the COVID19 pandemic has made unpaid labor even more burdensome for women

this week, a colleague of mine in my day job made the remark that she conducted a consult on a complex clinical test with a healthcare provider, a woman, who was “lovely, sheltering in place, homeschooling a child, dealing with a preschooler meltdown, and nursing an infant, while her husband is also WFH. Yet she stayed on for the full hour. Serious mommy-multi tasking!”

to which i replied, “I think the COVID19 pandemic has further highlighted the inherent ‘quiet strength’ of women, and our ability to manage organized chaos on a daily basis đŸ˜‰ now, if we can only figure out how to get financially compensated for all that lol”

it is absolutely no new thing to women, all over the world, that we do more work than men. more tasks, more daily chores, more child-related things, more home-related things, and even in our jobs, if measured on par with our male counterparts, studies have found that we still do more ‘stuff’ in the way of work and work-related tasks.

and much of this (in fact, the majority of this) is uncompensated work. we are neither paid for it, nor are we often even recognized or thanked for it.

i think perhaps the most striking thing i’ve noticed, in talking with my friends and colleagues who co-habitate with a male partner or spouse during this pandemic and our various stay-at-home and quarantine situations is that most of us are finding ourselves doing even more work during this time that our partners are also at home at least as much as we are.

what this is saying is that, while the men in our lives are home the same amount of time as us, they are still overall doing much less of the total workload domestically, with children, and around the home. and during a time when they are even more present in the home, no less, which is striking because of some of the age-old arguments to why women do more work around the house, such as:

“men spend more overall time at the office working, so that’s why women work more around the house.” sorry, buddy, the last several months have shown that not to be the case now that you’ve been home the same amount of time as us. you’re just not helping us, that’s all.

“women spend more time with their children than men do, so they are better caregivers.” again, no. fathers are shown to be just as effective parents as mothers when they spend time with their kids. yet, overwhelmingly, women are the ones shouldering the majority of the work related to children who have been staying home and even home-schooling during the pandemic.

i thought about this a bit relating to my own situation, and, while i am lucky that i have a partner that spontaneously decides to do dishes because he hates clutter in the sink, and he’s all over taking out the trash, i also shoulder 98% of the burden of raising a teenage son (who is not my partner’s child), because he lives with me full time and i am much more involved in his life than his father is.

and to be fair, his father isn’t a bad father, he’s just busy and less involved in parenting decisions, and, quite frankly, i’ve done what 100% of mothers across the world have done for centuries, which is ‘if you want something done right, just do it yourself.’

its often perceived as easier to just take on more work than it is to get someone else, who isn’t used to doing it, to do it, and do it well. (this is a horrible behavioral trait, i realize, but when there’s something really important, like, say, the life and potential future of a child on the line, i don’t fuck around).

if you want to read more on the data behind why virtually everything in the world is engineered (literally, it is engineered this way, because men are overwhelmingly the engineers doing the engineering) to benefit men, and, in some cases, even, work against women, check out the book Invisible Women, by Caroline Criado Perez.

she examines some super hefty data sets that look at everything from why streets get cleared before sidewalks when it snows (more men drive and more women walk and use public transport, so men who run public works departments have streets cleared first), to the unequal division of unpaid labor and unpaid chores/tasks related to living that women do vs men, to why women received poorer healthcare attention from healthcare providers compared to men.

its such a revelatory book, and, while some of the facts were things i was unaware of, none of them surprised me. businesses set thermostats to temperatures that most women find uncomfortably cold because men are the ones who make the decisions about indoor temperatures, btw. (i experience this at home, with wearing layers of clothes all summer long inside because my husband can’t bear to have the thermostat above 71 inside).

i think that, while this pandemic certainly had some super negative impacts on most of us, it also provided a major social upheaval in quite a few ways, and one of those, i predict, will be women’s voices being significantly louder, as they are raised together to address injustices we’ve continued to experience.

and this will be played out in not just voting patterns, but the number of women who start their own businesses after this, and those who switch career paths instead of going back to employers who do not appreciate us, and demanding better from our partners.

i for one look forward to the shake up, as uncomfortable as major change is, the end result is usually for more desirable than where we started.