Over the weekend I listened to a radio program discussing the significant gap in the impact the pandemic has had on men and women navigating a stay at home mandate. Admittedly, the program focused on Women and their experience, but those interviewed shared a perspective that felt all too familiar to me, and I would imagine, to most women taking care of a family, a job, and last but not least, themselves.
Increasingly, our news cycles are covering the pandemic for not only the health and economic impact to individuals and families, but the impact on the mental health of first line workers, displaced workers, and parents faced with homeschooling their children. The pandemic has further reached those fortunate enough to be able to work from home, keeping their income intact, but not necessarily protecting them from the blow that Covid has brought upon us.
Throughout my career, I have both observed and experienced the stress that women face to “do it all”. We challenge ourselves to be the best mother, the best spouse or partner, the best employee, the best friend, etc. When we feel that any one of these responsibilities fall short, we often believe we have failed. Couple this pre-existing mindset with the additional stress of a pandemic and the feeling of being pushed to the brink will inevitably surface. We are considered the primary caregiver for our children, we battle our own guilt of “shortchanging” our children to pursue a career, we work extremely hard to convince our employers that we are “serious” about our career and have the superpowers to easily manage work and home without letting anything drop. We count on our children’s teachers, daycares, and after school programs to help us with that balance. We race from work to pick up to practices, back home to prepare dinner, help with homework, and then get our kids to bed. We end the days exhausted, five days a week. Gone are the days of doing things for ourselves, spending “adult” time with our spouses, or planning get- togethers with friends.
In the midst of this latest challenge, women find themselves stretched even further. What is ironic is how many times women have told themselves ‘if only I could work from home, I could keep all of the balls in the air’. Our houses would be spotless and organized, we would be ultra efficient with our work, meals prepared every day, kids picked up on time, etc., etc., etc. The truth, however, is that we are trying to achieve the impossible, and losing more than ourselves in the process. Add on the worry of contracting Covid19, protecting our children, ourselves, and often our elderly parents from exposure, and the stress that we have been carrying for so long reaches a breaking point.
For me, my practice provides me the opportunity to work with many women who find themselves in transition, be it retirement, divorce, loss of a spouse or otherwise. The help that I bring to them is the ability to lean on me to navigate through their financial and planning circumstances to give them the confidence that they will be “ok” and that they have someone to guide them through the next phase of their lives. It is truly a privilege to fill that role for them. After listening to the radio program this weekend, however, I found myself asking what else I can do. What skills do I have that could help other women feeling the stresses of today’s challenges? Helping them not by using my professional expertise, but as a colleague, a peer, a friend, and most importantly, a woman who may know exactly how they feel or what they are going through. What I have come to realize through listening to the voices of women is that we have the most important gift to be able to help each other….empathy and more than likely, the experience of wishing that someone understood what we were going through. When we are at our lowest, to have someone remind us how amazing we are!!! When we feel like a failure, to have someone remind us of all our successes. When we are unkind to ourselves and don’t give ourselves a break, to have someone step in and help carry the weight.
As we try to somehow find some good during this unprecedented experience, my hope is that as women we learn to lean on each other more, not only when we find ourselves in crisis, but in our day to day lives. That we learn to lift each other up, to be less judgmental, and more inspirational. That we remember that it might be us one day feeling that overwhelm, and that our kindness will come back to us. That we realize that the joy of helping each other will ultimately lift us all.
“Please remember to check in on your strong friend, your busy friend, your happy friend, your ‘seems to handle everything well’ friend.”