62% of Parents Say the Pandemic Hurt Their Careers. Here's How to Recover

by Maurie Backman | Published on Sept. 16, 2021

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Mother working from home with young children nearby

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Many parents struggled to balance work and home life during the pandemic. Here's what to do if your career was impacted.

When the coronavirus pandemic first struck, I, like many of my fellow working parents, felt scared, anxious, and just plain lost. Not only did I have to navigate remote school for my three young children, but I also had to do it while working a full-time job.

Thankfully, my job has always been remote, so working from home wasn't an adjustment for me. But I do know some people who had to quit their jobs last year because their work couldn't be done remotely and they didn't have access to childcare. Now those people are dealing with resume gaps, which can make it more difficult to find another job.

If your career took a hit during the pandemic, you can take some comfort in the fact that you're in good company. A good 62% of parents said that childcare and virtual schooling responsibilities have hurt their careers, according to a recent survey by the American Staffing Association.

That said, childcare was an issue for many parents before the pandemic began. The cost of care has risen to the point where it doesn't make sense for some people to work.

Care.com analyzed data from the Center for American Progress and found that it costs $340 a week, on average, for one child to attend a daycare center. For a family with two children, that increases to $640. All told, a parent with two children needing full-time care 52 weeks a year is looking at spending a whopping $33,280 on daycare alone.

Ideally, the childcare issue will resolve itself somewhat once schools reopen for in-person learning this fall. But the Delta variant could force a lot of schools to go back to remote learning, leaving parents scrambling once again to find care or juggle their household responsibilities with their jobs.

How to recover from a career setback

If your career lost steam during the pandemic, don't despair. If there's a gap on your resume because you had to take time off of work, own it during interviews. No reasonable employer will fault a parent for having to bow out of the workforce to care for their kids during a major health crisis when there were truly no other options.

That said, if you had to stop working during the pandemic due to childcare constraints, it'll help to present prospective employers with examples of productive things you did with your time while you were unemployed. If you made an effort to learn some new skills or keep tabs on happenings in your field, make that clear in your cover letters as well as during interviews.

Also, don't assume that you need to accept a lower salary just because you're coming off a year where your career didn't take top billing. Do some research before you apply for jobs so you know what salary you're able to command. There's nothing wrong with going after a wage that helps you cover your expenses, add to your savings, and meet your financial goals.

Finally, you may want to take the opportunity to make a career change if your current job makes it difficult to juggle work and parenting responsibilities. Even outside a pandemic, maintaining a strong work-life balance is important, so don't deny yourself the chance to better your work situation on a whole.

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