Shakespeare turned to poetry when the plague closed the theaters in 1593, and published his popular poem, Venus and Adonis. During another closure in 1606 he churned out King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra. However, Shakespeare didn’t have children sent home from shuttered schools clamoring for attention, emails stacking up waiting for responses, an employer on Slack needing an update, nor vulnerable, aging parents across town needing a grocery delivery.
If there was ever a time that called for you to marshal all of your superwoman strength, it is now.
“Normal” has been suspended for the next few weeks, yet there are more than likely no less than 10 things at any moment that need your attention, and many of the supports you may have relied on are gone. Your daughter’s dance class is cancelled – taking away an uninterrupted hour, your babysitter is also socially distancing, your corner restaurant with quick and easy takeout is closed AND you’re worried about coronavirus, your kids, your parents, your job, and the overall future of everything.
It’s not just maintaining the status quo that’s the issue. According to a recent report from the United Nations, mothers already do 2.6 times as much unpaid caregiving and domestic work than their partners. The current pandemic will only increase those demands, especially when there may be senior parents to care for as well.
Millions of women will face expanding roles at home as Covid-19 spreads. The Guardian writes that, “Study after study has shown that even as women have stepped forward in the workforce, in married heterosexual couples, women still shoulder the bulk of household chores. (A Gallup poll from January found women were more than seven times as likely to care for their children on a daily basis as men in heterosexual married or cohabitating couples.) And 80% of single-parent families are headed by single mothers, according to 2019 US Census Bureau data.”
While things may feel overwhelming, and yes, even scary, now is not the time to panic. It is time to work together and navigate these uncertain times. As Gloria Feldt says, “Realize that uncertainty will always be there, and engage people in moving forward anyway. Taking action is always the best antidote to fear.”
Yes, it is time to take action! As women, we are used to being on the front lines, and today we are perfectly positioned to lead the way. Many of you are now working from home where your children and families, in addition to your colleagues, may be looking to you for guidance, education, and care. In the midst of the chaos, remember to breathe, and trust that you possess the skills and experience to step in, step up, and lead.
Make a Plan – If you all of the sudden find yourself homeschooling, or moving your office to your dining room table, you’re going to have to adapt. Remember, “normal” is not happening right now, so take some time to plan, set a routine, and try to adopt a new normal.
Stay Engaged – If you are working at home for the time being, stay responsive and connected to coworkers. Whether via phone, text, email, Zoom, Slack or other assorted software, these are likely unchartered waters and connection is more important now than ever. This is also time to take a proactive approach where you can. Whether solving problems at work, or weighing in on community issues, your engagement and yes, leadership, can have a long-lasting impact.
Lift Women Up – While we all be in our homes, we are connected. We can still support one another in the workplace, we can drop off groceries for a neighbor if we go out, or we can share resources and entertainment ideas for our children with one another. We can lean on one another virtually and should try to use electronic means to connect with another woman every day. Community matters.
Explore Resources – Do you have a pile of personal and professional development books waiting for you to find the time read them? Get started. It’s also the perfect time to catch up on podcasts, online offerings, and social streaming opportunities. There are plenty of hours to fill – make the most of them.
Relax and Enjoy – there are plenty of reasons to smile and celebrate the human spirit. Get online and watch some of the amazing arts and entertainment offerings that are being streamed during the quarantine. It’s also a good time to laugh. Trust me, those giggling babies and crazy cat videos on TikTok and YouTube are worth their weight in gold. Breathe through the anxiety and take this opportunity to catch up on life, read books, take walks, and connect with those you love.
Dust off your cape because your skills are needed. These are the times when we need to come together as a community to help each other through. Always remember, we’re all in this together, even when it’s wiser not to actually BE together.