Working parents are pretty well-versed in presenting a polished facade to the world, even when the truth is a little more, ahem, messy—and that’s especially true now.
Thanks to a pandemic that’s forced many of us to simultaneously work from home while taking care of our kids, the line between our professional and personal lives has been nearly erased. Still, there are times when we try to maintain appearances. A now-viral tweet by an environmental engineer and mom of two is hilarious proof of just how much we’re pretending—and barely hanging on.
Gretchen Goldman, Ph.D., the research director at the Center for Science & Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, went on CNN’s Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer to explain why she disagrees with the appointment of David Legates to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (NPR says “Legates has a long history of using his position as an academic scientist to publicly cast doubt on climate science.”) In the interview, Dr. Goldman looks perfectly polished in a yellow blazer, with a sofa and some family photos in the background.
But the mom took to Twitter to share two side-by-side photos that just might be the ultimate “TV vs. Reality” reveal. “Just so I’m being honest,” she posted, along with a photo of her sleek TV appearance next to one that showed the truth: She’s paired her blazer with bike shorts, her laptop is precariously propped on a chair—which is propped on a table—and she’s surrounded by children’s toys scattered across the floor.
“I wanted to be honest about the reality that many moms are facing now,” Dr. Goldman told Working Mother. “We are being expected to do the impossible and it is laughably infeasible. I think we should be open about that struggle. Working moms are always expected to manage it all, and the pandemic has worsened that.”
The funny photos quickly went viral, but Dr. Goldman made sure to issue a set of follow-up tweets explaining why the reality for working parents right now is actually quite grim.
“The pandemic is exacerbating inequities and struggles that parents—especially moms and especially moms of color—have long felt. Our entire support network has been ripped from under us,” she explained.
She’s absolutely right: Only one in seven kids are attending in-person school full-time right now, and without financial support from Congress, experts estimate that 40 percent of daycares across the country will permanently shutter. That puts working parents in a precarious position, trying to MacGyver a childcare solution that doesn’t do a disservice to our kids or our career.
“Parents shouldn’t be gaslit into thinking they can hack their way out of this. We can create a facade of professional Zoom backgrounds but the problem is much bigger and it shouldn’t be on us to fix it,” she continued. “Our political leaders, our institutions, our employers must step up and ensure that parents in STEM and other fields aren’t taking career penalties.”
She shared a set of recommendations for employers she wrote to minimize career penalties for parents in STEM fields right now, with solid suggestions such as providing flexible hours and deadlines, hiring additional staff to support productivity and encouraging staff to use any paid time off available to them.
“In the meantime,” she concluded, “shout out to my fellow moms getting it done, with or without the support we need.”
Amen, Dr. Goldman.