As a full-time working mom in America, I have spent the last six years of my life trying to work like I don’t have kids. In those same six years, I have attempted to maintain a safe and loving home for my two young sons and be a good wife.
Then a global pandemic came upon us, and I felt like I was quite literally drowning in the reality of working from the office while everyone else quarantined, trying to figure out who was going to watch the kids, and making sure their basic needs were met. I was sinking to the bottom fast. So fast that it felt like there was an anchor around my feet.
My anxiety hit a scary level, and one day as I texted my husband that maybe I was just a burden to our family, I realized that my mental illness was kicking into high gear and I needed help. Fast.
It’s embarrassing to have to text your boss and say you won’t be back at the office because you are sitting in the middle of your living room having a panic attack during your lunch break.
It shouldn’t be embarrassing. But I was mortified. I felt like I had caused this myself. That this was all my fault.
I was curled in a ball, sobbing, wondering why everyone hated me and if my family really needed me or resented me. And a tiny twinge in my brain was telling me I needed to pull it together because I had to get back for a meeting that wasn’t very important.
I was having a mental breakdown and my brain had programmed me to think of my JOB first? Not make a phone call to a professional that would help me in one of my darkest times?
That’s when I realized how much this entire institution has let women down. We eat lunch at our desks and answer emails in bed at night. We feel guilty for skipping a meeting so we can watch our grade-schooler in his school play. We leave the office at 5 p.m. to pick the kids up from the sitter or daycare and get disapproving looks from others.
Sadly, it took the culmination of a global pandemic and a mental breakdown to help me realize this. I am currently working on reprogramming my brain that I have to care for myself first. I have a lot of bad habits regarding productivity that need breaking.
We deserve better. We deserve flexible and accommodating schedules. We deserve to be paid as much as our male counterparts. We deserve to not be shamed for staying home with a sick kid. We deserve a management team that asks their employees about their mental health and makes it an open conversation.
We are amazing. We shouldn’t be penalized for having children and a job. Or having to take a couple of days off because sometimes we really just need a break.
In the midst of a global pandemic, we deserve respect and understanding.
So let’s start the conversation again. Let’s make them listen. Be progressive. If anything is going to change, we have to make some noise.
Power on, moms. You’ve got this.