The pandemic is causing unimaginable distress for everyone across the globe. And working mothers are no different. While many people are viewing working remotely as a way to relax and work from the comfort of their warm homes during these unprecedented times, employed mothers are being faced with severe challenges. Because for working moms, working from home means juggling two full time jobs - being a mother and working remotely.
With schools and day-cares closing in many countries, mothers are taking on childcare responsibilities. As social norms and existing workforce structures already rely heavily on women to carry out childcare responsibility, working mothers are facing a strain on how to deal with the predicament. When it comes to jobs that cannot be done remotely, such as doctors and nurses, the lack of childcare support is proving to be problematic. According to a report by McKinsey & Company and Lean In, 1 in 3 working mothers are thinking of scaling back or quitting their jobs because of the burnout associated with juggling parent responsibilities and their job. In Egypt, for instance, a survey showed that women were more eager to resign due to increased childcare responsibilities. Another example is women in Jordan who protested the closure of nurseries in 2020 as it poses a threat to the stability of working mothers. Another viable point is that people are not highlighting the mental distress that working mothers are going through because of the pandemic. Many mothers might be feeling guilty when trying to balance work-life at home and trying to care for their kids.
“The closure of schools during the pandemic has put quite a strain on our family. I had to make sure my two young daughters, aged 9 and 6, were attending and understanding their classes over zoom, while carrying out my job fully and attentively. The stress would even intensify once I was required to work at the office, in which I would have to find someone who could sit with my daughters while I am at the office.” - says Dina Al Kurdi, a Jordanian working mother.
Dr. Eva Haddad, Professor at the German Jordanian University for Intercultural Communication and Soft Skills, says “The hardest part was not the challenge itself but instead the feeling behind it. I had to make sure that my kids did not see me stressed or overwhelmed because this could affect them negatively. Now that schools are reopening, I am also feeling guilty that I still chose for my kids to study from home. The emotional and mental impact of the pandemic is real and makes dealing with it that much more difficult.”
Furthermore, not all companies offer the option of remote working for working mothers. And that can result in many mothers quitting their jobs to attend to their kids. This can be quite upsetting as it aids in increasing the gender gap in the workforce. With only 21% of women participating in the labour market in the Arab region, the gender gap might further increase with working mothers leaving their jobs as a result of the pandemic.
While most employed mothers are facing difficulties in simultaneously managing both their jobs and childcare responsibilities, others pointed out some key factors that helped them cope. Mais Al Maani, International Operations Analyst at Cleveland Clinic in the US, says, that her company’s flexibility and understanding has greatly helped elevate stress and helped her manage her time efficiently. She also added that collaborations from schools also helped in making studying from home a seamless experience.
Jordanian working mom, Rozan Zaza also says, “After 15 years of working and achieving a high position, I admit that I could no longer handle the pressure from two fronts - doing my job while helping my 6 year study online - and had to unfortunately resign. The government unfortunately did not take any action to support or even protect working mothers who work in private businesses.”
In a nutshell, It is important for governments, businesses and society as a whole to work towards creating room for open communication in order to find ways to support working mothers. In order to be able to collectively move through this pandemic with the minimum amount of losses, companies need to actively work towards finding alternatives to help working mothers during these difficult times.
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