The pandemic is wreaking damage on working mothers

The juggler crossed the political divide. Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns was based in Yorkshire with her toddler during the first wave, while her husband – also a Conservative MP – was embedded in his Bristol electorate.

“I was exhausted,” she says. “My team got emails at 2 or 3 am trying to catch up. It was real juggling and very emotional.”

No wonder experts are concerned about the impact of Covid restrictions on women’s careers. Karen Mattison, co-founder of flexible working consultancy Timewise, believes some companies may be deterred from allowing their employees to work from home in the future.

“The past year has shown companies what is possible when it comes to flexible working, but it was no picnic,” she says.

“The forced remote work experiment was unplanned. Some didn’t have the right technique or equipment and had to contend with home schooling.

“Companies may think it’s not working because of the added pressure the pandemic has created. The concern is that many may throw the baby out with the bathwater by deciding that flexible working isn’t working after all, and thereby ignoring all the positives.”

Sam Smethers, former executive director of the Fawcett Society, also has concerns. “The real problem for so many parents, especially women, [is] that we still think of someone doing a good job based on their being there [at their desk]”, She says.

With two children in their twenties and two near-teens, she is experienced at juggling and was always ‘open’ to her supervisors about what she could deliver – she left at 5:30pm to pick up her children but often picked up work in the evenings away.

Baroness Ruby McGregor Smith, who was Mitie’s chief executive until 2016 and has two children, believes this type of arrangement is key to ensuring working women thrive in the post-pandemic world. But being away from work, she says – whether on maternity leave or because of Covid – can lead to a loss of confidence.

“You have a lot more time to think for yourself and to linger… things that we know can shake confidence,” she says. “It certainly did for me.”

The peer endorses asking “how you can work differently” – especially when so many will be in the same boat post-Covid.

“In my opinion, there is no such thing as a super mom who can have everything,” she says. “You can absolutely have a great career and have kids. You may not be able to do everything at once, but you can do it.

Listen to The Telegraph’s new podcast, The Juggling Act, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Join the Telegraph Women Facebook group to discuss The Juggling Act and more. The pandemic is wreaking damage on working mothers

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