Working mothers feeling the pressure a year into the pandemic

Posted at 2:19 PM, Feb 12, 2021

CHICAGO — Nearly a year in, most are feeling the crushing weight of this pandemic, especially working moms. Juggling a career, remote schooling and just the day-to-day can be overwhelming. Experts say the burden on mothers is untenable and something has to give.

For work-from-home business owner and mom Rebecca Nguyen, each day is a delicate balancing act.

“I used to have more of an office area,” said Nguyen. “I worked at a desk that looked out a window and now, I work on our kitchen counter.”

The Chicago mother of three, including two remote learners — a 2nd grader and a 4th grader — admits at times, the pressure has been overwhelming.

“Losing it means screaming pretty loud at my kids, which I always feel bad about. But then it's like, I reached my breaking point that day,” she said.

Research shows that the increased need for child care has put a strain on working parents of both genders, but overall, mothers who have always carried a heavier load continue to do so during the COVID-19 crisis.

“I've definitely had like my struggles and challenges,” said Susannah Lago, the president and founder of Working Moms of Milwaukee, a community engagement support group connecting some 4,000 women.

“It really does come down to like admitting when it's too much and you need assistance and there is no shame in that,” she said.

Experts say a year of remote work, school and isolation is taking its toll on working mothers. They’re tired, and for good reason.

“What happens when we have all those demands on us during a workday? We end up losing our feeling of productivity. We end up feeling a sense of being ineffective,” said Dr. Claire Nicogossian, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University and author of the new book "Mama, You Are Enough: How to Create Calm, Joy and Confidence Within the Chaos of Motherhood."

“There isn't enough support for moms,” said Nicogossian. “And in terms of when do they get a break? When is this going to end?”

Nicogossian, who’s also a mom to four daughters, says it’s critical that mothers understand that they’re not failing.

“Let's give yourself a big pat on the back and highlight your strengths. You know you are a mama warrior, and you are moving forward, and you are doing the best that you can.”

Nguyen says she’ll go for a run or a swim for self-care. But taking care of herself, she says, is not just about her own well-being.

“I can then be available and not have those freak outs,” she said. “To be able to be kind of a solid person that they can feel like ‘OK mom isn't scared, mom feels OK, I'm going to feel OK.’”