By Jessica Easthope
Ileana Tavarez’s day starts with a drive from her home in Williamsburg to East New York. There, she unbuckles three car seats to take her kids all under the age of three to daycare. And after a few kisses goodbye – she’s off to work as the administrative assistant to the Vicar General for the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Ileana is part of the more than 70 percent of mothers with kids under the age of 18 in the country’s workforce.
“I wake up and I tell myself you have to do this for them and once you see their little faces in the morning you’re like yeah it’s worth it,” said Ileana.
Ileana’s a single mom and the main provider for her kids. Her flexible workplace knowing her kids are the priority has made it possible for her to have it all, career and family.
“They expect you to take care of your kid first and everything else comes second, I’m very happy with them here at the Diocese,” she said.
During the pandemic’s “Great Resignation” 4.4 million Americans left the workforce. Among them – mothers who cited the financial burden of childcare, the gender pay gap and lack of breastfeeding accommodation.
“I feel like there are a lot of other jobs who don’t see it that way that women are needed and that mothers specifically are needed in their place of work and they are,” Ileana said.
For Ileana, working for the church has shed light on how much needs to change. For the last 70 years birth rates have decreased worldwide with a total 50 percent decline. Pope Francis said the alarming reality many women face is that their jobs will be in jeopardy or they won’t be able to continue working after they give birth. The holy father said the solution is a more supportive and tolerant environment.
“Not a lot of jobs are flexible and I’m sure there are a lot of women struggling but with Pope Francis encouraging people, it makes me feel like someone is listening to us, to our cries, saying help because we need to work,” she said.
Ileana feels empowered in both of her roles. And wants her example to do just that for others.
“I think I’m being a role model to mothers who think it’s not possible, I hope I am,” she said. “It’s hard but it’s doable.”
When she’s at work she’s able to be laser focused, and every minute is another one closer to when her next job as a mom begins.