Dads do even less at home fearing the career blow

When the pandemic disrupted everything, it also pushed fathers home like never before. It was a moment that seemed to bring some relief to working mothers. Dads had the flexibility – and the desire – to take on more responsibility. Then the world got in the way.

In 2020, when Lindsey Jackson and her husband Clarence were both stuck working from home, they shared the housework and childcare for their 2-year-old son roughly equally. But now that Clarence, financial advisor at JPMorgan Chase & Co., returns to the office and Lindsey isn’t, things are changing to mean Lindsey is taking more. She is so busy that she has to cook and wash her son at the same time.

“It’s just a lot more of a responsibility for her to take care of him,” Clarence said.

The pandemic, over time, has worsened some gender inequalities in American homes. Moms and dads spent more time caring for their children as schools went virtual and daycares closed. But mothers paid the price. In 2020, women spent 2.9 more hours per day than men on child care, up from 2.55 in 2019, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data compiled by Bloomberg News. The disproportionate burden on mothers ends up undermining their income.

“We’re going back to our traditional gender norms,” said Misty Heggeness, senior economist at the US Census Bureau. “It is women, especially mothers, who still carry the weight disproportionately. “

A childcare crisis has driven a gender gap in the workforce for decades, but the pandemic has taken things to another level, costing women globally at least $ 800 billion dollars in lost income in 2020, according to Oxfam. In the United States, about 20% of the 7.1 million women aged 25 to 54 who left the workforce at the start of the COVID recession have not returned to work as mothers struggle to find affordable care . Meanwhile, industries that employ large numbers of women – education, health care and food – are suffering the worst impacts of current labor shortages.

The problem here is that being pushed home has made many fathers more willing to take on additional responsibilities, which could go a long way in closing the gender pay gap.

For the Jackson family, when Clarence started working remotely, it made “housework more obvious,” bringing the couple closer to a 50-50 separation, Lindsey said.

“It makes the work you do more visible – both in the work you get paid for and in the work you do outside of it,” Lindsey said. “It’s harder to justify not being equal. “

As the world opened up again, fathers encountered more problems than their own willingness to get involved.

Researchers who have studied parenting roles during the pandemic say men were much more likely than women to fear their careers would be hit hard by spending more time on household chores. They felt more pressure to get by with what they could, rather than being upfront about their needs with employers.

Many workplaces reinforce these ideas by doing things like offering more parental leave to new moms or making it easier for them to negotiate flexible hours. Women, because they often hold lower paying positions, are also more likely to quit their jobs to care for children when there are no other affordable options.

Congressional Democrats have fought to include paid family leave in their economic agenda, reducing the Biden administration’s initial proposal from 12 weeks to 4. The United States is one of seven countries that does not provide for leave. maternity leave paid.

There are also cultural norms that come into play, including traditional notions that men are the “breadwinners” of the family, said Jamie Ladge, associate professor of management and organizational development at Northeastern University who studies work-life integration. According to a poll by Volvo Car USA and The Harris Poll.

At the start of the pandemic, fathers and mothers were also likely to be unemployed or on leave. But since March of this year, moms have been disproportionately left out of the workforce, according to a study released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

And for moms who have managed to keep their jobs, they don’t feel so ready to return to the office. Nearly 40% of working fathers are back in the workplace after being removed, compared to 30% of mothers, according to a survey conducted by CensusWide on behalf of LinkedIn.

Some fathers, however, fight back.

Nineteen percent of working fathers have looked for new jobs where they can be away, and 10% have quit or have considered quitting, according to the CensusWide survey.

With U.S. employers struggling to hire in recent months and with vacancies remaining near a record 11 million, this could increase employees’ bargaining power. Additionally, flexible and remote working has become much less stigmatized in a number of industries, which may facilitate demand for these arrangements.

“Previously, the mindset was this: There’s nothing wrong with fathers taking advantage of some of these supports, but don’t go overboard,” Ladge said. “But now I think it wouldn’t look weird if a dad asked for a flexible work schedule or worked from home one or two days a week. It would be normal.

Mark Eggleston lives in Wilmington, Delaware, and spent 17 years at a job in Philadelphia that involved an hour’s commute in each direction. When he started working from home in 2020, he was first able to do more things like going to sporting events and dates with his three children, who are 20, 16 and 14 years old.

“Suddenly a lunch break could turn into a time to sit down with my daughter and have a good conversation,” Eggleston said.

So rather than resuming long-haul trips, he quit his job in June and took a new one closer to home that also offers him a more flexible work schedule.

“Having a 15-minute commute instead of an hour, I had to go to my daughter’s field hockey game Monday at 4 a.m., I couldn’t have done that a few years ago working in Philadelphia,” Eggleston said. “The standards here are the most important thing. Give yourself the freedom that, hey, it’s something normal to do – that helps others to do it.

The pandemic, over time, has worsened some gender inequalities in American homes. Moms and dads spent more time caring for their children as schools went virtual and daycares closed. But mothers paid the price.

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