5 data points show the career-stifling decisions working moms had to make over the last year

working mom
  • Working moms polled by Morning Consult and the New York Times turned down career opportunities this year.
  • From forgoing new responsibilities to quitting altogether, the pandemic hit working mothers hard.
  • Turning down those opportunities could also impact their future earnings and quality of life.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The pandemic revealed just how thin the line between work and life is for American parents. Without adequate childcare, women in particular were forced to make some tough decisions this year that could harm their careers for years to come, according to new data out from the New York Times.

Throughout the pandemic, women have had to step back from professional life, with many exiting the labor force altogether, as childcare – and lack thereof – became an even greater issue across the economic spectrum. As Insider’s Ben Winck reported, JP Morgan said that a full economic recovery may not be enough to fully address gender gaps that the pandemic worsened. UBS said that school closures – alongside COVID fears – are the primary drivers behind labor shortages.

In a poll of 468 working moms the NYT and Morning Consult found:

  • 16% “did not pursue a promotion”
  • 23% didn’t apply for any new roles
  • 28% turned down new work responsibilities
  • 33% clocked fewer hours due to childcare issues
  • 20% went part-time

Moms of all economic classes worked less due to lack of childcare

Whitney Pesek, director of child care policy at the National Women’s Law Center, told Insider that the pandemic has been unique in impacting women across the board – previously, lower-income women were disproportionately impacted by childcare availability because they would generally have more unpredictable schedules or live in areas with less childcare available. While the issue of childcare was felt differently along income lines, “now we’re seeing more middle and high-income women also sounding the alarm about childcare because of the lack of slots.”

A study from the NWLC and Columbia University researchers found that making affordable childcare accessible to all who need it would boost the number of full-time working women with young kids by 17%.

An impact on future earnings could leave women further behind

Pesek said that women getting pushed out of the workforce, or having to take time off, doesn’t just impact them in the short-term: They’re also accumulating less income and savings for later in life.

“The double edged sword of that is that, while women end up with less retirement income than men, they also tend to usually need more retirement savings because women tend to live longer than men,” Pesek said. “Women are more likely to be single later in life and have higher health costs than men as they age.”

Women opting out of opportunities, or leaving the workforce altogether, could exacerbate already-persistent wage gaps. Those wage gaps also have their own share of inequity, with women of color facing even lower wages than many of their white counterparts.

“I think that we’re going to be studying the outcomes of this pandemic on women in the workforce for decades,” Pesek said.

While the fall of 2021 has loomed as a potential return to “normalcy” and work – especially as schools and childcare centers prepare to reopen – the rise of the Delta variant could also be threatening that.

“Women are having to rethink the plans again that they possibly laid for the fall thinking that there was light at the end of the tunnel and that they were going to be able to get back on track,” Pesek said.

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‘Pandemic anger’ was getting in the way of my career. Here are 5 tips that have helped me refocus while working from home

baskets. Melissa Petro
Author Melissa Petro with one of her kids.

  • Melissa Petro is a freelance writer based in New York where she lives with her husband and two small children.
  • During the pandemic, she says she’s had to find new ways to manage her anger and negativity.
  • Petro says she’s learned to take a step back, try to empathize, and lean into her “softer feelings.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In 2018, a Gallup poll found that more Americans were stressed, worried, and angered compared to the previous year. Considering all we’ve dealt with in the past three years, it’s reasonable to speculate that this statistic has skyrocketed.

In the last year alone, political divisions and “panger” – an actual term coined for “pandemic anger”- have put many Americans in a constant state of fight or flight.

I’m as angry as most people – and I’d say justifiably so. But as a mom of two toddlers struggling to keep my family safe and maintain a freelance writing career without the luxury of childcare, I don’t have time to argue endlessly on Twitter or bicker with my husband over whose turn it is to walk the dogs. I know that if I blow up at my toddler, the situation will only escalate. Although we may disagree on some issues or choose to behave differently (particularly when it comes to COVID protocols), I can’t afford to make an enemy of my neighbor or lose a valued friend. And so when my anger begins to feel unhealthy and unproductive, I make a concerted effort to let it go.

Below are the steps I take to let go of my anger so that I can focus on my family and be more productive at work.

1. I feel my feelings

Anger is a natural emotion, and there can be upsides to feeling it. Justifiable anger, for example, incited Black Americans and their allies to act on their beliefs and form what may be the largest political movement in US history. But even righteous anger can overwhelm and make a person behave irrationally when they don’t regulate their emotions. Anger can even make you sick, exhausting our bodies and weakening the immune system.

That’s why, when I feel my temperature begin to rise, I’ve learned to do the opposite of the urgency my body seems to be demanding. Instead of rushing headfirst into conflict, I consciously slow down, stop, and return to my emotions. Experts say that acknowledging and experiencing our emotions may prevent them from spiraling out of control. To be sure, in my experience, simply noticing my physical response and identifying the feeling can diffuse the situation enough and allow me to refocus on my work.

2. I seek out emotional validation

Of course, noticing a frustration doesn’t always make it go away – especially in the era of the coronavirus. With so many of us working from home under lockdown and deprived of many of the usual sources of pleasure and release, experts say it’s easy to get stuck in a negative mood.

To prevent minor annoyances from adding up and compounding into major resentments, I pick up the phone and call or text a friend. Licensed psychologist Guy Winch explained on Psychology Today why seeking out people who will understand, relate, and take your side is a good coping tactic.

“When we tell someone why we are extremely angry or upset and they totally get it truly,” Winch said, “it effectively validates our feelings. As a result, we experience tremendous relief and catharsis.”

3. I log off social media

I can tell my anger is misdirected when it seemingly arises out of nowhere, or when it’s disproportionate to its trigger. My husband catches a lot of undue flak, but my favorite place to misdirect my anger is online.

Whenever I feel a strong urge to lash out on social media, I try and pause first to consider whether or not my reaction is rational. Am I really angry at my cousin’s husband’s work colleague for posting a photo of themselves enjoying a round of drinks at a bar with their friends? Or is it more that I am mad at the fact that I, too, long to return to indoor dining, but we’ve made the personal choice to stay home until we’ve gotten our vaccines?

In these moments, I remind myself that a snide or self righteous remark will only make me feel worse, and that no amount of back and forth is going to make me feel better. At some point – hopefully before I injure a relationship – I log off and turn my attention back to work, or my kids.

If the pandemic has weakened your self discipline, there are also useful apps you can use to block social media.

4. I try to empathize with whoever’s angering me

Don’t get me wrong – whatever the disagreement, I like to think that I’m right. But, according to experts on intellectual humility, it makes us feel better when we accept we could be wrong.

Intellectual humility is an ability to meet opposing views with curiosity. It means setting aside your preconceived notions and being open to learning from the experiences of others.

Even in instances when you’re certain and strong in your conviction, it’s beneficial to recognize and regard another person’s opinion. Empathy – that is, putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes – “is one of the great teaching tools in shaping anger and aggression,” said Dr. Hans Steiner, a Stanford professor who’s spent decades studying anger and aggression.

5. I feel my softer feelings

While anger is classified as one of the four primary emotions (along with joy, sadness, and fear), it is often expressed in secondary ways. For example, I felt sad and fearful when I read a third surge of covid is hitting Michigan, and then I got mad to learn that one probably cause for the uptick is the fact that residents are moving about almost on par with pre-pandemic levels, taking far more “non-essential” trips than they did at the depths of the second wave in December.

While aggression may feel safer than the softer, more vulnerable emotions like sorrow or worry, it separates us from others and makes us feel more alone. Softer emotions, on the other hand, are key in building intimacy, coming together around a problem, and preventing polarization. In other words, don’t get mad, get clear – and then carry on with your workday.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I made $490,000 launching a maternity clothing brand during the pandemic. I also experienced a personal loss. Here’s what it taught me.

Elle Wang
“When nothing seemed to be going my way, I learned to pivot,” says founder Elle Wang.

  • Elle Wang is the founder and creative director of New York-based clothing brand Emilia George.
  • She was working full-time from home, caring for her toddler, and running her clothing business at night in early 2020.
  • After a miscarriage in June, Wang says she made changes to her strained schedule to prioritize her health.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

I first had the urge to create high-end maternity workwear when I was seven months pregnant in February 2019. I was working full-time, and felt simply pushed over the edge by the uncomfortable clothing I wore to work everyday – the first thing I did when I got home was get naked. 

Elle Wang
Models wearing dresses from the Emilia George Debut Collection.

I’d always enjoyed fashion and would go to fashion week shows when I had a chance, but I had zero background, contacts, or training in clothing and design. Since I had no idea how to draw, I worked with several independent designers to create maternity collections.

After giving birth and spending months turning my idea into a reality, we officially launched Emilia George on December 10, 2019. 

A few months later, COVID-19 hit.

I had barely introduced my business to potential customers across Manhattan. My husband and I had to quickly pull our child out of daycare and began working from home for our full-time jobs.

Soon, I began receiving emails from production partners and fabrics suppliers saying they’d be closed for the unforeseen future. Promising retailer partners told me that all new brand onboarding had to stop. 

At the same time, I was taking care of our 1-year-old son in a city filled with sirens and horrific numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths. It took a toll on me, and I wanted to quit many times. 

When nothing seemed to be going my way, I learned to pivot.

As I bootstrapped my business, production partners closed and major retailers barely stayed afloat. I had enough reasons to shut down Emilia George over and over again once the pandemic began, but I didn’t. 

Instead, I cut down costs by completely halting digital marketing spend on Facebook and Instagram. The only partner I kept was my PR team, who proved instrumental in driving brand awareness during such a strange time. 

When we entered April 2020, we decided to make face masks to help alleviate the shortening supply. The launch was covered by sites like Vogue and Elle, and soon we were flooded with orders. We sold over $40,000 worth of masks alone in May. 

In June, the National Institutes of Health asked us to make customized masks for their employees – one of which Dr. Anthony Fauci wore at a Senate hearing in September. 

fauci nih
Dr. Fauci wearing the mask made by Emilia George in September 2020.

While it helps to be a lean startup, being a one-woman show came with hardships.

After we began working from home, my husband and I had planned to conceive again. But we weren’t prepared to do our jobs while taking care of our toddler full-time from home. Being the founder and CEO of a new one-woman startup was exhausting on top of childcare, and my day job being a partnerships and strategy advisor at the United Nations.

Most days, it was only after 7 p.m. that I finally had big chunks of time to work on Emilia George, from fulfilling orders to talking to my production partners and suppliers in Asia. At the height of the pandemic, I often had to fill orders until 1 or 2 a.m. before I could even think about going to bed. 

My production partners overseas in Italy and China often asked me if I ever slept. I did – just not that much. For a good few months, I was only sleeping for around four hours a night. 

I had a miscarriage in June.

I always wondered if my crazy work hours and stress had caused it. When I got pregnant again a couple of months later, my husband and I were determined to make changes to better safeguard our health needs as a family.

Elle Wang
Wang’s baby’s gender reveal Zoom party during quarantine.

We found a live-in nanny to help with childcare and hired additional team members to help with Emilia George’s operations. Now, we have a team of six awesome women, and are continuing to grow.

As my accountant was about to close the books for 2020 – Emilia George’s very first year – I noticed our gross revenue: over $490,000. To make sure my being 29 weeks pregnant hadn’t resulted in some numerical error, I double checked with her. It was true: I’d made nearly half a million dollars from launching a pregnancy clothing line during COVID-19, all with a toddler at home and a baby on the way, not to mention while managing a full-time job.

While I was surprised and happy by this success, I knew it came as a result of countless hours of behind-the-scenes work and dedication that was far from easy.

I’ve learned the best thing I can do to support other entrepreneurial women is to share my story.

Elle Wang
Wang’s son at Emilia George’s new HQ in Tribeca.

I understand the work and perseverance it takes to grow a startup as a working mom. So many people have fantastic ideas, but finding that initial investment can be incredibly daunting. When it comes down to it, the better connected we are, the more we can do. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Read the original article on Business Insider