Arab Press

بالشعب و للشعب
Monday, Apr 15, 2024

The mothers working from home without childcare

The mothers working from home without childcare

Although many children have returned to school and nursery, not every mum has the help she needs yet.

For most of the first year after her daughter was born in early 2022, Katie Szerbin worked from home, managing customer service calls all day, without any kind of childcare. Each time her child began to cry, the 30-year-old mother from New Jersey, US, had to leave the room. If she didn’t, the customer on the other end of the phone line – and Szerbin’s supervisor, often listening in – might hear the baby in the background, and question her professionalism.

“My calls were usually less than five minutes. It was something I just had to suffer through, and hope the people on the other line couldn’t hear her crying. It was heart-wrenching,” says Szerbin. “It wasn’t as bad when she was an infant. But soon she was walking, getting into stuff, needing attention. I'm talking and trying to concentrate and she's grabbing my headset or trying to grab my computer, or pulling at my shirt trying to get me to hold her. You're completely distracted. Even if you're trying really hard to ignore her, in your heart, you can’t.”

The balancing act was, in part, a financial choice – compensated at about $17 (£13.70) per hour, the maths worked out that Szerbin would “basically be working just to pay for care”. So, her only option was to do both jobs at once. It wasn’t easy on her or her daughter, and it only got harder as time went on.

The widespread closure of schools and childcare centres during the pandemic left many working parents like Szerbin in an impossible situation, trying to juggle remote jobs and a lack of childcare. And although many children have been able to return to outside-home care as Covid-19 has waned, not every parent is out of the woods: some caretakers still face simultaneous child supervision and job work, which is pushing them to the brink.

In some cases, the issue is just as acute as it was during the height of the pandemic. In the US especially, an ongoing childcare crisis has left many parents in an untenable situation: the childcare industry experienced a massive haemorrhage of workers and facility closures in 2020, and recovery continues to lag. The Center for American Progress reported more than half of all Americans live in a childcare desert, and even in places where it’s available, rising costs keep quality care out of reach for many families.

Many mums report struggling to balance professional obligations with childcare


In many ways, says Mona Zanhour, an associate professor of management at California State University, Long Beach, the remote work revolution has been good for mothers, allowing women who might otherwise have had to drop out of the labor force altogether to keep earning. But for some mums, she says, “it’s a double-edged sword. Technology is allowing us to work and parent and live our lives all at the same time in the same space. But it becomes its own monster when we add the childcare crisis”.

All this leads to some parents – usually mums – continuing to work from home while simultaneously caring for their children, says Zanhour. Many of these parents are forced to hide this fact from their bosses so as not to seem distracted or unprofessional, leaving them stressed and fearful. And, she says, a woman trying to be her work-self and parent-self at the same time, will often struggle with both and ultimately burn out.

Kristen Carpenter, a mum in Pennsylvania, US, who mostly does her job in healthcare from home, worries that her lack of childcare has had a deleterious effect on her five-year-old son. “He’s in Kindergarten for two-and-a-half hours, then comes home and is on a tablet for the afternoon, or watching a movie, or just doing things that aren’t productive because I have to get my work done," she says. “He’s super unmotivated to do anything else.”

Carpenter herself has experienced negative impacts, too. She doesn’t feel as focused at work as she once did, and struggles to be as productive as she’d like. “I definitely don’t get my ‘40 hours’,” she says. “I feel like when he’s here with me, I can’t fully concentrate. And when he’s at school, I only have two-and-a-half hours, and then I have to get him off the bus. What can I get done in that time? Especially when the whole time I’m just waiting for my alarm to go off to get him.”

Many of the 53 women Zanhour interviewed also reported feeling like they were constantly behind. “They end up really sacrificing sleep, sacrificing their personal health,” she says. “They wake up early before the kids to attend to their emails, spend their days going back and forth between the two roles, and after everybody sleeps, they’re trying to catch up.” And when, inevitably, they can’t, “they experience it as a personal failure”.

He’s in Kindergarten for two-and-a-half hours, then comes home and is on a tablet for the afternoon, or watching a movie, or just doing things that aren’t productive because I have to get my work done – Kristen Carpenter


Szerbin says she was constantly making minor errors at work, because her attention was divided. “It wasn’t something I would necessarily get in trouble for, but it made me feel so guilty and embarrassed because I know I was capable of doing it without those simple mistakes. And I can’t come out and say, ‘it’s happening because I’m taking care of my kid’, so then there’s the added concern and worry of, ‘are they going to bring this up? And I going to get in trouble? Am I going to lose my job?’”

Another issue compounding the situation is that some parents feel forgotten now that so much has otherwise returned to ‘normal’ in the working world. At the start of the pandemic, when schools closed and work went abruptly remote, there was a lot of understanding and empathy for working parents, explains Zanhour, who co-authored a study of working mothers’ experiences during and post-pandemic. “What we saw from our data is the empathy ran out pretty quickly.”

Along with stress, anxiety and burnout, all these factors have forced some mums to change their career paths entirely. Szerbin took a full-time, in-person job, while her own mum cares for her daughter. It’s not a perfect solution, she says. “My guilt has just progressed to different guilt. Now I feel guilty that I’m working and not taking care of my kid.”

Others, like Carpenter, remain stuck without any solution. She is counting the days until her son starts first grade and is in school all day. In the meantime, she’s muddling through. “I get angry,” she says. “I’m completely overwhelmed.”

In the meantime, some working parents may find themselves stalling out. There’s no simple solution, says Zanhour. Solving the problem will require “redesigning workplace culture so that motherhood does not have to be at odds with professionalism”, she says. It may be a long road. For now, a little more empathy might go a long way.

Newsletter

Related Articles

Arab Press
0:00
0:00
Close
China Criticizes US for Vetoing UN Ceasefire Resolution in Gaza
Saudi Arabia ranks first in UN index for e-government services in MENA
Israel Records 20% Drop In GDP, War In Gaza Is The Reason
Saudi Arabia's FDI Inflows Grow with New International Standards
Venture Capitals Power Up Across MENA Region
PM Modi Announces Opening Of New CBSE Office In Dubai
January Funding for MENA Startups Totals $86.5 Million
Saudi Arabia accelerates digital economy growth through Nvidia partnership
Israel unveils tunnels underneath Gaza City headquarters of UN agency for Palestinian refugees
Israel deploys new military AI in Gaza war
Egypt threatens to suspend key peace treaty if Israel pushes into Gaza border town, officials say
Saudi Arabia Warns Of A "Humanitarian Catastrophe" If Israel Moves On Rafah
US University To Shut Qatar Campus Due To "Heightened Mideast Instability"
Facebook and Instagram Ban Iran's Supreme Leader
Defense Technology Showcase Held in Riyadh
Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports rise 2.5% to $6bn in November 2023: GASTAT
Rolls-Royce Executive Encourages Saudi Women to Tap into Their Inner 'Superhero' for Success in Defense Industry
Saudi Arabia launches National Academy of Vehicles and Cars
Saudi Tourism Minister Reveals Plan for 250,000 New Hotel Rooms by 2030
SAR to more than double eastern network passenger capacity with new trains deal
Saudi Arabia Enhances National Defense with New Partnerships
Saudi Aramco Maintains Arab Light Crude Pricing to Asia for March
NEOM Establishes New York Office to Support Investors
Saudi Wealth Fund Draws in Over $25 Billion Worth of Investments in Three Years, Al-Rumayyan Reveals
The Saudi Kingdom's Ultimatum to Israel: A Win-Win Peace with Saudi Arabia and the Arab World, or a Lose-Lose Continued Occupation and Endless Conflict
Biden condemns anti-Arab hate after WSJ opinion piece calls Dearborn ‘jihad capital’
Turkey Releases Seven Hostages Captured by Pro-Gaza Gunman
Arab Parliament Commends Women's Contributions to Societal Development
British and Hungarian Foreign Ministers visited Lebanese leaders to stress the importance of enacting UN Resolution 1701
Yemen's Houthis Say They Targeted British Merchant Vessel In Red Sea
Donald Trump Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for 'Historic' Middle East Policy
US lawmakers approve F-16 jet sale to Turkey following NATO expansion support
Saudi Arabia Climbs 25 Places in World Bank's National Statistics Indicator
Tourism Growth in Saudi Arabia Fuels Advancements in the Hospitality Industry," Says Rotana Official
Houthi Rebels Request Departure of UN Staff from Yemen, Including US and UK Personnel, within a Month
Modi Inaugurates Hindu Temple on Site of Demolished Mosque in India
Over 25,000 Deaths in Gaza Amid Israeli Offensive
Escalating Clashes in Gaza as Israel Distributes Leaflets to Assist in Locating Hostages
Turkey's First Astronaut Set to Launch for International Space Station Today
Head of Palestinian Investment Fund Warns More People May Die of Hunger Than War in Gaza
Palestinian Envoy Criticizes UK for Alleged 'Double Standards' in Policies Toward Israel
Morocco to Lead UN Human Rights Council in 2024
Is artificial intelligence the solution to cyber security threats?
Egypt has been identified as the leading military force among Arab nations and ranks 15th globally
The AI Revolution in the Workforce: CEOs at Davos Predict Major Job Cuts in 2024
Iranian Nobel Laureate Narges Mohammadi Receives Additional Prison Sentence
"Gazans Urge Israeli Forces to Target Hamas in Leaked Audio"
Biden States US and UK Airstrikes on Houthis Were a 'Defensive Action
Large Pro-Palestine Rally in London as Gaza Conflict Hits Day 100
South Africa Urges World Court to Halt Israeli Actions in Gaza
×