How the Coronavirus Pandemic Halted Some Parents’ Careers

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Millions of parents, most of them mothers, have stopped paid work due to the pandemic childcare crisis. But for many more job holders, the demands of childcare have also affected their careers, often less visibly. They worked fewer hours, refused assignments, or decided not to get promoted or look for a new job.

Economists call it the dense margin – how many people work versus how many people in the workforce – and it’s harder to measure in official employment statistics. Still, there’s evidence that working parents are slowing their careers as childcare programs continue to fall apart. According to research, it has short-term effects on their professional contributions and can have long-term effects on their careers because American employers tend to punish people who work below full capacity.

“I think a lot of women who didn’t get fired consider themselves lucky – but they’ve been forced to keep quiet,” said Maria Rapier, a quitting mother of three who runs a department and contributes to board meetings. taking a lower-level, less demanding position. “Even if they went about their business, they couldn’t fully participate because half the time they were looking at their kids over their laptops and the laundry was piling up.”

It feels like it’s flooding. In his Bay Area, some schools never opened last year, and fall openings aren’t guaranteed.

“I’m sitting here doing data entry and I know with my education and experience I can be at the table where the decisions are made,” he said. “So it was a blow to my ego. But it’s also a job, because I’m good at making these strategic decisions.”

In a survey conducted by Morning Consult for The New York Times of 468 paid mothers during the school year, one-third said they worked fewer hours during the pandemic due to childcare issues, and one-fifth moved to mothers-to-be. part time.

Twenty-eight percent refused new responsibilities at work. Twenty-three percent did not apply for new jobs and 16 percent were not promoted.

In general, people who work at home due to the pandemic are in various surveys. made them more productiveOnly 11 percent of mothers said so in a Morning Consult survey. Almost a quarter said they were less productive because of their childcare responsibilities (the remaining two-thirds said their productivity had not changed).

Even if most of America has reopened, life prepandemic does not look normal for most parents of young children. Children under 12 years of age cannot yet be vaccinated. Some childcare centres, pools and children’s museums remain closed or have capacity restrictions. Many summer programs are not fully functioning or parents are uncomfortable sending unvaccinated children to them, especially with the increase in cases from the Delta variant.

became the Census Bureau survey families on a weekly basis during the pandemic. In the final installment, which spanned June 23 through July 5, 26 percent of respondents living with children unable to attend school or daycare due to the pandemic said an adult in the household cut paid working hours last week as a result. A quarter said an adult took unpaid leave to care for children, and another fifth said they took paid leave, such as vacation or sick days, to do so.

“Nobody talks about it,” said Misty L. Heggeness, chief economist at the Census Bureau. “Even though they are in that active working status, we will see shifts in gender equality if we don’t pay attention to the heavy margin.”

According to the census data she analyzed, single mothers who didn’t live with another working-age adult experienced the greatest decrease in hours worked and improved the least.

Roxana Funes, a single mother of three living in Los Angeles, first cut her shift and then quit her job at a Mexican lunch truck. Instead, she babysits for $100 a week and receives government subsidies. She misses working full time and providing for her family and also had to postpone getting her GED. But she continues her goal of becoming a pediatrician assistant.

“It’s never too late, and with God’s help, I believe I can do it,” Funes said.

Some fathers also worked less. Jacob in Dobbs Ferry, NY, who requested that his last name not be published for business reasons, is a consultant who measures the workday in 15-minute increments. He shortened his working hours by 20 percent while his youngest daughter was at home and his wife worked long days in Kovid drug research.

“I had no other choice; we didn’t have childcare,” she said. “I’ll have to go and check on him every five minutes.”

She was only able to resume her full workload when they recently moved to an open school location and enrolled her daughters in a school-run camp there.

However, during the pandemic, mothers did most of the additional care – and more likely than dads to have workdays interrupted. In its survey for The Times, Morning Consult asked 725 mothers who have partners at home, the first 725 mothers their children go to when they need help: mothers, spouses, or someone like a babysitter or relative. Nine out of ten people said they were looking for their mother.

One reason many mothers have become default caregivers during the pandemic is sought flexible jobs for childcare emergenciesIt’s like a sick day home from school.

Meghan McGarry, a mother of 7-year-olds, has a housekeeping business in Houston and her husband is a key worker in the oil and gas industry. Even as demand to organize at home is skyrocketing, she has cut her workdays from a quarter to a quarter and doesn’t expect it to be at full capacity until the fall.

“The career was chosen for its flexibility knowing that there will be ups and downs,” he said. “I never expected the decline to last 15 months.”

Others fear the effects on their careers. Jaishree Raman, an IT director in Norman, Okla, took a six-month unpaid leave after thirty years of work. His father needs care and the family is uncomfortable finding a home health aide during the pandemic. She is also helping out an adult son who is undergoing chemotherapy and needs to be extra careful not to be exposed to the coronavirus.

“There’s a constant feeling of guilt for not being able to do everything I’m used to at work,” she said. “I couldn’t confidently ask for a raise because I felt the company was doing me a huge favor,” by fulfilling babysitting requests.

He fears that a break will make it harder to re-enter: “What shall I say? I wouldn’t call it mental burnout; interpreted as weakness.”

Various studies have found that working below full capacity – such as working part-time or doing a job that does not require one’s full skills – is. there may be career repercussions though not always.

To test the idea, David Pedulla, a sociologist at Harvard, presented employers with fictitious resumes. Previous jobs listed on a resume that were below the applicant’s experience or education resulted in approximately 50 percent lower callback rates.

He also tested the effects of part-time work on fictitious resumes. Men were punished as if they were unemployed, but women mostly were not. In follow-up interviews with recruiters for his book, “Making the CutProfessor Pedulla said they assume that men are ambitious, while women assume they have a reason to work part-time – being a mother.

Yet studies have found that Part-time work hurts women in other ways, such as earnings and promotions. In Europe, where employers largely have to meet the demands of part-time programs and mostly preferred by women, significantly less likely more than American women to reach high levels in companies. The main reason women are paid and promoted less than men in the United States is, due to flexible working hours and the other maternal demands – even before the pandemic.

“This is about Covid, but not at the same time,” said mother Ms. Rapier, who left her senior job for a less demanding job. “It’s about the lack of real equality.”


Ana Facio-Krajcer contributed to the reporting.

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