In conversations this week with both friends and clients, all of whom are professional working women, I’m hearing the same thing: It’s all about feeling shamed.
As schools announce plans for the fall, working parents find themselves facing a buffet of bad options, especially in the hard-hit areas of the United States:
- You can send your kids back to school, if it’s open, and risk exposing them, and your family, to the virus. However, as you send them back to school, you also find it necessary to create a backup plan, in case schools close again suddenly because cases spike.
- You can keep them home, while you try to simultaneously parent, do your professional job from home and monitor your child’s schoolwork. And that’s if you, or your partner, have the option of working remotely from home.
- You can form a homeschooling pod with a few other families. Essentially, you hire a teacher and form a small homeschool bubble. However, this requires economic resources and an extended social network to put together.
- You can hire a nanny or au pair. Again, this comes with a price tag many families can’t afford and with little peer group socialization for children who have been isolated for months already.
- You can call in the grandparents, the Grammy Solution. Bring in a grandparent to provide daytime child care and then stay up at night worrying that you’re exposing Grandma to the virus and she will end up in the hospital — or worse.
Like I said, it’s a buffet of bad options.
Many moms are already feeling like failures. And they tell me the criticisms are already coming in from friends, family members and especially from other moms on social media.
Parents, and especially mothers, always have had to arm themselves against the constant onslaught of opinions about their parenting decisions. Fathers are rarely questioned about why they choose to work and leave their children in day care. But working moms often take the biggest hit when it comes to criticism.
It’s a deeply rooted assumption in our culture: Children are the responsibility of the mother and should be her primary responsibility. Working moms have been dealing with this for decades, and the pandemic has added another layer in the midst of already increasing anxiety about the health and safety of their children.
Both moms and dads find themselves facing stress-inducing choices about keeping the family safe while also maintaining financial stability for the household. (And that’s if the parents have survived so far without layoffs or job losses.)
“There are no perfect solutions, especially for families who already are struggling in our collapsed global economy.”
While parents struggle to make the best decisions they can for their families, they find themselves facing criticisms from several fronts — media outlets, family and friends, Facebook or networking groups and even neighbors and co-workers. The shame/blame game is already ramping up, and that’s what has to stop.
Here’s the honest reality: There are no perfect solutions, especially for families who already are struggling in our collapsed global economy. Each family must weigh its health concerns, risk factors and economic situation to come up with their “best choice” of the bad-option buffet.
Is someone in the family at high risk? Does someone in the family have underlying health concerns? Is your child failing to thrive without the structure and socialization school provides? What is the financial situation you find yourself in? What other personal concerns must factor into the decision?
The reality is that you don’t know what concerns other families are facing. Others don’t know the concerns you are facing.
“It’s OK if we make different choices for our children.”
There also are the bigger-picture societal concerns. Do homeschooling pods increase the socioeconomic gap in education? What about families who don’t have the resources for options other than public schools but have children or family members who are at risk? How do we balance all these concerns while still doing what’s best for our own families?
I don’t have the answers, but I do know it’s time to stop the shame.
We are all in this together, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Even if a vaccine is in play by the earliest possible dream time of spring 2021, it will be months before it is ready for widespread availability.
We have to allow families to make the best choices for them individually without playing the shame/blame game. Moms and dads are carrying enough anxiety about their jobs, the safety of their families (including their own parents), and the general state of the world. They shouldn’t have to face criticism about choices they have lost hours of sleep over.
There are no perfect solutions. The best choice for your family may not be the best choice for your neighbor and that’s OK!
Repeat after me: It’s OK if we make different choices for our children. We’re all doing the best we can. The best and most loving thing we can do for each other is to support the decisions each family makes.
And wear a mask.
Anita Flowers is a board certified career and life coach at Blue Sage Career Strategies. Her work history includes 13 years with an international business and 12 years doing individual and family counseling and career counseling.