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Working mothers feeling the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic stress, fatigue, burnout

Last Updated Sep 23, 2020 at 9:02 pm PDT

A woman having problems in the office. GETTY IMAGES
Summary

Women continue to be disproportionally impacted by the pandemic

An SFU lecturer explains sending kids back to school is just another challenge for working moms

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The COVID-19 pandemic is proving more difficult to navigate for working mothers, who are left to balance caring for the children and managing the demands from their jobs.

Amanda Watson is a lecturer at SFU’s Department of Sociology and says the impacts are being felt the most by women.

“I think we’ll probably learn more as the research unfolds, but we already know that women, in general, were more likely to lose their jobs in the spring as a result of COVID. That’s because they dominated sectors like retail and hospitality,” she says.

“Now, there’s evidence that moms who are in the workforce are more likely than fathers to be leaving their jobs, whether that’s for homeschooling or just by them needing to be at home.”

Watson adds expecting mothers are also most likely feeling the pressures of the pandemic and may be uncertain with handling rapid changes posed by the pandemic.

“For expectant mothers, I think it would be a particularly strange time as you plan for a birth in the pandemic setting, but I just know myself as a working mom, I have two kids at home right now actually who have the sniffles even though they are enrolled in daycare so the juggle that I have been and studying has become way more real all of a sudden.”

And with children back to school and the recent cases of COVID-19 impacting several schools in the Lower Mainland, Watson says most of the responsibility in handling those challenges will fall on the mother to sort out.

“I think what we’re what we know is that it is more likely to fall to women, both to manage alternative arrangements or to take on the care themselves. We’re seeing something that has been a phenomenon all along just become undeniable,” she says.

“I think especially like become headline conversation in the back to school era because we are unclear on policies and we’re seeing things like the sniffles that kids have to go through meaning having kids at home so even though they’re scheduled to be there part-time, the schedules are really unpredictable. So moms, more than dads are having to be super flexible and paperwork isn’t always flexible, some jobs are better than others for this kind of flexibility.”

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She adds with the added pressures, more needs to be done to offer better supports to women who may be overwhelmed amid the pandemic.

“People are experiencing heightened anxiety and depression because of COVID right so now we have people who are juggling an unfair share of the load, who are already having their mental health compromised because we’re living through a pandemic,” Watson says.

“So, I think part of what we need to pay attention to is how these moms are potentially going to have major health consequences from this. I think our coping skills are down because we’re living through a pandemic so we might expect to see people having what they call emotional breakdowns, or burnout or stress leave.”