Balancing professional and parental identities can be challenging. This has particularly been the case over the past year, as a pandemic has turned family life on its head. During this time, working parents have been navigating school closures, remote working, and social isolation. As the boundaries between work and home life have become even more blurred, professional and parental identities have also blurred. With working parents often wearing multiple hats at the same time – worker, parent, and teacher!
Numerous surveys of working parents during the pandemic show that a disproportionate share of the burden is falling on women. And the impact of the pandemic has already been seen in the number of women leaving the labor market. There are fears that COVID-19 is reversing not only progress towards gender equality but also stunting economic growth. As we come out of lockdown, and the workplace becomes whatever the new normal is, it is vital that working mothers’ voices be heard – by managers, leaders, and organizations. We need working mothers to be retained, to help them feel supported and enable them to contribute productively. It is not just about the practicalities of juggling work and home life, but also about supporting the psychological shift too – helping to balance professional and parental identities.
At Hult International Business School, we are conducting the ‘Working Parents Shift’ research project. This project explores the psychological challenges and experiences when making the shift from worker to working parent. The project aims to provide recommendations and practical changes that organizations and individuals can make that go beyond flexible working practices, to ensure that working parents feel supported and organizations retain motivated employees.