Motherhood and Mothering during COVID-19: A Gendered Intersectional Analysis of Caregiving During the Global Pandemic within a Canadian Context

By Kimberly M. Hillier and Christopher J. Greig


On January 25, 2020, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) reported Canada’s first presumptive case of COVID-19. Although officially the pandemic would not force government-imposed, province-wide economic and social lockdowns until mid-March, January 25 marked the beginning of the global pandemic within the Canadian context. That day also marked the beginning of a wave of economic, political, and social consequences for women in general and mothers in particular. Some of the consequences to women brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic were increased health, domestic, and work-related burdens. Representing a greater proportion of healthcare workers (Boniol et al.), essential service providers (Robertson and Gebeloff), and informal caregivers (Fast), we explore the importance of a gendered and intersectional perspective to pandemic response and planning. Succinctly put: a host of significant social, political, and economic changes, and taking into account complex and intersecting factors such as race, ethnicity, social class, and age, this paper draws on feminist theoretical traditions to explore the effects and consequences of what became a global pandemic on mothers and motherhood primarily within the Canadian context.

Our paper’s temporal framework runs from March 11 to the beginning of July 2020. We characterize this time period of the pandemic as the “early stage.” Although the first Canadian COVID-19 case was identified in January, we decided to denote March 11, 2020, as the beginning of the pandemic in Canada as this is the date when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. And, by mid-March, provinces across Canada were initiating Stage 1 protocols such as physical distancing, shelter-in-place mandates, school and childcare closures, social and economic lockdowns, and border closures. The beginning of July 2020 marked the end of the early stages of the pandemic as provinces across Canada eased some of these measures. These measures included physical distancing on individuals and communities and further reopened the economy to some degree. However, we recognize that our research does not neatly fit into the paper’s temporal boundaries. Various factors contributing to the pandemic, such as food insecurities, domestic violence, and gendered disparities in domestic labor were certainly circulating prior to March, just as the confluence of these pandemic factors certainly extend to some degree beyond our bounded time frame of the beginning of July. Given the existing gender, inequities broadly, and in particular around care work, exploring and understanding how the pandemic in its early stages impacted mothers is of critical importance.

The purpose of this research is threefold. First, drawing on the insights provided by feminist theories, we aim to present a gendered intersectional analysis of caregiving, particularly maternal caregiving, during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Situated in the context of the current global health crisis, we discuss how the pre-existing gender inequities within society were exacerbated during the initial stages of the pandemic and draw closer attention to some of the challenges faced by mothers on the frontlines in both public and private spheres. Secondly, we discuss how the historical underpinnings and assumptions of gender innateness within these professions and roles placed many women and mothers in circumstances that directly affect their overall well-being. Third, drawing from a variety of sources, this paper demonstrates the ways in which the devaluation of paid and unpaid caregiving exceedingly impacts women, particularly mothers.

Theoretical Considerations

In order to situate motherhood and mothering within the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic, motherhood and mothering should first be considered within a broader social context and define the key concepts related to this research. For purposes of this paper, our view of “motherhood” adopts Adrienne Rich’s conceptualization which sees motherhood as having two superimposed meanings: “the potential relationship of any woman to her powers of reproduction and to children; and the institution, which aims at ensuring that that potential – and all women – shall remain under male control” (emphasis in original; 13). Therefore, it is not the act of mothering that is an impediment for women, rather, it is the configuration of family dynamics and the social construction of women’s reproductive power (Rich). Furthermore, our definition of “mothers” within this paper conforms to Andrea O’Reilly’s interpretation that mothering is more than a biological relation and applies to “any individual who engages in motherwork” (YFile). Given the broad range of caregiving during the early stages of the pandemic including maternal unpaid caregiving and licensed paid childcare, this definition is most relevant to the theoretical and empirical elements presented here.

When referring to discussions of childcare and labor force participation, this paper utilizes the term “choice.” Although the term is utilized to describe the decision-making processes many women and mothers engage in when deciding how to manage additional childcare responsibilities, it is recognized that the term is often used as a convenient way to mask social, economic, and political disparities in power. The term “choice” carries with it an illusory undertone that disregards the multiple push and pull factors at play for mothers in the workforce. It is also recognized that many other social justice factors complexify a mother’s choice in deciding whether or not to remain in the workforce. For example, social class affords a certain level of privilege that provides some mothers with an increased amount of financial flexibility in exiting the workforce. Thus, while we utilize the term “choice” in a variety of different discussions and contexts, we do so with the knowledge and consciousness of the fact that choices are shaped and influenced through the lens of women’s traditional roles in society and shaped by enduring gender role expectations (Wolf-Wendel and Ward).

Sources and Methods

This paper is the culmination of research undertaken during the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic, from March 1 to early July 2020. In order to explore gender relations as it pertains to maternal caregiving during the early stages of the pandemic, and its relationship to gender, motherhood, and mothering, we were attentive to both popular and academic discourses. We made extensive use of various online media outlets, including local newspapers and national daily newspapers such as The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. We also paid attention to various popular Canadian periodicals such as The Walrus and MacLean’s. To gain a broader North American perspective we also include perspectives from American media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and periodicals circulating in the time of the global pandemic, including The Atlantic. In order to deepen our evidentiary base, we also draw on various reports published by national and international organization databases such as Statistics Canada and published national and international surveys and policy briefs. We also took into careful consideration articles published in academic journals such as The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine. It is important to note that, faced with pressure to share research findings with the academic community during the pandemic, The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine, Canadian Public Policy, and other health care, medical, and public policy journals worked to publish rapid, pre-print research emerging out of the pandemic in order to help policymakers, officials and others make informed decisions. Our research benefited from this rapidly developing database.

Our approach emphasized exploration and theory building. We see theory building as a means to synthesize a broad range of literature and research to provide evidence in order to provide a rich and comprehensive explanation to a given phenomenon (Colquitt and Zapata-Phelan; Bhattacherjee). Theory building allowed us to plausibly explain caregiving, mothering, and the intersections of gender relations in a unique and unprecedented context. More specifically, we explore the impact of the pandemic on mothers and various marginalized women and argue that caregiving and domestic-related responsibilities were undeniably exacerbated by the current pandemic and various social justice intersections. For example, the more economically disadvantaged mothers were in comparison to fathers, the more likely they were to bear the burden of caregiving and absorb job loss (Qian and Fuller). This research aims to raise the abstraction level of caregiving in relation to motherhood and attempts to describe its interwoven relationship to motherhood during the first four months of the current global pandemic.

Maternal Caregiving During the Pandemic

During the early months of the pandemic, it was apparent that women would have to take on more of the childcare and unpaid domestic duties and responsibilities than men. Divested of choice, mothers quickly became subjected to intensified gendered implications of existing gender inequities. Despite some increased efforts made by some men, faced with school closures, and with the closing of daycare centers, many women were left no choice but to figure out how to care for their children. This was no surprise. Globally, women perform three-quarters of unpaid care work or 76.2% of the total of hours provided (International Labour Organization). More specifically, women dedicate on average 3.2 times more time to unpaid caregiving than men. These gender disparities in unpaid caregiving are present in every country of the world (International Labour Organization). In the presence of a global pandemic, this labor became intensified and often involved taking care of ill family members and providing care to children while schools and early learning and childcare centers remain closed (CARE International; Friendly et al.). The early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted, exacerbated the gender disparity faced by women when it came to caregiving.

The burden of maternal care rested heaviest for working women during the early stages of the pandemic. Despite the fact that most women work in the labor force in Canada, they continue to comprise the majority of those who complete informal unpaid caregiving for children, elders, and people who are ill or those with disabilities (Statistics Canada). Due to these compounded caregiving responsibilities, working women and mothers experience greater role strain when trying to balance work and family. Role overload, role strain, and decreased overall well-being are often manifestations of their gendered overextension (Edwards). The early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the ways in which women and mothers continued to face higher proportions of role strain caused by their centrality to our nation’s economic fallout and projected recovery. For example, during the early stages of COVID-19, women were more likely than men to have experienced economic impacts of the pandemic (Statistics Canada; Labour Force Survey). A July 10 COVID-19 update, released by Statistics Canada found that “in all age groups, men were closer to pre-shutdown employment levels than women” (Statistics Canada). Working mothers were faced with difficult choices, including whether or not to change from working full time to part-time, or to opt-out of the workforce entirely as schools closed down and daycare options dwindled. For example, drawing on international data, an April survey of 7,677 German wage earners found that 27% of waged mothers had reduced paid hours, while only 16% of fathers had done so (Deutsche Welle). Preliminary research conducted by Qian and Fuller on the early stages of the pandemic found, that the employment of “mothers with a high school education or less was hit much harder than that of their male counterparts, and less-educated women’s greater disadvantage in employment relative to men further widened in May when less-educated women’s greater disadvantage in employment relative to men further widened in May when Canadian economy started to open up” (12-13).

Schools across Canada and other regions closed in the early stages of the pandemic, forcing teachers and students to transition into remote learning. The change in schooling added a new duty to parents, in particular mothers, that of an educator. Mothers, much more than fathers, were now obligated to ensure the continuation of education and remote learning on a day-to-day basis. Two sociologists from the University of British Columbia found that during COVID-19, “With schools closed across the country, parents were forced to find other options, and much of that responsibility fell to mothers” (Qian and Fuller). This led to some mothers trying to juggle numerous additional duties. As one mother noted in a March 20, New York Times article, “I feel like I have five jobs: mom, teacher, C.C.O., house cleaner, chef … My kids also call me ‘Principal mommy’ and the ‘lunch lady.’ It’s exhausting” (Bennet). Some fathers were surely making their contribution to their child’s education during the pandemic (Brean). Still, despite some positive efforts by fathers when it came to domestic tasks during COVID-19 (Shafer, Milkie, and Scheibling), it is important to remember that the vast majority of domestic labor in Canada is still done by women (Statistics Canada).

The aforementioned gender implications of school closures resonated heavily with parents whose children require special needs and supports from community organizations. Noting the lack of services that would typically be received while in school, parents of 11-year Cameron, who has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, spoke to the challenges that manifested with missing therapeutic interventions. During the early stages of the pandemic, therapeutic interventions and therapy were not deemed essential services. These challenges were expressed by Cameron’s father in a CBC News article: “At school, Cameron has access to physiotherapy, occupational therapy, music therapy and massage therapy, but right now, he is missing out on all of it.” His father continued to explain the devastating effects this has had on Cameron’s physical and emotional well-being: “Cameron’s muscles are so tight, he’s often in pain … When he’s had more stretching, more massage, more physio, he’s looser and when he’s looser, he’s happier” (Okeke). Reflecting the additional challenges faced by lone parent mothers, some single mothers whose children required special needs pleaded to local news outlets to encourage the Ontario government to resume therapeutic interventions aimed at ensuring their children’s quality of life (Westhead).

The lack of therapeutic services for children with special needs presented an additional stressor placed for lone parent mothers. Lack of respite and spousal support meant that mothers whose children required special needs were often working around the clock and singlehandedly compensating for the absence of these critical services. Alisa Hutton, single mother of 11-year-old Noah who has autism, expressed her decrease in overall emotional well-being and stated in a CTV News article: “I do cry every day” (Westhead). Similarly, a mother speaking to the CBC on May 5 described her experiences this way, “Community and support is the biggest part of making having a special needs child manageable. Giving we have zero [outside] support right now due to COVID-19, and we are tasked not only working through our child’s special needs, emotional and mental well-being but also schooling … it’s really, frankly, impossible” (Schuck). Autism Ontario, Calgary’s Pacekids, and other Canadian community organizations intervened and have since been offering assistance to aide families during these mandated closures (Westhead). The necessary and noble involvement of community organizations has served as a means to offset the lack of solicitude demonstrated by the federal government’s care for children that have special needs and their families.

As indicated above, lone parent mothers across the nation faced enormous burdens during the initial stages of the pandemic. Lone parent families, which represent approximately 17% of all families in Canada, are overwhelmingly led by women, at approximately 80% (Statistics Canada). Increased financial burdens and childcare issues have placed greater anxieties on single mothers. The executive director of Single Parent Association of Newfoundland, for example, was quoted on May 11 as saying, “We’re seeing our crisis calls increase because of all the uncertainty in what will happen and how long this will go on. It’s created all sorts of stress for our single-parent families.” The Director went on to mention that, in light of school breakfast and lunch programs no longer available to students, food security has become the number one problem for single parents, most of which are mothers (Breen). Food insecurity, driven by financial insecurity was the topic of an opinion piece written by a single mother and published in the June 10 edition of the Huffington Post. The writer, already facing pre-pandemic economic insecurity, was now facing a dramatic decrease in income, “Within days of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, about 40 percent of my income disappeared, just like that.” The writer, a mother of a child with special needs, felt she was once again being quickly thrown back into poverty (Smith). Regressing back into poverty was, and continues to be, a devastating possibility for many lone parent mothers during the pandemic.

The hidden nature of women’s homelessness is an often-overlooked reality. Prior to the pandemic, women, especially lone parent mothers and women of color, were more likely to live in poverty (Statistics Canada; Kramer). Add to that, strains on existing homelessness shelters and resources, and maximum capacities in women’s shelters for those fleeting gender-based violence during the lockdown, women’s homelessness presents an additional layer of intersectionality that has its roots in socioeconomic privilege. Further complexifying the nature of women’s homelessness, Indigenous women and mothers are experiencing some of the largest inequities in housing and gender-based violence and continue to be underserved by all branches of the Canadian government (Bingham et al.). Focusing primarily on age and gender, official Canadian COVID-19 data overlooks multiple intersecting, gender-based variables, and social determinants that uniquely affect marginalized women and mothers. A discussion of women and mothers working on the frontlines and in essential services, shed light on the invidious gendered experiences faced by some mothers and was crucial in the examination of disaggregated data and media representations of formal and informal caregiving.

Women and Mothers on the Pandemic Frontline

Globally, women comprise approximately 70% of all healthcare professionals (UNPFA) and make up the majority of essential service providers such as cashiers in grocery stores and drug stores (Robertson and Gebeloff). As is often the case with women’s paid and unpaid labor, the work of essential service providers was largely invisible prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, during the early stages of the pandemic, some media outlets brought greater attention to the fact that women perform more than half the of essential services and economic responses (Robertson and Gebeloff). It was also the case that women typically earn less money than men in the healthcare sector. Women’s representation in frontline healthcare and essential services placed them at an increased risk for contracting the virus (OECD). A policy brief issued by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development in April 2020, estimated that women make up close to 70% of health care workers (OECD), and warned that women were most likely to be heavily affected by the virus. While the majority of countries across the globe are witnessing more men dying of COVID-19 than women, Canada is one of the only countries where that statistic is inverted (Ankel). Upon closer investigation of which women are dying, the intersections of race and socioeconomic status become evident.

Within the early months of the pandemic, it became increasingly evident that women of color and women in a lower socioeconomic status were being disproportionality impacted by the virus (Bowden). This disparity in cases was largely due to women’s higher representation in healthcare, as well as increased residency and employment in long-term care homes (Ankel; OECD). Predominantly staffed by immigrant women, migrants, and refugees, the current state of Ontario’s long-term homes sheds light on the marginalization of the elderly and their caregivers, most of whom are women (Gupta). In particular, personal support workers (PSW), who are primarily older women from minority populations are at unusually high risk (Zagrodney and Saks). Given this, it is no surprise that in Ontario, at the time of this writing, all three personal support workers (PSW) who contracted COVID-19 and died were women: Arlene Reid, 51, of Toronto, Christine Mandegarian of Scarborough, and Sharon Roberts of North York (Macdonnell). This is more deeply troubling if you consider that personal support workers in Canada are typically precariously employed, suffering from low wages, job insecurity, and reduced benefits despite the fact that they now form the largest part of the healthcare workforce (Zagrodney and Saks). The disproportional rates of women employed in lower-wage caregiving positions are also similar to other sectors such as essential service sectors.

In addition to frontline professions such as PSW, women are also disproportionality represented in precarious and often undervalued work such as hospitality, clerical, retail, and childcare, which are among the most impacted sectors within Canada. Within these sectors, 1.5 million women in Canada have lost their jobs over March and April, a 17% decrease in unemployment, to date (Statistics Canada). Given the historical underpinnings and assumptions of gender innateness within these professions, they are often undervalued, underpaid, low-skilled, largely part-time, and occupied primarily by marginalized women (Friendly and Ballantyne). Many mothers working on the frontlines of healthcare systems are also working on the frontlines within their own homes, tackling the majority of homeschooling tasks and domestic related responsibilities.

With school closures across Canada, women and mothers on the frontlines and essential services sectors are also facing greater domestic workloads and higher rates of second and third shifts within the home (Hochschild and Machung). Keep in mind, women also comprise the vast majority of teaching-related professions in Canada (Statistics Canada). Many of these teachers are mothers who now find themselves disproportionality caring for the needs of schooling their own children while preparing classes for online delivery. Additionally, the increased amount of worry women and mothers face regarding virus-related disruptions is additional emotional labor for women which may significantly affect their overall mental well-being, particularly for those in frontline professions (Gold). The impacts of school closures quickly became further compounded when many provinces across the nation were ordered to close licensed childcare centers. The abrupt removal of the safety net and support which has allowed many mothers to actively engage in the workforce proved to be detrimental to women’s continued participation within it.

Outcomes of Women and Mothers as Primary Caregivers on Workforce Participation and Well-Being During the Pandemic

Prior to the pandemic, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development identified Canada’s childcare infrastructure as a barrier to women’s participation in the workforce (Friedman). Inaccessibility, lack of affordability, and underfunding from the government have rendered Canada’s childcare infrastructure as “comparatively poor” (OECD). Women and mothers’ roles as primary caregivers during the early stages of the pandemic had direct effects on their workforce participation, as well as their mental, physical and emotional well-being (Statistics Canada; Royal Bank of Canada; Jones; McGinn). The onset of these effects began around mid-March as provinces across Canada took decisive action and declared states of emergency through various provincial emergency management legislation in response to COVID-19. In doing so, schools and licensed childcare centers were legally required to immediately close for the unforeseeable future. With no active strategies to re-engage women and mothers back into the workforce, later data from Statistics Canada would demonstrate that this “temporary” exit from the workforce posed challenges for women’s re-entry (Statistics Canada).

When the province of Ontario ordered a declaration of emergency on March 17, 2020, licensed childcare centers were subsequently required to immediately close (Ontario Newsroom). The sudden closure of licensed childcare centers across the nation left many frontline healthcare, emergency responders, and essential service providers in a bind for childcare. Without the option of relying on extended family or friends, many mothers were left with little to no choice in either reducing their working hours or opting-out of the workforce entirely. This was made evident in a study conducted by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Capital Markets which revealed that in April 2020, women’s participation in the labor force dipped to 55% for the first time since the mid-80s. This highly gendered and asymmetrical impact has pushed women’s participation in the workforce down to its lowest level in nearly three decades. This decline in women’s labor force participation is also the greatest decrease documented in any recession (RBC).

Although provincial governments began to reopen licensed childcare facilities during Stage 2 developments, the decision to utilize daycare options was not made lightly, or with many choices in the matter. Given women’s increased participation in both healthcare and service sectors (Statistics Canada), as well as the role of various social justice factors in determining the financial implications of remaining or exiting the workforce, many mothers were fraught with anxieties pertaining to the safety and strict regulations being adhered to by emergency childcare centers. While some parents in news outlets made mention of a much-needed respite from caregiving responsibilities, others expressed that the potential health care risks are far too worrisome (McGinn). Similar to the reopening of daycares, schools are now preparing for a variety of scenarios. Ultimately, the “choice” to send their children back to school will be shaped and influenced by a set of social justice factors, such as social class, and also women’s traditional roles in society and enduring gender role expectations (Wolf-Wendel and Ward). The outcomes of around the clock childcare, increases in domestic labor, and pressures to conform to an idealized version of motherhood began to manifest rather rapidly for mothers. We now turn to the physical, emotional, and mental outcomes in relation to mothers’ roles as primary caregivers.

During the early stages of the pandemic, women’s obligations as far as domestic labor is concerned, multiplied with the whole family at home, all day long. The mental, physical and emotional strains of increased unpaid care work were evident in a recent June 2020 survey conducted by Oxfam which found that seven out of ten Canadian women are experiencing more anxiety, depression, fatigue and isolation because of the increase in unpaid care work they are expected to perform during the COVID-19 pandemic (Jones). The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital, in collaboration with Delvinia also found that women, particularly those with children under the age of 18 living in the home and younger adults (aged 18-39) were all more likely to feel both depression and anxiety. These findings demonstrate that increased role strain and pressures placed on mothers during the pandemic raise concerns about mental health and well-being in relation to caregiving.

Mothers’ implied duty to care during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the long-standing finding that they are often responsible for the lion’s share of caregiving and domestic-related tasks within the home. As a result, personal accounts of how mothers are managing family separation as a preventative measure to avoid the spread within their homes has often been met with feelings of maternal guilt and substantiated role strain. The presence of maternal guilt was evident in the narrative of a British Columbia nurse who is also a mother. In the Aldergrove Star she states, “My husband is caring for our children on his own and it breaks my heart” (Logan). Her comments reflect the guilt many mothers often grapple with when traditional gender roles and family dynamics transgress social norms of gender performativity and call upon men to manage the caregiving responsibilities (Fetterolf and Rudman). As a result of the combination of the factors presented in this discussion, increased levels of maternal guilt, role strain, and general anxieties were often met with decreases in overall well-being for mothers during these early stages of the pandemic.

Discussion and Implications

The paper provides both theoretical discussions of maternal caregiving as well as the incorporation of emerging research around caregiving as it relates to motherhood, gender, and other social justice factors in the context of the current global pandemic. Additionally, this paper highlights and establishes a scope of some of the challenges many Canadian mothers have experienced during the early stages of the pandemic. Noting the increase of challenges for marginalized mothers, mothers caring for children with special needs and lone-parent mothers, this work sheds light on the ways in which intersecting social justice factors continue to exacerbate the current challenges many mothers continue to face as the pandemic evolves.

Through this research, it was evident that mothers were largely responsible for the caregiving and domestic-related tasks during the early stages of the pandemic. Within various online media outlets, local and national newspapers, and reports published by national and international organizational databases, it was routinely made clear that mothers were solely responsible for maintaining domestic order and upholding the family’s well-being. Through explicitly communicated expectations for mothers to adhere to intensive mothering ideologies, some mothers spoke of the guilt and additional pressures they faced in relation to the expectancy to adhere to their feminine-coded duties as primary caregivers. Displacing blame on women for social ills and associating normalcy with stable gender identities is often common during times of social anxiety and uncertainty. Women’s duty to care has been projected in various news outlets on multiple occasions and reflects the tendency for historical patterns to be replicated in times of crisis. This discourse demands conformity to domestic ideals and pushes women back into roles that confine and reaffirm patriarchal values. It also promotes violence towards women and girls which is heightened during mandatory quarantines.

In addition to the added pressures within the private sphere, this paper demonstrates that mothers and women were primarily responsible for upholding the health and economic functioning of our nation through their roles in the healthcare sector and essential services. As a result, the gendered increases in role strain in the public sphere were also reported in various surveys and reports. The intersection of various social justice factors impacted the overall experiences for many mothers and presented additional challenges that increased various forms of stress and anxieties. The lack of official disaggregated data including these variables continues to interfere with effective pandemic response and planning and overlooks the complexities and variances of lived experiences for many marginalized mothers.

Furthermore, through our analysis, we demonstrate how challenges related to homelessness, domestic violence within urban and rural communities, particularly Indigenous communities in Canada, and other factors during the initial stages of the pandemic are central to comprehensive discussions of pandemic response and planning. Pandemic response and planning that also incorporates a childcare plan and active strategies to targeted to re-engage women and mothers back into the workforce after exiting to assume caregiving roles is crucial to keeping women engaged in the workforce and comprises another area of research that warrants in-depth exploration. Policies related to workplace flexibility would also alleviate the challenges for mothers working from home while providing constant childcare. Men must also recognize that their participation in domestic and caregiving related tasks must take an equitable approach. Moreover, men must see their partner’s careers as no less important than their own. Finally, since it was and continues to be mainly women on the frontlines of healthcare and essential services, additional resources and research dedicated to exploring the long-term effects of role strain and caregiving implications for mothers within these sectors would be valuable.


This paper has presented evidence of the lack of discussion surrounding the gendered and intersectional implications of COVID-19 in relation to motherhood, mothering, and caregiving. Through an examination of various surveys, popular media sources, scholarly articles, and official health data, our sources and theoretical analysis of them validate how magnified gender inequities become during a pandemic and again demonstrate the need to draw attention to their persistence. Across the nation, millions of women and mothers continue to face disproportionate increases in domestic and caregiving related tasks. Reflecting on the intersections of race, class, and other social justice factors, this paper demonstrates the need for a closer examination of these influences and the implications for marginalized mothers. Experiencing greater challenges such as homelessness, gender-based violence, food insecurity, and financial distress, marginalized groups of women and mothers are rarely at the center of discussion regarding pandemic planning and response. As much of the nation now begins to enter into Stage 3, it is clear that the gendered and intersectional implications of pandemics must be brought to the forefront and become a fundamental part of public officials’ cross-sectoral planning and response efforts, particularly as it pertains to caregiving. Doing so would benefit all members of society, particularly those who continue to face an increased vulnerability of global health crises like COVID-19.

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