The circumstances in our world over the past two years have brought a myriad of changes, stressors and uncertainty that our society could not have anticipated or adequately planned for. While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly impacted everyone, there are unique aspects that women have faced.
Many families have evolved into a two-income household, so women who typically work outside the home while also being a parent take on demanding dual roles, and this has caused its own array of struggles amid COVID restrictions.
Women who are mothers have relied on school, daycare and other family members to help care for their children while they have worked, and this became unavailable. In turn, women have had to accommodate their work schedules to include their children, or shift to working from home while babysitting and/or supervising virtual learning for their children. This process can be depleting because women are forced to multitask and constantly shift between work and parent duties.
In many cases, as a result of school and daycare closures, many women have had to quit their jobs in order to care for their children. Survey data found that in September 2020, a total of 865,000 women in the United States left the workforce, which is four times the number of men.
Likewise, since many women work in “contact intensive” industries, they have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Among older working women, many have retired earlier than they anticipated because of the impact of the pandemic, such as job loss/unemployment, and the potential higher health risk due to age.
Experiencing reductions in work demands or job loss/resignation represents a loss in an important identity that likely gave women a sense of fulfillment and confidence. Women appreciate a sense of comradery among like-minded peers, which is sacrificed by not being in their workplace any longer.
Certainly, the financial strains also contribute to the stressors felt by women when they are presented with a decreased workload.
Overall, the impact of multiple roles and responsibilities, changes in work status and the adjustments with caring for their children all impact daily living. The added stressors may feel like a burden, causing life imbalances, possible increases in relationship conflicts and less social support.
Women who choose to be full-time mothers face similar challenges with regard to not having access to school for their children, as well as other family members, friends and peer groups they previously utilized.
For instance, full-time mothers often participate in mother/child groups not only to share commonalities, but also as a form of social support. Having less involvement in parent groups can represent a loss of support that can be devastating. Further, stay-at-home mothers have been forced to distance themselves from other outings such as parks, play dates and art classes that were used to encourage social interactions for both mother and child.
Women have also had to sacrifice various forms of self-care and social activities such as hair/nail salons, spas, gyms, group workouts, volunteering and philanthropic endeavors that were intrinsically valuable and meaningful.
In essence, as the stressors and obligations increase and the positive outlets decrease, women may experience exhaustion, burnout, feel overwhelmed, and/or feel a sense of loss for nourishing activities they used to enjoy.
In spite of global changes in our society, women have demonstrated strength and perseverance in managing their responsibilities, caring for their families and making sacrifices in order to provide for loved ones.
This is the final installment of a three-part series. Annette Ermshar, CEO of Dr. Ermshar & Associates, is a clinical neuropsychologist who holds a doctorate degree. Her Pasadena-based private practice focuses on psychological assessment and treatment, neuropsychology and forensic psychology. She has served as an expert consultant for television and media.