Research has shown that women have returned to work – but not under the same conditions.
CLEVELAND — It’s a new year, but much of the same old as the pandemic roars into 2022.
We spoke about the added stress faced by working mothers last year in our series The Mother Load – which raised concerns that women are leaving the workforce and therefore losing out on gains towards equality.
Now, research has shown that women have returned to work, but not under the same conditions.
We recently caught up with the four Northeast Ohio moms we spoke with last February. At the time, Laurel Hoffman, Ashley Hall-Green, Jamie Cohen and Reena Goodwin were all reeling from balancing the different demands of their pandemic lives – from job responsibilities to layoffs, new careers and of course, their children.
Now, in 2022, these moms carrying the burden of the pandemic say they’re still feeling the brunt.
“In my head, it’s still 2020,” Hoffman told 3News anchor Sara Shookman last month. “How we have already had another year, it makes no sense.”
But for all that has remained the same, mums we first met a year ago told us they had learned a lot as the pandemic continued.
“I’m definitely out of the headspace of ‘I can’t wait for this to be over,'” Hall-Green admitted. “I think now I’m in the headspace [of,] ‘What can I do to make this even easier?'”
Since our last chat, Hall-Green has taken on a new lead role at East Academy in South Collinwood. She used the routine to balance the needs of her four boys – as well as those of the whole school. And, she says, she knows she’s not the only one finding ways to pivot.
“I think the pandemic, especially when it comes to school and motherhood, has caused us to be more innovative than ever before,” she said.
In the classroom in particular, Hall-Green says the strategic moves are ongoing — forcing funding into schools that desperately needed the resources.
“Teachers literally meet kids where they are right now and do their best to get them where they need to be,” she explained. “Exhausting all resources, and if people knew what exhausting resources look like, I think teachers’ appreciation would be even greater.”
RELATED: The Mother Load: How Can We Help Working Moms?
Goodwin is noticing the innovation in the shift to digital communication across all industries, not just at his own PR Factor company.
“What really came into play was this idea of efficiency,” she said. “One of the really cool good things that kind of came out in COVID is this idea of not necessarily really having a location.”
When we first spoke with Goodwin, she was running her public relations firm from her home in University Heights while caring for her two young daughters, after their daycare centers closed in the early months of the pandemic. Now she and her family are no longer in Cleveland.
“We really needed the support of our immediate family,” Reena told us, “and so we finally decided to, you know, take a risk and move back to my hometown of Cincinnati. COVID definitely influenced our decision to move. I do know that without the pandemic we would have done it under the same circumstances.”
Cohen, a single mother, is so busy with her new job that she hasn’t had time for an interview. She now manages warehouses for a supplier of durable medical equipment. With her daughter in kindergarten at a public school – Jamie told me she found all the school closings and quarantines just as difficult as finding daycare.
“We still don’t really know how long this is going to last,” she said, “and child care is the biggest issue.”
When we first met Laurel, she told us she was still adjusting after being fired from her job. A mother of two young boys, she was grappling with the next step in her career. She has since found a new remote job that she loves and says she has taken control of her mental health as well as her schedule.
When we caught up with Goodwin again last month, she told us her priorities had changed.
“For me, this year was about reclaiming my own.”
Now, she says, she looks at the loss of her job very differently.
“I’m so glad I did it,” she said. most intense parenting experience ever.”
She’s more assertive now – with her time and her needs.
“I just manage my day to make sure I can work when I work and then be a mom when I’m a mom,” she explained.
RELATED: The Maternal Burden: Pandemic stress is disproportionately piling up on working mothers
The stories of these women illustrate how our choices shape our homes, as well as our culture. Researcher Betsey Stevenson of the University of Michigan says that instead of setting women back as we feared, the pandemic could help advance work-life balance for parents.
Stevenson’s report for Brookings and the Hamilton Project last fall shows that only a third of mothers plan to continue working as before, while as many plan to cut their hours or find a less demanding job. In addition, 14% want to pursue a better career.
The great resignation continues – the record demand for workers has empowered the people. These women feel it, and Huffman says it’s about creating boundaries that may not have been in place before the pandemic.
“People can defend themselves a bit more and take the risk of saying, ‘No, I’m taking care of my family,'” she said.
For Goodwin, she sees this as a time to make a lasting impact for all working parents.
“I think it’s definitely a turning point,” she said. “For everyone, for society, not just women.”
Hall-Green says he starts by seeing it.
“We kind of need to know that people can see what we’re doing, because it’s hard, it’s getting hard,” she said. “Moms need recognition.”