Women are increasingly both breadwinners and caregivers in the home. Often times, this involves a first shift at a paying job, and then a second shift of unpaid caregiving at home till they get back to paid work. This already exhausting situation has been worsened by the ongoing pandemic forcing everyone to stay home. Many women are faced with the crush of having to now do both unpaid caregiving work, and their official paid work simultaneously, day in day out and pay the price of forgetting their own needs. Thus where before it was a non-stop revolving door through each shift, now it is a tumultuous spin within a still very revolving door, and an added bonuses of surefire crippling anxiety and the viable threat of violence.
As the de facto workhorses of the home, the global lockdowns have undeniably tripled women’s workload in the household. However, novel COVID has not brought novel improvements in the division of labor, but is definitely worsening gender inequality. Thus, once often outsourced responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, parenting (including homeschooling and entertaining), etc which are now in demand 24/7, have been re-placed squarely and without compensation on the woman shoulders. The one outing that is permitted – grocery shopping – is still typically left to the woman, citing historical knowledge and some kind of innate skill. Women are also the unspoken first line doctors for ALL illness in the home, including COVID-19.
Meanwhile, many women have to do all this whilst also trying to remain professional and productive (albeit remote) at their paid employment. The double burden was already an unrealistic balancing act, left to women to ‘figure out’ as their punishment for daring to ‘have it all’. But this irresponsibility on the part of society and corporations only hurts and we see this even clearer now as companies and governments expect women to simply dig further into their non-existent reserve bandwidth and ‘make it work’ rather than promote potentially life-saving flexibility in the context of a clear crisis.
This is a perfect example of how inequity perpetuates women’s disproportionate disadvantage in catastrophes. A lot needs to be done to rectify this now and when life returns to some sort of normalcy. For now, men can start with doing their equal share of caregiving in the home without having to be asked. Additionally, this may seem inconsequential, but the language of expectation needs to be changed from “Working from home” to “Home-ridden during a crisis…trying to work” to acknowledge and validate this very real reality for everyone.
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