Women And Money: The Motherhood Penalty And The Pandemic

By: Lindsey Deinhardt, Director of Organizational Development

A mother tries to work from home with her child doing homework beside her

If you are curious about the life of a working mom during a pandemic—here it is…

Remote learning. Working from home. Snacking. Managing simultaneous virtual meetings. Monitoring screen time. Multitasking. Snacking. Sharing funny stories on Zoom snafus. And of course… the constant snacking.

We are a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and as families, we’ve created a “new normal” with new routines, established new expectations, and have learned to stock up on toilet paper and snacks. We also know this year has been difficult on all of us—mentally, physically, and of course, financially.

It seems we have all aged a decade in 2020, right?

Impacts of the Pandemic

Levity aside, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll reveals that 53% of Americans report that their mental health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. In the same poll, women with young children are most affected by this stress. If anything, the pandemic has exposed flaws in the societal mindset about parenthood and working—most particularly impacting the working mother.

According to the 2018 US Census, full-time working women were making an average of 81.6 cents for every dollar their male counterparts made.

Not only that, women make up the majority of the workforce in which the pandemic has affected most—retail and service. With lockdowns of schools and the affected industries, it almost seems as if women have had no choice but to stay at home due to lack of childcare and/or income. While this has affected families as a whole financially, again, the working mom has shouldered the majority of the family burden.

I count myself as fortunate, as I have been able to transition to working from home while receiving support in terms of childcare. Even still, I’ve had to manage 12+ hour days where I am participating in meetings or working on projects, parenting, facilitating my children’s online learning, and all the while maintaining the home. And I had help! Though this is my experience, I am keenly aware I may be in the minority. I would like to highlight a couple of other experiences.

The “Motherhood Penalty”

A mother recently shared with me that she is a mother of 5 children, a small business owner, AND she was working a professional job. With the back and forth between in-person/virtual schooling, she stated she “received a lot of negative feedback from teachers about [her] kids’ grades and missing assignments, to the point [she] told one teacher [she] was doing her best and [the] response was ‘Your best isn’t good enough.’” In the end, the stress took its toll on this mother, and she had to quit her professional job to manage all her kids’ schoolwork at home. Furthermore, her small business went two months with no sales. Because of this, her family is struggling financially.

Another mom shared that in her corporate job, “burnout on both the job front and home front is hard to avoid and [she is] essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul week to week to stay afloat! [In addition], it is hard being isolated during all of this too, and the last time [she] was in [her] office and saw [her] team was March 2020… There isn’t enough support or time in the day to accomplish all of the things that are still being expected even when we (as society) see that parents/moms are operating on far less support than even with far more demands.”

Thus, these two testimonies depict the “motherhood penalty,” and they are only two stories of the countless for working mothers everywhere. The last thing we tend to think about is ourselves. Mother or not, self-care is so important in order for us to give more at work, at home, or both… and self-care includes your financial well-being.

I am a new employee at BALANCE and one of the things that has been an indicator that I made a great career choice is the mission. 

Everyday, BALANCE provides the tools, education, and coaching to empower women financially. 

We are helping them build budgets to manage their homes, we are addressing credit and debt issues, we are talking about student loans, and focusing on building assets.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we invite you to consider ways you can empower and support the women you serve and employ. 

We are here to help.

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