Over the past couple of years, working moms have faced more challenges than ever as they’ve dealt with changing norms during the COVID-19 pandemic. While many moms are starting to return to work, others have found significant obstacles in the way of getting their careers back on track. Let’s take an honest look at five challenges currently affecting would-be working moms.
1. Catching up from career setbacks
During the height of the pandemic, families were thrown into upheaval as childcare and schooling changed overnight. For many moms, pre-existing workplace biases (such as the gender pay gap) made it “more sensible” for women to be the partner to step away from their careers and take on these new child-related duties. Even now, hybrid setups can require at least one parent to have more flexibility than was required in pre-pandemic times. Those interruptions and adjusted needs may now make it more challenging for moms who are ready to return to the workforce. At the very least, career momentum may have been interrupted, which can be challenging to regain.
2. Effects of inflation
Inflation affects us all, across all aspects of our lives. It’s no wonder that rising prices on essentials are affecting moms who are looking to return to the workforce. Gas prices are higher, making it more important to find a job with compensation that is worth the higher price of the commute (or with dependable, well-supported remote and hybrid options). Families are also likely to be dealing with the increased cost of childcare, and when cost is a barrier, it is often mothers who hit pause on careers.
3. Long COVID
Dealing with the effects of “long COVID” is a challenging reality for a percentage of our population. Research and treatment are still in the early stages, leaving many sufferers in limbo: no longer in the acute stage of the virus, but still suffering debilitating symptoms. Exhaustion, breathing difficulties, sensory issues, and aches and pains are symptoms that long-haulers deal with–certainly enough to keep people out of the workforce who would otherwise love to return. A study on “long COVID” recently published in medical journal, The Lancet: Respiratory Medicine, reported only 25% of study participants who had been hospitalized with long COVID reported they were fully recovered five months after discharge, and that women were 33% LESS likely than men to make a full recovery.
4. Feelings of burnout
It’s been tough for all to shoulder the stresses of the past few years. For working moms who temporarily left the workforce, those stresses have included keeping up with ever-changing school plans for their kids, performing more household labor than before, managing physical and emotional caregiving tasks, and stressing about what kind of career they’ll even be able to go back to. There’s a significant concern that going back to work will only add to the stress and burnout, and companies that have not developed a culture of support and flexibility are less likely to attract working moms back into the workforce.
5. Lingering gender bias
The pandemic has shifted some of society’s priorities and thought models, but not all. As we’ve seen, gender bias remains a significant issue, and working moms often find themselves at the intersection of conflicting assumptions. One University of Michigan study, as cited in Forbes, reports the double-bind working moms find themselves in: succeed at work and people make assumptions about the quality of their parenting, or vice versa. For a segment of mothers who have decided to step out of the work world, going back and dealing with these assumptions just isn’t worth it.
About the Author
Nancy Estep-Critchett is a founding Partner of Blue Rock Search, with oversight of the Franchise Practice. She has 30 years of successful working experience as a business advisor and executive recruiter in the franchising space. Nancy has built solid relationships which have spanned decades with industry professionals and internationally recognized brands.
Blue Rock Search is a 100% minority/female-owned executive search firm, an SRA Network member, a Hunt Scanlon Top 10 global recruiting firm, and a member of the Hunt Scanlon HR/Diversity Recruiting Power 65. We specialize in the targeted identification, assessment, and placement of executives across four distinct practice areas: Human Resources, Franchise, Higher Education, and Customer Experience.
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