Five things mothers gained during COVID-19 – and should refuse to give up

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It was a hellish year for moms. Although our children have not been to school due to the pandemic, many of us, who have been fortunate enough to keep our jobs, are expected to work while providing 24-hour child care.

Unsurprisingly, more than 2.4 million women left the workforce between February 2020 and February 2021. Thanks to the New York Times, we now have a dedicated phone line to call and shout. (Happy Mother’s Day!)

But there is a way to make a bad situation work for us. Here are five gains mothers made during the pandemic that they should refuse to give up when it’s over.

Policies prohibiting visits to hospitals after childbirth. As new mothers recover from a major medical event, they are also required to feed their babies every two hours, often with the added learning curve and challenges associated with breastfeeding.

One night after my daughter was born in March, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to take care of her. When a hospital technician woke me up a few minutes after finally falling asleep to take my blood pressure, I was so confused that she asked me if I spoke English (I’m a communication teacher).

While moms should be allowed to have a support person with them, now is not the time when moms should feel pressured to house extended family as well. Thanks to the bans on hospitalization of clients during the pandemic, many of us have been freed from this social pressure. Hospitals should not back down.

While well-meaning friends and family may be delighted to meet the baby, the best thing anyone can do for a newborn baby is to let mom take care of herself so that she can be well enough to respond. to the constant needs of her child.

Options for pregnant women to work largely or entirely from home. Early reports suggest that once people started staying at home during the pandemic, the number of babies born prematurely declined – in some places significantly. This is exceptional, because babies who are born early – especially before 32 weeks – face the prospect of very serious health problems, even death.

While researchers still wonder why pregnant women who stayed at home seem to have had healthier, longer pregnancies (more rest? Avoidance of pollution and pathogens?), One thing has become clear: employers should allow pregnant women to work from home whenever possible. possible.

Dress codes and more relaxed expectations. Women are expected to invest much more in their appearances than men. According to a 2014 survey, they spend almost two hours more per week than men on things like styling their hair and applying makeup. That’s all the time we don’t bond with our kids – or get good rest.

There’s a reason we do this: we know people judge us more than men by how we look. Over the past year we have stopped paying this tax a bit as dress standards, thanks to Zoom, have become more relaxed. When we return to our workplaces, our coworkers should continue to pay more attention to what we contribute than how we look – and that goes for all of us.

Flexible hours for all parents. During the pandemic, many parents worked early in the morning or late at night (or both) to share childcare responsibilities with their partner. Of course, this also requires the ability to work remotely.

Employers should keep these options available to moms and dads after hours. Giving them to single moms won’t do the trick, as one of the biggest challenges women face is that after working all day, we’re supposed to do what sociologist Arlie Hochschild called the “second.” shift”.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, when both spouses work full time, mothers assume more than 60% of child care and more than 72% of household chores. In order for fathers to start doing their jobs, they need the flexibility of their jobs as much as we do.

Reasonable number of working hours. While many workers are putting in more hours of work during the pandemic (when working from home there is no clear start and end to the work day), we also spent more time with our staff. families.

According to the Becker Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago, Americans spent 35% of the time we saved at work. But it also means that people in general have had a lot more time for things like hobbies and childcare (although I don’t know too many parents who have taken it slow).

We won’t want to give up on these things when we get back to the office. And employers should take note: By reassessing their priorities, 40% of employees plan to quit their jobs this year, according to a Microsoft study.

To retain quality people, employers will need to plan for a better work-life balance. This means capping hours at 40 hours per week – and also giving people who need them options for part-time work at reduced pay. These policies must also apply to fathers, so that we can all do our fair share of the work in our families and homes.

One of the main reasons that women do so much more housework now is that people who overwork – or work more than 50 hours a week – receive a significant premium, and men tend to do jobs that require the overwork. .

What moms need for Mother’s Day isn’t flowers or chocolate – it’s a life that doesn’t require a dedicated queue. While the pandemic has brought many of us to the brink of mental health, it has also forced many organizations to give moms long overdue concessions. We must refuse to return them.

Kara Alaimo is Associate Professor of Public Relations at Hofstra University and author of “Pitch, Tweet, or Engage on the Street: How to Practice Global Public Relations and Strategic Communication”. She previously served in the Obama administration.

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