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Kansas City metro mothers explain difficulty in leaving workforce

Devon Torrez.png
Posted at 10:11 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 13:16:30-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The COVID-19 pandemic forced people out of jobs and made others re-think how they want to work. Some made sacrifices to help the entire family. For women, it's been more of a challenge.

Some had to quit their jobs to help their children through school, without paying for a teacher or putting them in child care.

A new report by McKinsey & Company, an organization focused on helping companies create a diverse culture, found that approximately 33% of mothers have chosen to downshift their career or leave their jobs altogether. Reasons include added responsibilities like virtual schooling.

Several mothers in the Kansas City metro told 41 Action News it was a struggle to balance family life and work during the pandemic .

"It was very, very overwhelming," Gladstone resident Devon Torrez said. "There were a lot of days I was just crying."

So Torrez left her job as a parole officer with the state of Missouri in December, as her husband made more money.

"I was relieved when we had the discussion, and he said just stay home," Torrez said.

Since that decision, Torrez said she has felt a sense of relief.

"I am definitely less stressed than I was when I was working and trying to do the school stuff with them," she said.

Other mothers struggled to find either child care for their children or they themselves were feeling burned out juggling work and home life.

"The stress was piling up," Agnesa Krastev, of Olathe, said. "I started losing weight, I started losing sleep."

Krastev worked in IT as an engineering team leader for several years and was dedicated to her job.

"I had catch up work over the weekend, so it felt like, a very different schedule," Krastev said. "I was doing the same thing every day – work and the kids, everyday, without a break."

Stephanie Poston, of Excelsior Springs, said she was laid off at the beginning of the pandemic and has tried since to find a job – the rising cost of child care ate too much out of the budget.

"The ones I’m talking to they’re asking $13 an hour and I’m thinking, 'OK, if I’m paying you $13 an hour, I’m bringing home what, $5 an hour, how is that fitting?"

The pandemic inequitably impacted women, said Poston and the other mothers, but they intend to re-enter the workforce when things settle down.

"I mean, it’s your job to take care of them, but now the way society is, you need that second income to make ends meet," Poston said.

Torrez said that people need to "get out of that old way of thinking," noting that stay-at-home fathers are doing a good job as well.

"Each family has to work it out for themselves," Torrez said.

The McKinsey report also offered the following suggestions for managers and executives:

  • Reset what is considered normal working hours to create more flexibility for working mothers.
  • Develop ways to retain women of color and single mothers who have experienced disproportionate burdens during the pandemic.
  • Target recruitment programs to help women return to employment and eliminate bias against working mothers.