Your child was home last month because of a sore throat. Your child missed a week of school due to a possible exposure. The Omicron surge came along, which caused delayed starts and remote learning. It can be difficult for working parents to manage the shifting demands and non-stop logistics of parenting during a pandemic. When your childcare arrangements are not working out, you might wonder if it is worth telling your boss. Is it really necessary to tell your employer, especially if you are a parent who works from home?
Transparency is a must
Do you need to tell your boss when you experience a childcare problem? (This is, let’s face it, a fairly common occurrence.
Georgene Huang (CEO & Co-Founder Fairygodboss), a job site that helps women find work, says “I think it really depends.” She adds that if you’re certain that your childcare situation will cause severe disruption, it’s in your best interests to tell your employer.
This is because it will protect your sanity. It’s impossible to work while watching Encanto on repeat or eating goldfish every five seconds. Huang points out that if you notice that your productivity is affected or you aren’t available at certain times of the day, your employer may conclude the worst.
Tami Forman is the Executive Director at Path Forward, a non-profit organization that helps stay-at-home moms and caregivers restart their professional careers. She agrees with this statement: “I generally think it’s always better to have more transparency.” However, the career expert points out that it does matter how you say it.
The working mom’s script
Forman suggests that you understand the differences between your mom friends and who you are unloading to. Also, have a conversation about your needs with your boss. Before you speak to your boss, or manager, make sure that you are clear about your goals. It’s better to have a clear direction, such as “here’s how it is” and “here’s what you need.”
Keep it simple, in other words: Be objective about your situation. Do not vent to your employer about the lack of a mask policy at your school or about your child’s stomach bug.
Forman adds, “I think sometimes [women] feel compelled to justify it. But I really don’t think anyone has anything to be sorry for right now.” “This is beyond our individual faults!”
Let’s say your child is sick and you need my help. Or, if you are able to do some work, “My child’s in quarantine right now but is fine. I can entertain them for a portion of the day.” These meetings will not be available to me, but I will be able. These people have been reached out to me to provide cover. If things become more disruptive, I’ll let you know.
Your company’s culture will dictate how you communicate with your boss. Some employees may have the option of working in the evenings. Others might not. Notable: It is a great time to go through the HR handbook and find out about your company’s policies on paid leave.
Support beyond the home
Forman says that Americans have been treating childcare as a problem that is unique and must be solved. “Rather, it is a shared responsibility to raise citizens and taxpayers,” Forman says.
In these strange times of pandemics, working moms need to reach out for help at work.
Forman advises, “It can be difficult for many of us to ask the help we need, but it is important to also consider what support you need at your home.” Research shows that heterosexual couples tend to have moms who come home earlier, take time off work, or reschedule commitments. Sound familiar? According to the career expert, parents should sit down and work as a team to deal with childcare disruptions. They also need to seek out support from other members of their family (hello grandparents!).
What about the consequences of this extra time off work?
Huang warns that there is a “motherhood penalty” even in normal times. This is because working moms are more likely to be less dedicated, available, and ambitious about their careers. However, many parents are likely to face severe disruptions in their careers. They will have to be open about it and hope that their employer is understanding.
Here’s the good news: Both career professionals agree that there is a job market for job-seekers right now. Huang adds that while an employer might not be able replace everyone and train them quickly, the labor market will hopefully offer support to working moms because an unhappy employer will not have many options.
Remember, you are not the only one.
The most important takeaway? Ask for help. Ask for help from your family, colleagues, or manager. It’s difficult because everyone is tired right now. It’s better to be open and ask for what support you need. Forman advises that people may be able or unwilling to offer it, but it is better to be direct than to hope others will notice you are breaking.”
Here’s another thing: Things are extremely difficult right now for working parents. Things will improve and moms will be able to help other mothers when they need it. Let’s hope that this day comes sooner than expected.