As a wife, mother, teacher and now first lady, Jill Biden knows what it's like to be a full-time working parent. But, as she and her husband, President Joe Biden, step into the White House amid a global pandemic, she's aware that many working parents today, especially mothers, are reaching a breaking point.
"Many moms were having a hard time juggling it all before the pandemic," she says in a recent interview for Parents magazine. "Now they can't send their kids to school while they work. There are no playdates to help burn off energy. They've lost the network of family and friends who can help out. And they're expected to supervise remote learning while working or job hunting."
Roughly 9.8 million working mothers in the U.S. are suffering from burnout today, according to a new analysis conducted by Great Place to Work and health-care start-up Maven. Biden, who teaches a lot of working moms as a professor at Northern Virginia Community College, says she often stresses to the mothers in her class that "you have to find moments for yourself."
"You have to," she adds. "We moms spend so much time questioning ourselves — at least I did. We need time to just quiet those voices in our head."
As a longtime educator, who holds a doctoral degree from the University of Delaware, Biden says she remembers the challenges she faced and how she often questioned herself when she was a working mom who was raising young kids while also going back to school. Thankfully, she tells Parents, President Biden was a supportive spouse and whenever she had a paper that needed to be done he "would take the kids somewhere to give me a quiet house."
"I was lucky," she says of the support she received from her husband and extended family when she was raising young kids. "But you shouldn't have to be lucky to raise a family and pursue a career. My hope is that all parents will feel able to work and take care of their families."
Since the pandemic started, one in four women said they have considered downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce due to the impact of Covid-19, according to Lean In and McKinsey & Company's 2020 "Women in the Workplace" report. This increase in the number of women who are leaving or thinking about leaving the workplace is largely due to the caregiving crisis women face, which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic's closure of schools and day care centers.
Mothers are three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for a majority of housework and childcare amid the pandemic, according to Lean In and McKinsey & Company. Mothers are also twice as likely as fathers to worry that their work performance is being judged negatively because of their caregiving responsibilities during Covid.
To help address some of the challenges working mothers face, Biden says she hopes a few key policies will be passed in the near future.
"Equal pay. Affordable, quality child care. Debt-free community college. Paid family leave. And yes, I think we need a sea change," she tells Parents. "Both moms and dads are facing the chaotic reality of working from home while toddlers climb all over them. Essential workers have to go to work every day without anywhere to send their kids. We're seeing how badly we need better balance for us all."