Zainab is a writer and photographer. Her work often focuses on social commentary and matters to do with women and the youth.
I am overly upset. I knew it was not going to be good, but I didn’t know it was going to be this bad. You want to know what's got my panties in a twist and has me foaming at the mouth with rage? Read on.
To give you a little bit of background, let’s go through a few statistics real quick:
- The number of women that lost their jobs in September 2020 was four times the number of men that were dropped out of the workforce.
- The reason why a quarter of the total number of women who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic became unemployed was because they lacked childcare and had to go take care of their children themselves.
- A year ago, the workforce had more women than men; but now, women account for 100% of the jobs that were lost in December 2020—over 140,000 jobs.
- Oh, and it gets even juicier. You see, the total number of jobs lost by women in December 2020 was actually 156,000, but the above data (the 140,000 jobs lost) reflects the fact that 16,000 jobs were gained. By men.
- During the same month, in the government sector, women accounted for 91.1% of the 45,000 jobs lost, even though women made up almost 60% of the government workforce. And guess what: The numbers here do not even account for the millions of jobs that have been lost by women forced to leave the labour force because of schools and daycare centres getting closed.
- A report estimated a loss of 64.5 billion US dollars per year in wages and economic activities as the amount of risk caused by mothers who left the workforce or had their working hours reduced so that they can take care of their homes and children.
And here is the catch: All the above data represents the job status in the United States only, as reported by the Center for American Progress and CNBC. Let me repeat that, only in the US—a country that has been reported to have birthed the most liberal ideas and lifestyle trends. Thus, I can only imagine what the statistics look like in other more traditional countries, like India and a good number of African countries.
It is no surprise that women are having a hard time globally in balancing office work and household care. Whether employed or not, women are expected to be the ones to take care of the house and children. Due to social distancing, COVID-19 has made it even worse for them since they can no longer depend on a support system for help, such as nannies, house-helps, family and friends. According to YourStory.com, working women, especially mothers, are experiencing increased levels of stress and have had a real challenge in their emotional health, compared to men, during this working-from-home situation. And here's what I'm wondering: Where are the fathers in all this?
Now back to the question at hand. Am I angry because women have lost more jobs than men? Well, that’s part of it, but not even the half of it all. Yes, I am furious that a lot more women keep losing their source of livelihood. I am also angry that women are expected to perform as well as their counterparts (men) even though they have to take care of the home and the children—double shifting everywhere. I am irritated by the fact that the situation of women leaving the workforce in large numbers has to be equated money-wise and its effects on the economy have to be quantified for others to see that this is not something good.
And I am enraged because the above data doesn’t look good, but the following data looks even worse: the increased gender-based violence women are facing, the increased physical, emotional and psychological risk pregnant women are going through, and how lack of social interaction is robbing mothers of the support they need to function optimally.
Why Are the House and Kids Solely the Mom's Responsibility?
However, the fact that pisses me off the most is that just about all the articles I have come across that discuss the effects of the pandemic on women and employment talk about women taking care of the house and children like this kind of responsibility is solely the job of the mother. Am I missing something here? The kids belong to both parents, right? And this is happening in the year 2020 AC? A time where women accounted for more people in the workforce. A time where many women are expected to get employed and provide in the household just like men are. The responsibility of taking care of the house and children is still fully put on just the mothers?!
The numerous testimonies I have read from mothers declaring how stressful, exhausting, and demoralizing it has been for them these past few months clearly show they are not happy about the situation. They are finding it hard to balance their work and household duties, they are losing jobs, cutting off their sources of income, being separated from their purpose outside being caregivers.
This must hurt.
What Are the Husbands and Fathers Doing to Help?
Now, what I would have loved to read is what the husbands and fathers are doing about it. What measures or actions are they taking to alleviate their wives' and partners’ not-so-favourable turn of events? Are they at least a little bit concerned that their partners are getting physically and mentally overwhelmed? Shouldn’t they feel a tad bit sad that, in a turnabout, the society deems them less worthy of spending more time with their children?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am quite happy that parents got to spend more time with their children during this work-from-home period. I’m just not as happy that, once again, society seems to think that it is not necessary for the fathers to spend as much time with their children as the mothers, and that many fathers seem to be okay with that.
What Can We Do About It?
It’s high time fathers started fighting this fight, too. Their kids could probably do with a little bit more of their attention, plus their partners are getting overwhelmed, and I bet that’s affecting the overall home environment—and not in a positive way.
Hear me out, I’m not suggesting something radical like fire both the mothers and fathers in the labour force; but here are three suggestions that I believe can help the situation.
- More Childcare: I recommend that society and the Government create better and functional childcare systems and infrastructure that will help reduce the heavy-lifting that mothers are made to do.
- Family-Forward Work Policies: Workplaces could also help by creating family-forward policies to allow mothers a little more space to breathe. For example, I know of two companies in Kenya that provide a spacious decorated room with childcare personnel for young children with mothers who work in the company. Also, I know of an employer who gives an allowance of 30 minutes to a single mother employee who has two kids, when she reports to work in the morning.
- More Support From Men: Lastly, but definitely not the least, men could put up a little fight for their partners, mothers, sisters and fellow human beings towards this battle. They can start by helping out with taking care of the house and the children, especially since a good number of them are also working from home. Then they can stand up for women in their surroundings, and support those policies and infrastructures that will lessen the burden that is always falling on women when it comes to taking care of homes, children, parents in their old-age, etc.
Mothers deserve better. They do enough already, and they could do with a lot more help from everybody else.
To all the mothers in the world, I wish you all the love, peace, good health, and support you deserve during these trying times. I hope, for the sake of you and me, that the future will be a lot better and the world more supportive. Cheers.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.