Surprising to absolutely no one, working moms are getting the least paid work done during quarantine. And water is still wet -- thank you, Captain Obvious. Still, researchers made legit what we all already suspected with a survey of 3,500 families.
These researchers from the Institute of Fiscal Studies and the UCL Institute of Education surveyed families with opposite-gender parents, sharing paid work and domestic responsibilities. What they found is that moms are more likely than dads to have left paid work since February, mothers are more likely to have seen a proportional reduction in work hours and moms are more likely than dads to spend work time simultaneously trying to take care of kids. In short, moms have a lot on their plates.
In fact, the survey said, “In lockdown, mothers in two-parent households are only doing, on average, a third of the uninterrupted paid-work hours of fathers.” Prior to lockdown, it was more like 60 percent. If a kid needs a meal, a band-aid or someone to “Watch this!,” it’s more likely that moms are the ones who answer the call.
Moms are spending an average of 10.3 hours per day looking after kids (while dads are spending 8) and are doing 1.7 hours more of housework. Plus their jobs? No wonder moms are so freaking exhausted.
These statistics are not so strange. Many moms I know are juggling most of the household responsibilities during quarantine: making sure remote learning is getting done, bearing the burden of chores and trying to juggle paid work. If you are working from your home at the same time as your partner, the kids are going to bug Mom more.
Even on a weekend, my children will walk directly past my husband to ask me for something, even if I’m busy and defer it right back to him, anyway. Kids are like heat-seeking missiles for moms. The reason for this? Part evolution, part reinforced behavior, according to Glenn Geher, Ph.D., in Psychology Today.
It’s hard to say whose fault it is: Mom for not setting boundaries, Dad for not helping with the mental load or the kids for, well, being kids.
What’s worse, though, is that even in households where fathers have lost their jobs and mothers still have theirs, housework and childcare is still split EQUALLY. Oh, come on, people!
Unfortunately, all of this could lead to the gender pay gap increasing, according to Alison Andrew, a senior research economist at the IFS. Women had to reduce their hours or lose their jobs altogether more often than men. This sets women’s careers back further, and then when quarantine is over, women are even less on an equal playing field with men when it comes to advancing or getting new jobs.
The silver lining to all of this? Dads are spending more time with kids than they did in a survey between 2014-2015. As a matter of fact, it’s twice as many hours. So, that’s something. But we could probably be doing so much better.
Maybe all the time spent together will have a double effect -- dads will see how much moms actually do, kids will see dads around more and realize, they, too, can serve sippy cups of milk. Maybe women will get more of the support they need to succeed going forward, like more government support for childcare. At the very least, moms can just start reciting the mantra, “Go ask your dad...”