by Marina Orhei
Covid pandemic disproportionately hurting women, UN warns. But they’re not the only ones who need to change.
MONACO. It Is no secret that the pandemic has left many moms stressed, under siege and totally alone. In polls, moms say it Is because they had to shoulder most of the burden and logistics of looking after and educating out-of-school children – even when they themselves work on full time. Dads, next year, you should do your fair share of the child care, domestic work and emotional labor in your homes! The pandemic has certainly made things much harder for working moms, but this is hardly a new problem. When American women who have male partners work outside the home, they also do 65% of the childcare, while men take on 35% — and these numbers haven’t changed in 20 years, clinical psychologist Darcy Lockman notes in her 2019 book “All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers and the Myth of Equal Partnership.”
Women also tend to take on the largely invisible burden of what freelance journalist Gemma Hartley calls the “emotional labor” in our homes in her 2018 book “Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward.” This includes tasks like arranging child care, scheduling doctors’ appointments and play dates, buying presents, upending our own schedules when things go wrong, and (nicely) reminding our male partners what they’ve promised to do. Moreover, women also do most of the housework, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A 2017 report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development identified the “unequal sharing of household tasks between men and women” as one of the most urgent gender equalities issues the world faces. Is it any wonder women are overwhelmed and exhausted? So, in 2021, it’s long past time for dads to share these burdens equally with their female partners. Employers also bear a significant part of the responsibility for this inequality. Lockman notes that “the gender wage gap is really a motherhood gap. Women without children earn just barely less than men.” But because the labor market pays a premium to people who perform so-called “overwork,” which means working more than 50 hours per week, many dads end up significantly outearning moms. who often can’t put in that kind of time at work. If more employers were to recognize that both men and women need reasonable hours so they can care for their families and offer gender-neutral policies to support working parents — like parental leave when babies are born and flexible schedules — then dads would have an easier time doing their fair share of at-home labor. Social expectations also need to change. When family members, friends and even strangers witness men taking care of their own kids, they often praise these dads effusively for “helping,” or “babysitting.” As Hartley notes, “No one asks where the kids are when a father is out in public.” It is shocking as to the reverse!
Why do people’s retrograde views about women’s and men’s roles matter? People make policy. People vote. Until we have universal understanding that the yen to cook and clean is not “a womanthing,” but instead a matter of practicality and equity that knows no gender, our societies will not move forward. And it starts at home – what about every household for 2021 while waiting for the miraculous vaccine? Another good reason to reverse these gender expectations? It would be absolute happiness! In his TED Talk “Why Gender Equality Is Good for Everyone — Men Included,” sociologist Michael Kimmel notes that when men and women share the work of caring for their kids and homes fairly, it’s not just the moms who are happier.
The kids and their dads are happier, too. It is shocking that it has taken a pandemic for people to realize that working moms with male partners can’t also do all the work inside our homes. In 2021 it’s time for dads to step up their contributions, for employers to make it possible for fathers to do so, and for the whole world to rethink their expectations of women. If they do, we will all have a happier year.
From a topic covered on CNN by Kara Alaimo – Ph. D. is Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism, Media Studies, and Public Relations.
Dr. Alaimo teaches in Hofstra University’s graduate and undergraduate public relations programs and is a member of the advisory board of the Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency.