Colleen Sharkey | November 13, 2020
It has now been nearly nine months since many parents transitioned from on-site jobs to working from home — and have been not only parenting, but homeschooling as well. It seems safe to say most parents never dreamed their homes would become schools, home offices and the only place to entertain their children without feeling anxious about contracting COVID-19.
Previous studies have established that parents in the U.S. already face greater stress trying to achieve work-family balance than parents in any other Western country, but COVID-19 levies an unprecedented strain on working parents. Yet the pandemic also offers opportunities for change, as couples have to renegotiate competing career and parenting demands together and reevaluate their priorities. Abigail Ocobock, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame, wanted to investigate how working parents were managing the dueling work-family demands of COVID-19. She is preparing the study for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.
Between April and June of this year, Ocobock and her graduate research assistant, Lindsay Heldreth, a doctoral student in Notre Dame’s Department of Sociology, interviewed 80 parents with at least one child in elementary or middle school. All of the parents work full time and are expected to facilitate e-learning for their children. In this study, all the parents are heterosexual and coupled and they hail from different parts of the U.S. Among the researchers’ key findings are a marked increase in “mom guilt,” enriched family time and a rise in work expectations and demands.
Popular media and academic studies have highlighted how working moms experience significant guilt. Ocobock found that the effects of COVID-19 increased the level of guilt.
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