Dear Millennial Mom,
How are you holding up? I’ve seen you doing the juggle: Working from home, managing the emotions of your family, and overseeing the remote schooling of your kids.
I am in awe of you. Each time I see you I send gratitude out to the Universe that my kids are older and independent when it comes to schoolwork.
Like everyone else, I’ve read the recent articles in The NY Times, The Atlantic and elsewhere about how women with kids are leaving the workforce in droves because the challenges of managing both their jobs and their children’s remote schooling during the pandemic is just too great.
If this were several years ago, I would have wanted to grab you by the shoulders and tell you to stick it out. That yes, it could come close to breaking you, but it will be temporary. I would have asked you to think about how this mass exodus is going to set women back (yet again). I would have told you to consider how workplaces will suffer because you’re not there taking up space, adding your value, and that it will be at least 10x harder than you think to get back into it.
You see, not that long ago, I was regretting my own decision to step out of the workforce to care for my family. 16 years ago, when faced with unplanned obstacles in the road (to clarify: my twins were planned, the obstacles were not), I stepped away from my career figuring it would be just a couple of years. I naively thought that I could resume where I left off when I was ready. But each year away made it more challenging to re-enter.
I started my resume writing business when my kids began kindergarten as a way to fill the gap on my resume. At one point, it became clear that I wasn’t going to get back into the traditional workforce. I was in candidate purgatory having both too much experience as a business owner and not enough traditional experience. It was then that I went through a grief process of sorts, punctuated by a lot of regret. I questioned my choices.
But the point of this is not to bring you down. There is an upside to this story: That grief process was necessary. It was only once I was able to let go of all my this-was-how-it-was-supposed-to-be plans, that I was able to actually think about what I really wanted. I stopped blaming the conditions that caused me to step away from my career and started to take ownership of my past choices. And most importantly, I realized that the boxes potential employers wanted me to fit into were too confining for me.
I made plans again. They didn’t look like the plans I had earlier in my career—they were more open-ended, and less about what already existed. Once I realized I could create my own opportunities, I was able to explore what was possible. I also found that my own experience of trying to re-enter the workforce was valuable to others: It made me really good at working with women relaunching their careers. I understood the pitfalls and the care-giver biases they were facing and had learned from the missteps that I had made. I soon relished being an entrepreneur and built a business that now focuses on helping people in transition launch new careers.
As I worked with more and more women who wanted to return to work after caring for families, something became clear: We women are resilient. I saw client after client taking control of her career, with the full knowledge of what she wanted, being selective about how she proceeded. And through networking organizations, I met countless female business owners who created their businesses after traditional corporations failed at meeting their needs. It’s no surprise the number of women-owned businesses increased by 21% between 2014-2019, compared to 9% for all businesses. It will take some time before there is parity, but these female-owned businesses are the ones that have been most agile in responding to the pandemic challenges, by supporting their workforce with innovative solutions.
There’s no doubt many of today’s businesses have failed you. Don’t let anyone make you think you are the one to blame here. Until corporate America realizes childcare is infrastructure, they will continue to fail female workers. But here’s the thing: It’s their loss.
You, on the other hand, will come out of this stronger.
A Gen X Mom
If you are a mom who has stepped away from your career because of pandemic-related challenges, the next cohort for my “Mind the Gap” Empowerment Group will be starting soon. Click here to be added to the waiting list.