‘She-cession’: Women, working moms taking a financial hit from the pandemic

Coronavirus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — While the world was grappling with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Katrina Irvin and Pete Smith learned their whole world was about to change.

“We found out we were pregnant the first week of March and everything shut down right after that,” Irvin said. “It was a little bit of mixed emotions it was scary.”

The couple’s daughter Parker was born in November. When Irvin headed back to work, she said finding COVID-safe childcare was a challenge, but she did secure a babysitter. Her sister was not so lucky after her employer-provided daycare closed due to the pandemic.

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“She had to essentially move back in with my mom, which when you’re in your 30s doesn’t seem very appealing,” Irvin said. “So my mom could help her keep the kids during the day while she was answering calls, trying to service the world and being an essential worker.” 

“It’s hard enough when you’re not in this COVID world trying to maneuver though (being) a working mom and being all you can be for babies,” said Dawn Senner, R.N. and Certified Childbirth Educator. 

Senner was Irvin’s childbirth educator at Ascension St. Thomas. Her classes moved virtual, and so did her youngest son’s school half the week.

“With him being hybrid, it was difficult for me to work from home,” Senner said. “I had to switch my work schedule to make sure the days he was at school I was at work, so I could be home on the days he was home and make sure his assignments were completed.”

Mothers working from home during the pandemic have reduced their working hours four to five times more than fathers have, according to a study published in the journal Gender, Work & Organization.

“A lot of women sort of reached their breaking point,” said Jasmine Tucker, Director of Research for the National Women’s Law Center. “I can’t be the nurse; I can’t be caregiver; I can’t be the teacher. I can’t be all the things and I can’t be the breadwinner on top of it all.”

The National Women’s Law Center has done extensive analysis of female employment statistics during the pandemic. The organization reports more than 2.3 million women have left the labor force since the start of the pandemic. Tucker said women of color have been disproportionately affected by income and job loss.

“If you look at black women, if you look at Latinas their unemployment rate is 1 1/2 times white men’s, and it’s taken a lot longer to come down,” Tucker said.

It’s a slow climb to recovery and Tucker said investing in childcare infrastructure and fair wages is crucial. “We’re going to reclaim it all,” Tucker said. “We’re going to get back to where we were, but it’s a matter of making those key investments along the way so we make it easier.”

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