GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — We are 10 months into this pandemic, and people are feeling its impacts in a number of different ways, including moms, especially working moms.
According to one study, 81% of employed moms say their ability to engage effectively at work has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. More than half say its because of the stress and anxiety at home. In another study, nearly three out of four working moms have considered quitting in the last six months.
If you're struggling to juggle it all right now, you are not alone. There's advice that hopefully can bring you some peace.
Stacey Tanis is a working mother here in West Michigan. We spoke with her via ZOOM as she welcomed us into her home.
"Welcome. This is like the one clean corner right now," Tanis said.
Kat Saunders is another local working mother who is very overwhelmed, having to work full-time and with kids being stuck at home. "I'm overwhelmed, I'm stressed out," Saunders said.
Sara Simmons Stepka is in the same boat as these other working mothers. "There weren't enough hours in the day to get everything that I needed to get done, accomplished," she said.
"There might be a screaming kid in the background of my phone. I never know," Tanis said.
Stacey, Kat, and Sara don't know each other, but they sure can all relate. Working moms being pushed to their limits mentally, emotionally and physically.
"There are days that I just cry. I'm frustrated, I'm hoping I'm doing this right. I never wanted to be a teacher," Saunders said.
Saunders is one of the working mothers that has actually been taking her 8-year-old son with her to work since his school recently went virtual. She balances her own meetings and deadlines with his school schedule.
Saunders showed us around her son's set up for online learning: "He's got himself a little cup of coffee and got all kinds of pencils and pens because he gets a whole conference room to himself."
"I'll be sitting in my office and hear one of my daughters say to the other one, 'You're not in the meeting, you need to get in the meeting.' So then I run off to make sure that everything's okay," said Simmons Stepka. "It's just a lot to do all at once."
"You have to sit there and negotiate your time constantly," she said. "Every minute is a negotiation. Okay, what's more important this minute, do I need to do this? Or can I fold a basket of laundry? It is utter chaos. It's been humbling, and I've had to give myself a lot of grace."
Grace, a word we as moms should be repeating over and over, especially for those of us who struggle with being in control.
Erika Crenshaw, a therapist at Forest View Psychiatric Hospital says this is the reality for many working moms. "We need to let go of the outcome, like, I can ask my kiddo to fold laundry but then I need to let go of what it looks like."
"The hard part for many mothers, especially, is not assigning jobs, " Crenshaw notes. "The hard part is letting go of the outcome, like, okay I am not going to do the dishes, I'm going to take a bath. I'm going to walk away. Everybody else that lives here knows the dishes need to be completed."
"Being willing to let go of the control is really what's going to be helpful to managing our anxiety and stress," Crenshaw said.
"It's 2020 I just got to roll with it," Tanis said. "You try to control what you can and do what you can. and that's about it."
And, of course, taking care of ourselves, which is easier said than done. And that may look a bit different right now.
"Making sure that every single day I'm committed," said Crenshow. "I'm going to send a text to my friend and say. 'Today's a great day. I just needed to tell somebody that.' Or I'm going to go for a walk, and I'm going to wave at my neighbor, because I haven't been outside my house and I've been trapped with kids homeschooling."
"You know, all of that stuff, committing to ourselves that that's how we take care of ourselves."
"Our kids are with us 24/7, literally, because there's really no place that I can go, because they follow me, and I love them to death but I literally just sat there," Simmons Stepka said. "I've made a point to count my blessings out loud, because I know I'm blessed."
Knowing that we're trying our best, even if it doesn't feel like it today. Tomorrow is another day to try again.
"Sometimes it means just giving ourselves permission to not be perfect today," Crenshaw said. "Like okay, today I didn't get enough sleep but I can try again tomorrow. Tomorrow will be another opportunity for me to take care of myself."
"Those small moments I kind of feel like are what hold us together and keep me from losing my mind totally," Saunders said. "I couldn't spend this much time with the kids before this, so that's where the thankfulness comes in. There's moments that I get to have with him that I didn't get to have before. And I'm so glad for those moments because it's what holds me together."
A special thanks to these woman for being open and honest. In no way does this discredit the job or workload of a father or partner. It's just the reality a lot of women are facing right now.