To All the Multitasking Moms... We Are Burning Out
Before the worldwide pandemic hit, I was already a working, stay-at-home mom. That alone required an exponential amount of multitasking. We had a routine, a rhythm, and a method to our madness. Honestly, the fact that I could meet deadlines, keep the kids alive and happy, and still manage most of the household chores was kind of my superpower.
Brian was a corporate chef who oversaw a restaurant and a million-dollar events operation which required long, grueling hours. It wasn't uncommon that he'd work 75-hour weeks sometimes. Which meant that mostly everything at home and with the kids on a daily basis would fall on my shoulders. And I would, somehow, make it work. But that was before restaurants shut down and everything was put on hold.
Motherhood and Multitasking Are Not Synonymous
Articles, headlines, and years of social constructs tell us that women are inherently better at multitasking than men. It's not true, scientifically.
Men and women are equally just as bad at multitasking.
So why the stereotype? Studies show that women are able to process the information faster, therefore perform tasks more quickly than men. But the end results are all the same.
For centuries, mothers have had to balance children, the house, and careers. And were expected to do so without batting an eye. Over the past few decades, men have taken on more household duties and sharing the work has become the norm.
Yet, mothers are being forced to multitask now more than ever during this COVID-19 pandemic. Women who are married with children are burning both ends of the candle and it's only a matter of time before we burn out. And by crowning mothers as “multitasking heroes,” we let everyone else off free and clear.
Out of necessity, I've learned how to multitask.
I can make dinner while feeding the baby and having a dance party with my oldest.
I can shower while entertaining two children because the magic of dry shampoo eventually runs out.
I can bathe the girls while on a conference call with people all over the country and remember action items from said call.
I have worn my baby during client meetings and on-site brand shoots.
I can answer an email, find a missing babydoll, and give hubby a kiss goodbye each morning because I don't have a choice.
Breadwinning and Burning Out
More and more, women (and moms) are becoming the sole breadwinners of the household. There are a lot of stigmas about this and this discussion could go a lot of ways, but that isn't fair. (Yes, I'm going there.) What isn't fair is that even though a mom and wife may make just as much as (or more than) her husband counterpart, there is the huge general perception that the father's job is more important. Again, society has imprinted our brains with an unfortunate gender-over-money mindset.
In our house, the pandemic has "evened the playing field" if you will. While Brian is not working, I've been able to multitask less, and he is able to spend more time with the girls. We share chores and tasks at home, relieving a lot of pressure and stress for both of us. We share the load of the work.
But I am still busier than ever. I am still working full time, and then some. We are #blessed that I work in digital creative marketing so I can work remotely all the time. But we are even more fortunate that the majority of my clients are healthcare providers. The main company that contracts me to do all their content marketing is a healthcare tech enterprise who just rolled out telehealth services. I've been going non-stop. So during this pandemic while everything in the world is shifting, I've also shifted into role of breadwinner (even if for the temporary time being).
Unpaid work is still hard work
Stay-at-home moms are often expected to do the lion's share of care-taking and housework. But this doesn't mean that we are used to having this much pressure and stress without additional childcare, school, or social outings. I rely on playdates and school to help break up our days and give everyone time to reset (or in my case, time to work in peace and quiet). Now I am finding activities to do at home that are fun and exciting so we don't get bored.
On top of everything, there is a lot of stress on moms to fulfill the role of teacher. We paid to send our oldest to school for a reason - we didn't want to homeschool. And now, although we get a tiny bit of "suggested material" from her teacher, I find myself writing lesson plans each week so that my preschooler doesn't fall behind. Teachers are working harder than ever to adapt to virtual learning and parents and children are struggling to adapt to their new "school schedule" and learning capabilities.
There are only so many hours in the day, and moms, we are going to burn out. I had it all figured out: How working from home and being a stay-at-home mom worked for us, but that all went out the window as soon as the pandemic hit and the world shut down. I work later into the night, earlier each morning, and we all have more work to do. I love to cook, but cooking 3 meals a day for 4 people can become less fun and more mundane.
Having Brian home really is my saving grace during this time. It's time to turn breadwinning into breadsharing. My job isn't more important than Brian's, and vice versa. Right now, our biggest priority is the girls and their wellbeing during this time. It's not been easy for them to adjust, either. Now that Brian is back to work (on a more limited schedule), we have adjusted and readjusted to what this "temporary normal" looks like for us, one day at a time. Admittedly, I've not been the best at it.
I have less time than ever for "self care" - whatever that even looks like these days. Hubby will be getting the girls to bed and working on a few things at night while we clean the kitchen and talk about tomorrow's schedule. I might do a quick face mask before bed, but while that's on, I'm also working and tying up loose ends before I close my computer for the night.
The "figure it out" mentality that so many moms and parents have right now is a recipe for disaster and we can't keep it up forever. But in the meantime, offer grace, patience, and flexibility. We will come out of this alive and hopefully with a little more empathy and understanding of one another.