job in education so she could find a career that better catered to her needs. “I found a job working from home,” she says. “I now have the bandwidth and flexibility to prioritize my family. I spend time attending my son’s school events, volunteering to help my son’s school, spending time with my husband, and learning something new in my new career.”
The last few years have been scary, sad, and difficult beyond words; however, they’ve also given many working moms the opportunity to spend more time with their families. That’s something that these mamas aren’t willing to give up, and they shouldn’t have to.