During Covid, some working mothers find a silver lining: more time with their children
In almost every way, the coronavirus crisis has been devastating for working women.
More and more women are working on the front lines and are at higher risk of contracting Covid-19, which puts them and their families at risk.
You have reported increased anxiety and stress as a direct result of new work processes and job security concerns.
At the same time, they have borne the brunt of job loss, or have had to cut their hours or say goodbye to take on additional tasks at home.
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When women, especially mothers, leave working life, they also leave management positions and create a vacancy in the representation that has been the result of slow progress over decades.
But for the privileged few who can telework, the past year has also been a rare opportunity to spend more time with their children.
And it has opened the door to a new work dynamic that could benefit mothers who, even before the pandemic, struggled to maintain their professional and family responsibilities.
Susan Scerbo with her husband Francis and their son Duncan together with the family dog Mike.
Source: Aliza Schlabach Photography
Susan Scerbo, 54, has a public relations manager in Narberth, Pennsylvania, has been working remotely since the coronavirus outbreak began almost a year ago.
“I live about 50 miles from where I work and I am very happy not to spend more than two hours in the car,” she said.
“All the commuting time in my life has given me more time with my son,” Scerbo said of her 17-year-old Duncan with Down syndrome. “We’re going for an evening walk with the dog, something I could never have done before.
“You never feel like you can do enough,” she added, about raising a child with special needs. “It gave me time to suppress that feeling.”
Working from home meant that too Lindsey Bailys, 31, has more time with her daughter, who is almost 2 years old.
“Instead of wasting time commuting, I can spend time with my toddler before and after work,” said Bailys, who lives in New York.
Now, “I can take a long retreat and do her bath and bedtime and log back in,” she said. “While I would have completely missed that before.”
Bailys said she hoped she would never go back to an office full time. “In my perfect world, I would like to come weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.”
Of course, not all workers can work from home during a pandemic. There is a clear class distinction between workers who can and cannot telework.
This coercive situation exacerbates the longstanding gender-specific differences.
Research Director, National Women’s Rights Center
For others, especially parents of young children, teleworking has been a particular challenge.
“This forced home situation exacerbates long-standing gender gaps,” said Jasmine Tucker, director of research at the National Women’s Law Center and mother of an infant.
Although childcare issues are shared by both parents, mothers are more likely to lead distance learning and do additional housework, food preparation and other chores while families are largely home-bound.
“Mothers are not okay,” said Tucker. “You hold too much.”
However, the Covid crisis presents a rare opportunity to re-examine some of these structural issues, Tucker added, and gives companies a chance to rethink outdated guidelines and explore ways in which they can better work life balance for women and men can.
It remains to be seen whether employers will allow employees to continue working from home. According to a report by the Conference Board, many companies have announced that they will be more flexible in the future.
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