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Ginny Ziegler, Chief Marketing Officer, Accenture North America, with her two sons and puppy.
This post was originally published on LinkedIn.
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Early in my career, most working parents were tight-lipped about their kids. Leaving work early for soccer games or teacher meetings came with a risk: You could be pegged as “too distracted” with your family life.
Many businesses became more tolerant over the years. Accenture even hired me while I was eight months pregnant. Still, I often found myself trying to disguise baby wails in the background of my conference calls.
This year on National Single Parent Day in the U.S., I am thinking about how the pandemic opened the parenthood curtain wide. There’s no hiding the working parent juggling act, especially those of the 13.6 million U.S. single parents (US Census Bureau), like me, who wear all the hats all the time—tutor, coach, chauffeur, short order chef, entertainment director and much more.
My two young boys make constant guest appearances during my video meetings, flashing light sabers, asking for passwords and reporting various sibling infractions. Meanwhile, my howling COVID-era puppy supplies the cacophonous soundtrack to the mayhem I call home.
The bad, the good and the bright side
On the one hand, opening the book to parents’ constant plate spinning opened up opportunities for organizations to evolve and take support for working parents to new heights.
On the other hand, the persistent drumbeat of news about workers the pandemic left behind makes me worry about the massive number of parents, especially single moms and dads, among them.
No access to childcare. Asking one too many times to leave early to deal with a family crisis. Quitting in order to care for their children who haven’t gone to school in a year and to keep some semblance of balance in their homes. It adds up to too many talented people on the sidelines.
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"We can all take actions to lift up working parents and help them strike a balance."
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Even as the tide of an improving economy rises, it is not lifting all people. Recent government data shows that significantly fewer African American, Black and Hispanic women are employed now than any other demographic, according to a recent New York Times article.
But as a fierce advocate for all working parents—moms and dads, single and attached—I am optimistic that the weaknesses our systems revealed are not irreparable if we take action to close a gap deeply widened by the pandemic.
It’s encouraging to see organizations stepping up. At the federal level, the new stimulus plan includes a variety of support for parents and children. That could have a massive impact on single parents, given that 23 percent of children under 18 years old in our country live with one parent and no other adult. That’s the highest percentage in the world.
On the private side, many businesses are becoming less rigid about schedules, helping with childcare and expanding employee assistance programs. I’m lucky to work for a company that is setting a shining example.
Accenture provides school-day supervision for children ages 6-12, financial support for dependent care, flexible working hours, a virtual tutoring exchange and a host of other resources. Accenture also partnered with The Mom Project to help moms remain in, and reenter, the workforce.
Gaining lost ground
Compassion, collaboration and understanding go a long way. I know I’m not alone among leaders at Accenture who are helping to create vital support systems among parents. Honestly, I would be lost without the new sister-and-brotherhood that emerged among working parents at Accenture. We commiserate, share tips and even have virtual events that include our families.
This National Single Parent Day isn’t just another awareness day. It’s an opportunity. One we cannot afford to waste.
We can all take actions to lift up working parents, help them strike a balance so they can build their careers, rally for more support from legislators and open our minds to new ways of shouldering some of the load. If we do, I’m confident we will gain much more than we give.
Nobody should ever have to feel penalized for being a working parent and doing the right thing for his or her child.
Be valued for your whole self and make a difference with the work you do, every day. Join us.
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