Has COVID Killed Women’s Rights?

The Adams-Brewer family. Photo by Brenna Adams.
The Adams-Brewer family. Photo by Brenna Adams.

A recent article from The New York Times highlighted the discrepancy between the amount of homeschooling, childcare, and household duties that mothers are taking on versus their male counterparts. 

Nearly half of men claim they are doing most of the homeschooling; 3% of women agree. The fact that 80% of women say they are doing the majority of homeschooling, combined with past research that reveals men consistently overestimate the amount of work they do, insinuates that women are taking on the lion’s share of the work. 

Megan Lutz, an OB/GYN in the Toledo area, read in a medican journal that a majority “of male physicians have someone else taking care of most home tasks: bills, yard, laundry, groceries, kids. [A small percentage] of female physicians have [those same forms] of support.” 

In a study of married physicians with children, men reported that 82% of “all or most” household duties were performed by their spouses, as opposed to only 5% by the spouses of women physicians.

The majority of child rearing and household responsibilities still fall on women, even if they are physicians, and research shows that 40% of women go part-time or leave medicine completely within 6 years of completing their residency. Women, who are often left with the majority of child-rearing and household duties, subsequently look for jobs with flexibility that allows them to work from home or call in when there is a snow day, a sick day…or a coronavirus pandemic. 

When you combine the statistics above with the fact that 55% of the 20.5 million jobs lost in April were women, earning this recession the nickname the “shecession,” it’s clear that women (especially nonwhite women) are taking the brunt of coronavirus job losses. 

More women are losing their jobs than men, female doctors don’t have the same level of household and childcare help as their male counterparts, and most women–even when still working full-time from home–are taking on the job of teacher. 

It’s no surprise that moms everywhere are burnt out and overwhelmed. 

Tonia Davies wrangling her three little ones.
Tonia Davies wrangling her three little ones.

Sylvania mom Tonia Davies and Toledo mom Kelly Flenner, who are both taking on the majority of homeschooling, laugh instead of complaining, joking that the “definition of ‘doing’ and ‘done’ are completely different depending on [which parent] you talk to.”

Bridget Adams-Brewer takes the same stance, using humor to lighten the situation, saying, “[My husband] does the dishes one time a week but talks about it three times. As you can imagine, we do 2-3 loads/day.” 

While about ¾ of women are taking on the task of homeschooling, a chunk of couples say they dedicate about the same amount of time to homeschooling, and a small percentage of women say their husbands are taking on most or all of the household duties. 

Jen Linehan, who owns Beautiful Blooms by Jen in Sylvania, exclaims that her husband, who is a high school teacher, “does 100% while I’m at work!” The percentage of men taking over all household duties plus homeschooling may be small, but they are out there. 

Whether women are juggling work plus homeschooling or full-time mom plus homeschooling, it’s a huge–and oftentimes thankless–added responsibility with little or no resources to help ease the burden. 

Moral of the story: help out the women in your life. Women have fought for equal rights for centuries, and just as we reached an equal level of employment as men (although benefits and salary were still less), COVID-19 hit and women across the country lost their jobs. If you can’t give us a job, at least help us out with our new and unexpected roll: full-time teacher plus mother.