Stay-at-Home Parenting During the Pandemic

Stay-at-Home Parenting During the Pandemic

March 26, 20202 min read

With the coronavirus-related death toll rising in the state of Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf added two more counties to the growing list of those with a "stay at home" order, and thousands of parents and caregivers find themselves at home with their children indefinitely. Villanova philosophy professor Heather Coletti, PhD, spoke about the way the division of "caring labor" in traditional two-parent, male-female households might become a source of tension.

Dr. Coletti points out that "[in] heteronormative households, women do the overwhelming bulk of caring labor for both children and adults—the statistics for this are consistent and slow to change. Today, most of these women have full-time jobs as well. When these heads-of-household are both working from home, very consciously trying to prove their value to their employer while working remotely, I think families are going to face very intensely the frustrations of the sexual division of labor over the next few weeks, i.e., that both heads of household are acting 'like men.'"

"Are men prepared to be 'more like women' while working at home with children for a greater length of time?" Dr. Coletti asks. Unfortunately, much of the literature on the sexual division of labor suggests that this is quite unlikely.

"Our society, including the women within it, do not seem to expect men to readily adopt the 'caring skills' traditionally and historically associated with women, even though women have proven that they are quite adept at adopting the 'work skills' that permeate career paths in the public sphere. But when children are present during these working hours (in the home) for these heads-of-household for several weeks... who will be interrupted to help with this or that? Break up that argument over that toy? Supervise homework that needs to get done? Who will find themselves negotiating 'five more minutes' to finish a conference call even though lunches need to be made for the 6- and 8-year-olds because it's already past noon?" According to Dr. Coletti, this task will likely still fall to mom.

One of the hallmarks of the "masculine care model" (MCM) that American society is built around is the illusion that workers all have wives at home. The family becomes invisible—disappears—when we all go to work. Per Dr. Coletti, "People who 'visibilize' their families at work risk being characterized as distracted, sloppy or uncommitted to their work. This illusion has always been dangerous because we are and have always been connected to others. Denying this is, frankly, absurd."

She continues, "Women are most tightly connected to their families through the patterns of the sexual division of labor and must work harder to 'invisibilize' their connections on a normal workday. Now that 'normal workdays' have been temporarily suspended... we are no longer in a position to ignore the overlap of (gendered) work in homes. I predict the coming weeks and months will challenge the illusions of both the MCM and sexual division of labor in unprecedented ways."

powered by

You might also like...