Women at work (copy)

Participants mingle during a Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network event in New York City.

It’s still dark out as I enjoy the calm before the storm, but the house is starting to stir. One of my 8-year-old twins pokes me in the arm and loudly “whispers” in my ear, “MOM IS IT THE WEEKEND?”

Ugh. Is it the weekend…that’s a good question? I had no idea.

A few hours later, the house is buzzing with lively zoom lessons, homework scattered on the floor, and our large, very large, and loud dog incessantly barking at the Amazon delivery guy down the block.

The phone is propped against my ear for a team conference call while I create a Happy Plate (my term for random food thrown on a plate they might eat) for their mid-morning snack. My husband yells down from upstairs that he can’t find the laptop charger and I yell back, “I’m ON a call, we have 43 of them around the house for goodness’ sake!” My 11-year-old shouts at me from behind her laptop, obviously embarrassed, “MOM I’M NOT MUTED!”

Ugh, neither am I. I can hear my team laughing in the phone.

For almost a year now, working parents across the globe have been sharing stories like these, juggling kids, school, jobs, sanity. What started as a two-week sprint, has stretched into an impossibly difficult marathon. We don’t even know what mile we’re on, either. I haven’t found much scientific data on how this is affecting us and our kids, but the word on the street (and social media) is clear; it’s crushing.

Science Daily reports half of parents are hovering between eight and 10 on the stress scale, and another study reports a third of moms say their emotional state is terrible.

We’re coping by binging Netflix, living off fast food delivered to our doorstep and constantly negotiating screen time requests from our kids. We’re also using alcohol for relief from the pandemic at skyrocketing rates — a 41% increase in binge drinking episodes since March.

We’ve lost jobs; we’ve lost loved ones; we’ve lost our patience and our optimism. COVID has stunted our 2019 booming economy and brought our kids’ growth, both in school and socially, to a grinding halt.

To add insult to injury, our country is in a “shecession” for the first time ever. A what you say? Shecession is a COVID-created word for an economic downturn that affects more women than men.

More than 11 million women have lost their jobs and another 2.65 million have left the workforce since last February, according to an IWPR analysis of U.S. Labor Department data.

Nicole Riehl, president of Colorado’s Executives Partnering to Invest in Children, recently pointed out “working women with children, disproportionately women of color, are leaving the workforce in droves due to demands placed on families during this pandemic.”

This all adds up to a looming problem that the longer women stay out of work the more difficult it is for them to return to the work. That has an effect on long-term earnings.

I’m proud to be on the board of directors of an organization that is devoted to using data to break down tough issues like this here in Colorado, the Common Sense Institute. The data tells a frightening story for working women right now.

“According to the latest numbers, the ‘shecession’ continues,” Kristin Strohm, the free enterprise research institute’s president and CEO said in a statement. “For months, the economic realities of the pandemic have served as a siren call to policy makers and elected officials. Without intentional action to address the barriers that are keeping women out of the workforce, our economy cannot fully recover.”

“This means that just over one in every 10 mothers who was in the labor force before the pandemic, was no longer actively participating in the labor force in November,” Strohm noted.

CSI also found that Colorado’s economy worsened over the holidays, recording higher unemployment insurance claims, lower average monthly wages for women and the total number of jobs.

It’s going to take years to make up the progress working moms have made. Reports say our labor force participation has increased over time, but even a 5% continued dip could erase 25 years of progress.

So, what’s a zoomed out, stressed out, home-schooling working momma to do?

Give yourself some grace. Forget the scary stats and focus on the task at hand, one minute at a time. Lean on your friends and know that the marathon will indeed end. And ohhh the stories we’ll tell our great grandkids about the year the world came to a screeching halt, figuratively, but not literally as moms got the job done — at work and at home.

Heidi Ganahl is a businesswoman, entrepreneur, author and at-large member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, to which she was elected as a Republican in 2016.

Heidi Ganahl is a businesswoman, entrepreneur, author and at-large member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, to which she was elected as a Republican in 2016.

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