Moms do More Parenting When Working From Home

ISTOCK.COM/ljubaphoto

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

COMMENTARY | “It turns out that when the mother is working remotely and her partner isn’t, she ends up taking on a ton more responsibilities,” says one of the authors of a new study on the topic.

Gender disparities in unpaid labor are most apparent when a mother is the only parent working from home, or when neither parent was able to work remotely, research finds.

The study in the journal Gender and Society investigates how shifts in work and school that arose due to the pandemic triggered changes in the division of labor in families. The researchers used data on two-parent households from a nationwide survey that took place in April 2020.

“It turns out that when the mother is working remotely and her partner isn’t, she ends up taking on a ton more responsibilities,” says Jerry Jacobs, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the paper’s authors. “When a father is working remotely and his partner isn’t, somehow he doesn’t take on as much extra work. This seems to be a deeply gendered issue.”

Each month during the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of women lost their jobs or dropped out of the workforce to meet new demands at home.

Yet remote work also seemed to open the possibility of greater equity between the genders in domestic responsibility, as two parents would be at home and accessible.

To tease out the effects of a shift to remote work on domestic labor during the pandemic, Jacobs, sociology doctoral student Allison Dunatchik, and colleagues turned to data from a New York Times survey, that marketing research firm Morning Consult conducted. Of 2,200 respondents, 478 were partnered parents, and 151 were single parents.

While the gender of each survey respondent’s partner was unknown, the gender of the respondents themselves played a key role in how the pandemic affected their domestic responsibilities, which—with children largely at home—increased across the board.

Families where both partners worked remotely had the most egalitarian split of household and parenting duties, the researchers found. Both mothers and fathers reported similar increases in housework and childcare responsibilities, as well as in the pressure they felt about managing their children’s schooling. Yet even this best-case-scenario was imbued with gender disparity, as pre-pandemic disparities endured. Mothers working remotely whose partners were also were more than twice as likely as fathers to report being the partner primarily responsible for housework and childcare.

When only one parent worked remotely and the other worked out of the home, the gender disparity in domestic labor was far more evident. Mothers who worked from home essentially absorbed the extra labor, while fathers who worked remotely reported less uptake of the extra housework and childcare than either mothers working from home alone or fathers who worked at home along with their partner.

“The disparity, how this affected remote dads versus remote moms, was just so stark,” says Jacobs. “Even for a hard-boiled, data-driven sociologist like me, I was surprised.”

“I had a similar reaction,” Dunatchik says. “It’s interesting when you compare the fathers working remotely alone to the fathers whose partners are also working from home. There’s something interesting about the partner dynamics, it seems, that makes fathers more likely to pitch in in the presence of a partner.”

When neither partner was able to work remotely, again mothers bore the brunt of the extra labor. In these couples, mothers were twice as likely as fathers to report increases in time spent on household labor and were seven times as likely to say they were the person responsible for the majority of children’s home learning.

While the survey data had only 151 responses from single parents, most of which were women, the researchers found that, perhaps unsurprisingly, single mothers were spending more time on domestic labor, though they were less likely to have increased their time spent on housework during the pandemic than partnered mothers. “They were also less likely to report feeling significant pressure about their children’s home learning compared to partnered mothers,” says Dunatchik.

The survey was conducted about one month into the pandemic, so the researchers can only speculate about the lingering impact on gendered division of labor. Yet the researchers’ findings provide a window into the pressures that may have driven some women’s voluntary exit from the labor market. As more children return to in-person school, “some of that pressure will be reduced,” Jacobs says. The longer-term impacts on women’s seniority and loss of wages, however, could be significant and enduring, he says even if they do eventually return to full-time work.

One silver lining of the pandemic’s “natural experiment” on remote work, the researchers say, may be increased work flexibility. With more opportunities for all parents to work from home, there may be more opportunities to move toward a more egalitarian division of responsibilities. “That’s something that scholars have been pushing for a long time,” Jacobs says.

Additional coauthors are from New York University and the University of Texas at Austin.

Support for the research came from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

This article was originally published in Futurity. It has been republished under the Attribution 4.0 International license.

Katherine Unger Baillie-Penn is a senior science news officer at the University of Pennsylvania.  

NEXT STORY: Vaccinating the Vulnerable, One Church at a Time

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.