As we near the end of 2020, we wistfully look back to the days now known as ‘pre-Covid’. This deadly virus tiptoed into our country in late January, slowly circulating before steamrolling its way into our homes, communities, and hospitals by early March. The familiar patterns and processes for how we worked, learned, shopped, traveled, and assembled were upended with very little warning back in March. Parents scrambled to stabilize life in their homes, setting up home offices and classrooms as they adjusted to their new roles as teleworkers and co-teachers. What we’d hoped, even prayed, would be a short-term crisis has turned into a real life-changer across the board.

Even before Covid, a survey by Boston Consulting Group found that in 55% of households, women were twice as likely to assume primary responsibility for duties such as cooking and cleaning, in addition to child care and education. Though parents and partners pulled together to try and shoulder the new burdens, it seems the needle didn’t move much once the lockdowns were instituted. Even with two parents working from home, moms reported that they did most of the school-work juggling in this new reality. That was Round One. In September as the new school year got underway, it was being reported that many moms were giving up their jobs altogether to focus on the care and education of their children. This exodus of talent and expertise was one we could ill afford and it will negatively impact the workplace for years to come. One study even projected, it might take a generation for the workforce to recover. Yes, Round Two is packing a powerful punch.

Across the country, many families will struggle to recover, too. Involuntarily leaving a career you’ve worked hard for is tough at any time, whether you’re financially comfortable or struggling. We attribute so much meaning and purpose to our work. Some of us wonder what we’ll do with the knowledge and skills we used to do our jobs. I felt that way 20 years ago when I decided to stay home after my twin sons were born. I was thankful for the time I got to spend with them, but I also felt left out the action. I wondered if and when I could back out there to continue building a career in marketing. I wasted a good bit of time worrying about that, but ultimately forged a new path toward entrepreneurship as a parent educator and consultant. Along the way, I discovered new strengths and learned new ways to apply old skills to new opportunities in business. I recently shared my experience as a contributing author to an anthology entitled Courageous Enough to Launch, featuring the stories and strategies of women entrepreneurs. To mothers out there who have made the difficult choice of leaving their jobs during this pandemic, I say “Don’t feel counted out; make this moment count!”

Here are just a few strategies to reinvent yourself and get into position for your next act:

Meet this moment. Provide the support and stability your children need at this time. Treasure the time you have to contribute to their education in ways you didn’t have to before. Those Aha moments are special. When schools reopen, you won’t capture as many.

Take stock. What brings you joy? Find ways to preserve or bring that back into your life, even on a limited scale for now. Eliminate time wasters and habits that deplete your emotional and physical energy. Focus on what’s important now for the WIN.

Keep growing. What talents do you already have and how can they help you pursue new goals? Focus your attention on just a few skills and refine them. What are new areas you might want to explore? Research ways to slowly build your body of knowledge in those areas. Online learning can be convenient and expand access to more resources. Connect with people who already know what you want to know and do what you want to do.

Remember, your children will not depend on you to this extent, forever. As they become more capable and responsible, you will have more time to devote to yourself. Continuously invest in yourself, so you will be ready for make your next move. Mother’s work matters and her dreams do, too.

Carol Muleta is an author and creator of The Parenting 411® delivering “information parents need from sources they can trust.”

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