by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A surprising number of women are responding to lockdowns in an unanticipated way: trading their jobs for more time at home. In September 2020 alone, more than 800,000 women left the workforce. Their numbers swell to 2 million now.
There is little indication most of these women are leaving or downsizing their work under duress, or at the expense of keeping food on the table. Rather, many of these women are responding to something they feel in their bones: the need for stability in the face of crisis, especially for their children. Women are responding to the pandemic by reordering their lives to a saner pace, one more centered on home.
This trend is widely bemoaned as a loss of talent in the public square, and a setback in gender equality. A woman should be at her place on the job just like a man, shoulder to the wheel, a good worker bee, or she’s let everyone down. For several generations, we have seen job and career depicted as central to a woman’s significance.
But reality is far more complex. A woman doesn’t naturally leave her home in the morning and zero in on the demands of a job. She carries it all inside her, a swirling mix of children’s needs and stuff-that-must-get-done.
Recent findings from an Institute for Family Studies study underscore that what’s happening at home never quite leaves a woman’s psyche: even for women who kept working post-pandemic, more than half (53 percent) of those surveyed would prefer to work from home most or at least half of the time. The aftermath of 2020 has only added urgency to this pull toward home.
Forgive me if, as a therapist, I let out a little cheer. Perhaps a legion of women will be able to catch their collective breaths. Nearly 10 million working mothers in the U.S. suffer from burnout.