It takes nearly a week for Carrie Kirby to sit down via Zoom for an interview with NBC 7. She squeezes the interview in between work meetings and a kid’s soccer practice.
“We are going to be a year into this,” Kirby says from her Del Cerro home, referring to the pandemic. “At least for myself, that matchstick has been burning and is almost to the end, where you’re just mentally exhausted and you feel guilty at times — like, ‘I’m not doing enough.’ “
During the pandemic, Kirby has continued in her job as a program manager for UC San Diego, working remotely while supervising distance learning for her second-grader. She has two kids, ages 3 and 7. Her husband travels half the time for his full-time job.
“People say self-care is really important during these times, but when do you do that?” Kirby wondered.
A study by a group of sociologists published in a peer-reviewed academic journal, Gender and Society, found that nearly 80% of mothers have been primarily responsible for doing the housework since March. The same study showed that 66% of mothers are mainly responsible for child care among partnered parents. Three-quarters of mothers reported spending more time on overseeing distance and remote learning than dads.
“I think its been ingrained,” said Autumn Francisco, a mother of three from La Mesa. “We need to take care of the kids, we need to take care of the housework, the dinner.”
Francisco is an operating-room nurse who has been working 50 hours a week during the pandemic. She works at the same hospital as her husband, who is an interventional radiology tech. Their kids are 9, 5 and 2. It now costs her $1,100 per month for extended school services so that her two older children can be supervised while on Zoom. Her eldest daughter is falling behind, sometimes doing homework until late at night.
“It gets frustrating and I have had moments when I am in tears,” Francisco said. “She is in tears, and no one wants their kids crying when they’re doing their homework.”
Single mothers suffer the most, a situation exacerbated by race and class. Researchers at the WorkLife Law Center at UC Hastings said that two-thirds of parents in low-income families are single parents, and a huge portion of single parents are Black mothers.
Even with the distribution of the COVID vaccine, both moms told NBC 7 that “there is really no end in sight.” Kirby and Francisco also agree that opening up their kids’ elementary schools would alleviate “a lot of pressure.”
A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that employers cut 140,000 jobs this past December. Women lost 156,000 jobs during that period, while men gained 16,000. As unemployment increased throughout 2020, women lost 1 million more jobs than men did.
Colleen Curtis works at the Mom Project, which connects women with employers that respect work and life integration. She said employers should offer part-time schedules or unpaid leave, and help pay child-care costs if possible. Curtis also said that we should learn from the pandemic and not go back to “normal” office life. That would include cutting out long commutes if necessary and making Zoom meetings, instead of in-person meetings, more acceptable.
Curtis also said the government should help. If the U.S. had better policies in place pre-pandemic, it would have made lives easier during the past year.
Advocates said the government should extend coronavirus paid leave and offer tax credits to businesses that retain or rehire mothers.
In the meantime, Kirby and Francisco are still juggling their draining schedules. Tomorrow, they’ll do it all over again.