Moms Quit Smoking in Silence for Decades: Will Leaders Hear the Warning Signal?
Here’s a question for you: When 5 p.m. strikes, do you mentally focus on life outside of work, or do you succumb to the grinding culture, answering the calls and emails that slip into your hours? “off”? Your answer may reflect your age or your caregiver status.
While every generation and every demographic has experienced burnout, Gen Z is the first to publicly reject the “get up and grind” mentality and embrace the seemingly rebellious act of “quietly quit.” As TikTok user Zaiad Khan said in a video that went viral, “You don’t quit your job outright, but you give up on the idea of going beyond it.” But shh, here’s a secret, it’s something working moms have been forced to do for decades.
That “silent surrender” is seen as a modern act of creating boundaries reveals how well mothers have mastered the “silent” component. Make no mistake, our tranquility was not the product of passivity, but an approach born of necessity. Working mothers have not had an equal voice in creating corporate culture; Instead, we were given three choices: One, to pander to a restlessness mentality that favors personal sacrifice at the expense of family and well-being. Second, we can opt out, but is that really an option when the alternative leads to burnout and imbalance? Or three, we can stop quietly and risk being stalked by mom.
To survive and maintain some semblance of sanity (although we can see that decline), we’ve chosen option three for years, allowing us to keep our jobs… but not our opportunities for advancement. When we are no longer willing to work 24/7, tolerate grueling hours, and the endless networking events that creep into our evenings, weekends, and times with friends and families, we are seen as less than ideal employees. who are no longer engaged in our careers. We are considered an unworthy investment because we have “decided” to get out of the way of leadership.
The cost of being a caregiver with responsibilities and interests (in our families, no less) is high. And sadly, some executives and leaders equate silent surrender with giving up. Arianna Huffington made waves with a post on LinkedIn saying, “Quietly quitting isn’t just giving up a job, it’s a step towards giving up on life. And if a successful entrepreneur and influencer like her (who touts the value of rest and healthy boundaries) doesn’t run the risk of silent conformity to a system that turns and burns (and Why it’s silent), what can we do?
From a practical and economic point of view, mothers and carers can provide unparalleled value – we are ambitious, innovative and extremely resourceful (we all know the saying if you want something done, give it to a mum occupied). But because we maintain our limits and close work at 5 p.m. to pick up our children, we are sidelined and a huge resource of talent and skills remains on the table. It doesn’t take long to connect the dots and see how organizations lose. The Gallup 2022 “State of the Global Workplace” report determined that employee well-being is the new imperative in the workplace. This goes hand in hand with the finding that job dissatisfaction is at an all time high and that disgruntled and disengaged workers are costing the global economy $7.8 trillion.
At its core, silent abandonment is the answer to burnout and work-life balance exhaustion, combined with disconnected management that glorifies a restless mentality and leaves no room for needs. employees. Hence the “silent” resistance. As burnout builds up and employees feel burned out through— people are no longer willing to sacrifice their whole lives (or their sanity) for work.
Desiree Pascual, director of human resources at Headspace Health, says the silent shutdown should be a wake-up call for employers to do better. “When your work practices lead to employee satisfaction, psychological safety and engagement,” Pascual says in an interview, “there is no silent resignation, because you have created pathways to respond to needs of your employees as well as your own.”
In truth, quitting smoking quietly isn’t giving up on life, it’s an effort to take life more seriously through boundaries that maintain a healthier lifestyle. In this Time article, millennial software developer Shini Ko suggests rethinking our wording. “It’s negative and dangerous to think of a healthy work-life balance as synonymous with giving up,” says Ko. “Can we just call it that? It just works.
I would challenge executives to open their eyes to what mothers and caregivers have been saying for decades: we just want to be able to take care of ourselves and our families while advancing in our careers. We want to dig, lead, innovate – we just don’t want to do it 24/7, and at the expense of our ability to care for our families.