Racializing the Pandemic
August 14, 2020
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8/17/2020

Like other forms of unpaid care, the work of parenting has long been invisible, devalued and privatized. In the era of COVID-19, this fragile system become untenable with enforced social exclusion, child care and school closures, and economic distress, especially for mothers.

The toll on parents is very real, and shaped by other social inqualities, according to Amy Joyce’s article in the Washington Post about the stress of parenting in the pandemic. Loss of routing, instability, and a parade of difficult decisions are making parenting harder than ever. Families of color in the U.S. have these stresses impacted by the heightened pressure of racism. Single parents and parents of children with disabilities face significant obstacles as well.

The psychological toll is becoming visible, as noted by Laura Santhanam on pbs.org. Mothers are more likely to feel isolated, and have symptoms of depression than fathers or those without children, and single parents more than partnered parents as well.

In The Atlantic, Joe Pinsker gives an overview of the increasing stress facing working parents, especially mothers. He cites Francine Blau’s explanation that women are more vulnerable to these crises because women already do a larger proportion of parenting work, and because the gender wage gap favors men prioritizing their work when that choices have to be make.

Finally, as families in the U.S. face the beginning of the school year, we see the signs of a new set of “parent wars.” Claire Cain Miller describes the rising parent shaming in her article in the New York Times. Many school districts are opening, despite high levels of community transmission. Parents are having to make a choice about the least bad option for their families. When social problems are relegated to individual choice and responsibility, parents must weighing risks of health, education inequality, and economic survival, and often defend these strategies to others.

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