Dear Dads, Don't Stick Working Moms With All the Childcare During This Crisis
The burden is simply too big for us to handle. We need your help.
As schools across the globe shut down in the wake of a pandemic, I noticed a curious phenomenon in my Facebook feed. Mom after mom posted photos of her new homeschooling station or schedule. Here is the cheerful little desk where her child would study. Here is the chalkboard calendar that would ensure some semblance of stability for her family.
Of course, not all moms embraced the new normal so enthusiastically. Some moms responded with humor, creating "schedules" for their kids filled with TV time and video games. Some worried about how they would work with children nearby who need their attention.
But amidst the flurry of fretting and preparing, there was one subset of parents who remained silent: dads. I didn’t see a single dad share his weekly lesson plan or the color-coded folders he created. I didn’t hear from dads at all.
Working moms have always shouldered more than their fair share of childcare and housework—a phenomenon that remains largely unchanged despite women’s gains in the workforce. A 2018 survey found that 87 percent of full-time working moms are responsible for all or the majority of parenting in their home. Moms are more likely to make doctor appointments, buy cards and gifts for others, stay home from work when their child is too sick to go to school, manage the family calendar, help with homework, shop for kids, fill out school/activity forms, do the laundry and grocery shopping, pack for outings and vacation, assign household chores and prep meals. You know, just a few small things.
It was already an arrangement that wasn’t working for working moms. Frankly, we’re exhausted. We’ve been exhausted for years. Decades, even.
But as COVID-19 has upended our lives, and our children’s lives, we’ve chugged our coffee, rolled up our sleeves and gotten to work. Because that’s what moms do. We’ve added “teacher” to our ever-growing list of titles.
But we didn’t quit our jobs. We still have meetings (albeit virtual) and assignments to tackle from home, while we dispense snacks and practice phonics. And while I’d love to imagine a world where every manager is kind and understanding in a time of crisis, that simply isn’t the case. Recent research has shown that employers drastically underestimate just how much their employees struggle to manage their caregiving responsibilities. And that working moms who can’t meet a growing demand for 24/7 availability are stigmatized and shifted into lower-paying positions. In other words, employers have no idea just how much we’re juggling at home, but when they get an idea, they aren’t inclined to respond favorably.
And here’s why that’s a huge problem for you, Dad: You need our paycheck. Moms are the breadwinners in 40 percent of US households with children under the age of 18. Even when we aren’t the sole breadwinner, our wages contribute significantly to the household income.
So, please, we’re begging you: Don’t let us bear this burden alone. Don’t encourage us to skip meetings or postpone deadlines so we can manage it all. Don’t force us to let our work suffer. Don’t make us scale back our ambitions.
Because childcare during this crisis isn’t just watching your kid. It’s planning their lessons. It’s FaceTiming their friends so they don’t get lonely. It’s looking up yoga videos or YouTube or animal documentaries on Disney+. It’s scheduling their pediatrician’s appointments, and then figuring out a way to get them to the doctor without exposing them to COVID-19. It’s the mental burden of plotting and planning for a million little tasks. It’s what working moms do all day, but now we must do it while physically taking care of our children and managing a job too. It’s simply not possible.
In my own home, where my husband and I have managed to semi-successfully balance the load over the years, I quickly watched it all unravel as the world around us, well, unraveled. Who sent out frantic emails trying to find backup childcare in our building? Me. Who created a schedule for the sitter to follow? Me. Who created a meal plan that covered three weeks' worth of food for four people? Who created the grocery list? Who makes lunch every day? Me, me, me.
Working moms are efficient, but we’re not magicians. We need your help, dads, now, more than ever.
Written by Audrey Goodson Kingo for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.