Stay-at-Home Parenting During Coronavirus

Stay-at-Home Parenting During Coronavirus Stay-at-Home Parenting During Coronavirus

March 26, 20203 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. Professor of Philosophy 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,” Coletti asks? Unfortunately, there is too much literature on the sexual division of labor that suggests that this is quite unlikely.

“Our society, including the women within it, do not seem to expect men to adapt readily the "caring skills" traditionally and historically associated with women, even though women have proven that they are quite adept at adapting 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 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. Coletti says, “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 been ALWAYS 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 work day. Now that “normal work days” 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.”

To speak with Dr. Coletti, email or call 610-519-5152.

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