Coronavirus: ‘Mums do most childcare and chores in lockdown’
Mums appear to be doing most of the housework and childcare during lockdown, according to a new study.
Research shows that in homes where there is a working mother and father, women are doing more chores and spending more time with children.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and University College London (UCL) interviewed 3,500 families.
They found that mums were only able to do one hour of uninterrupted work, for every three hours done by dads.
“Mothers are doing, on average, more childcare and more housework than fathers who have the same work arrangements,” said Lucy Kraftman, a research economist at the IFS.
She said the finding applied to families where a mother and father were both working, as well as to families where both parents were furloughed or out of work.
“The only set of households where we see mothers and fathers sharing childcare and housework equally are those in which both parents were previously working, but the father has now stopped working for pay, while the mother is still in paid work,” she said.
“However, mothers in these households are doing paid work during an average of five hours a day, in addition to doing the same amount of domestic work as their partner.”
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Paula Sheridan, a coach whose firm Unwrapping Potential works with professional women, says her clients “almost universally” report that they are the ones planning meals, creating timetables and downloading learning resources for children – along with dozens of other tasks.
“I’m the main wage earner and yet I also seem to be the one who stops work to make lunch and dinner, because he wouldn’t think of doing it,” one client told her.
Another told her: “[My partner] is furloughed and yet my work telephone calls are interrupted by the children asking questions, while daddy is just watching Netflix.”
Ms Sheridan believes the different approach to household tasks and childcare responsibilities begins during maternity leave.
Only 2% of new mums and dads split their entitlement to parental leave. This generally leaves woman in charge of establishing a routine and learning how to be a parent – usually by trial and error, she says.
‘Not men versus women’
Being a parent involves making sure there’s food in the house, cooking, arranging childcare where necessary. And as children grow older, keeping track of after-school activities and making sure the kids make it to birthday parties, hopefully with the right gift.
“It isn’t a man versus women thing at all,” Ms Sheridan says. “The partner has no idea that all of this stuff even happens, because he has never needed to.”
Mums still tend to be the ones organising how time is spent at home under lockdown, she adds.
As a result, mothers in two-parent households are only doing, on average, a third of the uninterrupted paid-work hours of fathers, UCL and the IFS found.
Bigger wage gap?
Before lockdown, mothers completed on average around 60% of the uninterrupted work hours that fathers did.
“A risk is that the lockdown leads to a further increase in the gender wage gap,” said Alison Andrew from the IFS.
But her colleague, Sonya Krutikova, points to some cause for hope that the lockdown may lead to a more equal sharing of household tasks between parents.
“Fathers, on average, are doing nearly double the hours of childcare they were doing prior to the crisis,” she said.
“This may bring about changes in the attitudes of fathers, mothers, children and employers about the role of fathers in meeting family needs for childcare and domestic work during the working week.”