Moms Work Overtime in COVID-19

Snapshot of a mother working from home.

Mother’s Day is a holiday dedicated to celebrating moms and the work they do. But ironically, our society continually dismisses the work essential to motherhood—expecting women to take on nearly all of the invisible and unpaid work of caring for children while receiving little to no support from male partners. Though this has always been the case, COVID-19 has further brought these issues to light.

With massive feminist movements and progressive changes coming to fruition, you may assume that men and women in heterosexual relationships take a 50/50 approach to home life. Nope! Women are still predominantly the ones busting suds and changing diapers—the main difference between the 1950s and now is that mothers are working, too. National school closures along with daycare suspension has added even more to working mother’s already full plates. As charming as viral videos of kids interrupting Zoom meetings may be, it only proves that when working from home and caring from children—the latter never stops. And for mothers lucky enough to continue working from home, it has been a balancing act with no relief. With many state governments hasty to reopen the economy, getting safe childcare in place should be a priority but only seems to be an afterthought—relegated to Phase Two of economic reopening strategies. One fed-up mom emphasized the urgent need for accessible child care: “My economy cannot ‘reopen,’ life cannot return to ‘normal’ for me, until fully functional child care comes back on line.” Many women are desperate to lighten the weight of carrying the titles “income-earner” and “primary caregiver”—with 14 percent of working moms considering leaving the workforce to do it. Women going into the office as “essential” workers need safe and affordable childcare more than ever—but have been left with few options.

One simple fix for moms in heterosexual relationships would be asking more of men and encouraging them to take up duties that have been unfairly labeled “women’s work.” Studies indicate that couples with a more equitable division of labor are happier. However, a workforce built on outdated gender traditions makes even that incredibly difficult. The idea that the time someone spends on the job correlates with their loyalty puts a cap on most moms’ career potential—even during COVID-19. Men aren’t immune to such workplace consequences either. Few men take paternity leave, but when they do many face the risk of a tarnished reputation or a diminished paycheck. Society has devalued, ignored, and punished those who take part in this very important “woman’s work.”

While Hallmark cards and Instagram posts this Sunday will be full of appreciation for the mothers in our lives, let’s take this as an opportunity to truly shift the narrative against what work goes unseen and put down. Contrary to societal beliefs, raising kids is no part-time task—and thinking so is having devastating repercussions. Yeah, moms are doing it all. But should they have to?

Take Action! Let’s demand that society give women’s essential but “invisible work” the spotlight it deserves in economics and use the hashtag #AskMoreOfHim to encourage men to become more involved caregivers. This Mother’s Day, let’s create a more equitable society for everyone.