With all the stress of home, work, school AND a global pandemic, how are women managing? We wanted to know! So we asked a variety of women from different backgrounds the same questions. Here's what they had to say.
Amanda Honeywell is a multimedia designer and owner of Hillsdale Marketing Group and Hillsdale Web Design. She and her husband Levi have three sons ages 14, 6 and three months. Their older two children currently attend in person schooling.
Sarah Hartzler is the owner/office manager at Green Energy LP. She and her husband Lynn have three girls ages 12,10 and 2 1/2 . Her older girls are currently being schooled using the virtual school option through Will Carleton Academy.
Carolyn Scholfield is the owner of Happily Ever afTer Wedding & Event Planner, realtor at Playford Real Estate and office manager at M and S Construction. She and her husband Ryan have two children ages 17 and 15. Their kids currently attend in-person schooling.
Olivia Johnson is the administrative assistant for the City of Jonesville. She and her husband Anthony have two children ages 7 and 4. Their kids are currently being schooled by their friend and day care provider by virtual schooling through Jonesville Schools.
Sarah Gray is the content strategist for Hillsdale Marketing Group and a Freelance Writer. She and her husband Jeff have three children ages 13, 11 and 9. Their kids currently attend in-person schooling at Jonesville Schools.
#1: What are some of the challenges facing working moms during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Amanda - For me it was worrying about how I was going to take on teaching my children and still being able to manage my business while having them home. When COVID first hit and schools closed down, I was immediately grateful that I was lucky enough to be able to help my children with their schoolwork during the day. I thought to myself, “how would I have been able to do this if I was still working for someone else 9-5?” Then reality set in and I realized that my kid’s needs were taking over my business’s needs (of course, right). My business wasn’t getting my full attention which caused me to have to completely stop what I was doing and rethink my day-to-day and be honest with myself on how much work I could take on. At that time, I was still pregnant and because I was planning for my littlest to arrive, I was lucky enough to have already thought about my workload and knew that I would be working from home regardless. I’m also lucky enough to have a husband whose job was considered essential so I knew he wouldn’t be laid off and that if it came down to it, our children wouldn’t go hungry. Luckily, school was almost over anyway, so it wasn’t too hard. My business did take a little hit though. Not a lot of businesses want to market themselves during the unknown so there was a moment of pausing invoices for my clients and working with them on their budget plans. I spent some time giving back to my clients with discounts and moving invoices around to give them longer pay periods, that sort of thing.
Sarah H. - The entire balancing act has been a huge challenge. The pandemic has definitely given me a new appreciation for moms who are home with their children all day long. I love my kids with all my heart but those hours that they spent at school/daycare gave me a chance to hang up one of my hats for a bit during the day. Since COVID I feel like I am juggling way too much all at one time. Trying to make sure the older kids get all of their school work done and helping them when they don’t fully understand how to complete assignments. Running a business that was at a very demanding time when COVID first hit and doing all of this while I had a 2-year-old at my feet. I fell into bed every night feeling completely drained and overwhelmed. I lost myself completely during the pandemic and it was an intense struggle to want to get up and do it again the next day.
I believe the pandemic gave working moms an unrealistic expectation, that they should be able to do it all and be joyful while doing it. I finally had to tell myself that it was okay to cry at the end of a frustrating day and that some days I would just have to decide that we were going to take a break from everything for a nice mental and emotional break.
Carolyn - Lack of control. The immediate shock was going from a full calendar; we could barely manage to a three-month clearing where everything canceled. While most were enjoying the life break, it put me into planner overdrive. I quickly typed out my teenage children's every waking hour, creating some "normal" in our home.
Up at 7:30 am
Send out an encouraging message to another
School Day starts at 8am sharp until finished
30 Min dedicated to each Sport
Chores by 8 pm
Family Prayer Time and updates 9 pm
If working adjust times
Mom's plan was not well received. It was my son who spoke up first and firmly but calmly came to me and said “I know why YOU are doing this, Mom, and being on a timed schedule works for you. It is not how I do things. I promise to accomplish all tasks in the day but let me do it my way.” Our daughter expressed the same. I disagreed initially and then realized that we had raised responsible young adults who are capable of managing their day. They were not toddlers anymore, and I would be doing them a disservice if I did not allow them to manage their own time. Especially now since there wasn't a real sense of urgency. I threw away my list and said we would monitor their grades, activity, and progress. If their Dad and I felt any of those were slipping, we would step in. Happy to report, they both maintained a 4.0 while working 30-40 hours a week. Plus, there was no strife.
Olivia - We are a very spiritual family and we are also a very science-based family. So, keeping honest with my kids and giving them age-appropriate information when they ask me about COVID-19 has not been easy – we do our best to stick with facts. I have been looking for our routine since March. Bed times are a lie nowadays.
Sarah G. - For me, it was making sure that my children were learning and I was able to get my work done. During the three months we were home but also in school, time management was difficult for both me and my kids. My kids really missed being in the school environment and there were days it was tough to motivate them to do work. Being their teacher while still being their mom was a tightrope. I realized how confusing and disappointing this time was for them to be away from friends and “stuck” at home, but at the same time I knew there were things they needed to learn and had to get done.
There were times I had to put up an invisible wall around myself, put in my ear buds and focus on the screen in front of me. Luckily my kids are old enough to all be able to tell time so I could say “Mom cannot be interrupted between now and 2 p.m.” and I could attempt to concentrate and get work done. It didn’t always work, and I know they were watching TV or playing video games, but you do want you can for quiet.
I am thankful that we were all able to make it out of that time relatively unscathed. Our family learned that we love to play charades, some of us have a longer attention span with puzzles than others and our favorite show to watch together is Little House on the Prairie.
#2: How do you create a work/home balance?
Amanda - I don’t feel like I do. I still can’t figure it out! I’m a “black and white person” so it’s been a challenge for me to deal with all the chaos of working for myself while being a mom and parent because there is so much gray area. I try to do one thing and it goes all screwy. I have my home office in my middle child’s bedroom (because there is no space for it anywhere else) so it does stop me from working late (most nights). I have a laptop that I work from on my sofa, in my bedroom, in my car! I chose for the kids to go back to in-person learning because I am just not qualified to teach. Teachers are amazing and they will do way better of a job than me. For my oldest, he learns better in the school environment anyway and frankly, I was awful at helping them get their work done back before school was over this past May-June. So, because the kids are either at school or daycare, I am able to work at home soundly (minus when the dogs are barking!).
My housework is so hit or miss. I tell myself that I will clean first thing in the morning. Then I tell myself I’ll clean before I get the kids from school/daycare. Then I tell myself I’ll clean on a set number of days. I usually end up cleaning when I’m not tired or too busy, to be honest. I’m lucky that my kids help out whenever I ask–though reluctantly–and my husband takes on grocery shopping and cooking (most nights–we eat out a lot) as well as cleaning and helping with the kids. He will stay up a night of the week for me watching our youngest so I can get a full night’s sleep and he’ll watch him on the weekends when I need to work to get caught back up.
Sarah H. - It has definitely been a challenge and when we decided to enroll in virtual school this year I knew some positive structure needed to be created. My nature of being a goal driven person makes it easy to create a list of tasks that need to be completed by the end of the day but my nature of being a perfectionist throws a wrench into allowing for forgiveness if I cannot accomplish the things that need to be done.
Honestly, it is a whole lot of Jesus that gets me through each day. I start my day off in prayer and ask God for the strength I need to get everything done. I have also learned to delegate more responsibility to my older children. This year my oldest daughter is handling most of her school work on her own (meaning she knows when she has things due and gets them done without my constant supervision) and she has started doing a lot more around the house.
A little secret I learned a long time ago is that if you and your spouse both work outside of the home and he doesn’t seem to want to pitch in on the housework, you hire a housekeeper. I have a wonderful cleaning lady that comes to my home twice a month to do the deep cleaning that I don’t have time to get to. This has completely saved my sanity since I like my home to be neat and tidy.
I am not a good person to ask about tips for meals because I simply do not enjoy cooking. However, my family does eat and I do prepare meals. My meals tend to be very simple and basic. Frozen pizza happens a few times a week when I am overwhelmed and buying my husband a Blackstone grill for Christmas proved to be a lifesaver since he really enjoys grilling out on it when he is home in time for dinner.
Caroyln - I create mini-days, which means I set a dedicated amount of time for each business/responsibility. Of course, plans change, overlap, or get reprioritized, but the daily order always remains the same. I find consistency is key and I feel accomplished. I'll create little milestones all day such as; I must complete this task before taking a lunch break.
Olivia - Having a very supportive spouse as my partner in keeping focused on our goals. Remembering we are ever changing and what worked for our family last year may need modifications for today.
Meal plans have been a lifesaver, I cook 2-3 meals at a time. This allows us during the week to have lunch for work as well as come home to eat together, to have ample family quality time and time to do a few chores before bed. I also do laundry almost daily. Meals and keeping the house clean in most families can be a challenge and a great source of stress.
Sarah G. - I will fully admit that I am pretty terrible at this. As someone who works from home, I can usually find something to distract myself from getting my work done. I also have learned that when the kids come home from school it is that much more difficult to get anything done.
My new tactic is to set “work hours” at home. So far it has been going pretty well. I’ve only fallen off the wagon a couple of times.
I also find having a visible dinner menu and schedule of the week’s events in plain view helps cut down on the inevitable “what’s for dinner question,” which I loathe. I can just point to the board and keep my smart remark to myself.
#3: What are some ways you take time for yourself? (If you don’t take as much time for yourself as you’d like what are some ways you’d like to take time for yourself?)
Amanda - I really love being creative so even when I have downtime, I still like to jump on my computer and open up a design program! I joke and tell the kids sometimes that “mommy isn’t working, she’s playing video games” because my boys love to play video games (and by boys I mean my husband and our two oldest boys) so when they have downtime that’s something they like to do. I don’t really like to play them, so I’ll sit next to them and work on design projects for clients.
As far as unplugging; I like baths, hanging out with family and friends, going to dinner and the movies or plays, I like to volunteer at our local theatre and once in a blue moon I get my hair done.
Sarah H. - I have ways that I regularly pamper myself. I make regular visits to the hair and nail salon but I recently added getting facials and the occasional massage. While others might consider these things high maintenance, I look at them as time and money being invested into my mental and emotional well being. Having my hair and nails done makes me feel a little more beautiful and my facials are an investment into my skin to help slow the aging process. More importantly, the ladies that I interact with when I have these appointments have become my friends and I look forward to my time with them. I am supporting their business while indulging in a little “me time.”
I also like to read books and write. I am still trying to find time to write a book, which is my ultimate goal but that may be for another time in my life.
Carolyn - My alarm goes off at 5:35 a.m. By 6 a.m., I am in my rocker with my cup of black coffee. I take time for devotional and journaling and then catch up on social media. By 7 a.m. I am preparing for my morning run and workout which I complete by 8 a.m. This is ME time. I don't feel guilty about it. I don't even have an excuse since we have a home gym. On warmer Michigan days, I run outside for the fresh air. Most of my best ideas happen while I am running.
Olivia - I absolutely love to cook so cooking and trying out new recipes has always been my way of taking time for myself. To relax? I really enjoy being outdoors and taking my kids to parks.
Sarah G. - I like to exercise daily. I can listen to the music I like when I run with our dog Molly or watch whatever silly show I want while I lift weights. I have taken exercise classes in the past which are also very fun. I like to read. Sometimes I get so engrossed in a good book I can lose track of time. I also like to cook and bake. Our son has food allergies and I like the challenge of finding new delicious things to make for the family that are free of all his allergens. My new favorite (but extremely time consuming) dish to make are tamales.
#4: What are some ways women can help build each other up and support one another?
Amanda - A little advice I try to give to myself (though I often forget): Stop feeling guilty for not being good enough; good enough to run your own business, good enough to be a mom and wife, good enough of a daughter and friend. Stop being angry for not focusing on your health all the time, for being a crappy cook, for wanting to watch TV. Stop being scared that you’ll look up one day and wonder, “was it all worth it?” That you’ll ask yourself when the kids are all grown, “Did I spend as much time with them as I could have?” Instead, live in the now as much as you can and if you slip up, who cares! Just start over each and every day. Remind yourself what is important in life; family first, work later, money isn’t everything, enjoy what you have today and focus less on what you can have tomorrow. If you can do this for yourself, everything else is gravy.
Sarah H. - I am a huge fan of supporting women owned businesses. All of the ladies that I regularly do business with have become friends to me and that is probably what I love about it most. As a busy working mom I often don’t have time to go shopping but I have found some local boutiques where the ladies have been extremely helpful and make shopping with them effortless.
I recently helped a friend with an online Bible study and that was such an empowering thing to be a part of and gave me a sense of purpose. It was encouraging to see how the comments I would leave gave a sense of hope to other ladies.
What I have found to be true in my life is that when I am having a bad day or going through a hard time, I can find encouragement by doing something kind for someone else. This might be something small like sending them an uplifting message or something greater, like making a care package and delivering it to a friend. Whatever it may be, doing something for others is a quick and easy way to bring myself out of a funk while making someone else feel special.
Carolyn - My word for the year, Connection! Encourage each other and celebrate their victories. Allow each other to be vulnerable and fail. Especially because failing is how we learn and grow. Never judge! Share your stories and how you overcame them. At a minimum, have three people in your life: a mentor, an equal, and a mentee. God spoke to my heart as soon as the stay at home order happened. Other women were struggling and scrolling social media for answers, hope, or just a way to feel better. I had started a Facebook blog page at the start of 2020 because I was trying to overcome my fear of putting myself out there and sharing my testimonies. “I’m not sure why I’m starting this” is what I said in an early recording,”and who knows if anyone will follow.” Well, once the stay at home order started, there was no denying I was supposed to begin to share. And I did. We have about 125 Followers @Carolyns4EJoy It is a place you can see my joys, other victories, and some fantastic nutritional, health advice. Soon I’ll be adding some financial advice.
Olivia - Honestly, I need some help with this, so I’m not sure - I moved here from New York six years ago and have not made many attempts to befriend other women. My approach with the few women I am friends with is understanding and respecting there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach in raising a family. I do a “how’s life” check-in via text or FaceTime and truly let them know I care and they can call on me if I can help in any way. Sharing ideas, there’s also a lot to learning, there’s strength in my many vulnerabilities, we aren’t designed to be these perfect beings.
Sarah. G - First we need to cut ourselves some slack. No one can “do it all.” We all make mistakes. We all have strengths and weaknesses because we are all human. Just because another mom is better at decorating cupcakes or braiding their daughter’s hair does not mean that you are a bad mom and she is a good mom. Just because one woman can get up and speak in front of people or is a great salesperson and you are not does not make one women better than another. We have to stop comparing ourselves. We all have things we are good at doing. We all have fears. We need to celebrate our accomplishments and build each other up when we fall.
Empathy is powerful. We can have confidence without tearing others down. We can be humble without belittling our strengths.
It is a difficult balance for sure but if we can stop comparing ourselves to each other and instead look at each other as our own unique capable amazing person soon we will begin to believe it.
Comment on this post and let us know how you are dealing with being a working mom right now!
Author: Sarah Gray
Sarah Gray is a Content Strategist who has had the opportunity to pursue her passion for journalism and public relations for almost 20 years. She loves learning more about this community which she has lived since 2013 and helping its businesses and community members grow and succeed through the written word...View full profile ›