Did The Pandemic Kick Off The Age Of The Stay-At-Home Mom?

By Luna Salinas··  6 min read
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Did The Pandemic Kick Off The Age of The Stay-At-Home Mom? shutterstock

If, for just under 700 days, you continually lockdown or restrict a populace, can you really be surprised when they take the opportunity to readjust their lives in a way that actually benefits them?

In September of this year, we saw a rise in people quitting their jobs, and the combined percentage of men and women participating in the labor force has dropped by about 3% since about early 2020.

We’re seeing this after just under 700 days of lockdowns and restrictions and mask mandates, even among young children. People have been worn down, and with no end in sight to the government interfering with their lives, it seems people have decided to embrace the one-earner-household lifestyle. It begs the question: is this a net positive? And is this the kick-off to a generational trend?

The Average Home Life Was Completely Shaken Up 

Circa February/March 2020, schools across the country told students that in-person classes were canceled until further notice, basically overnight. Their education would continue via shoddy Zoom calls filled with unmuted distractions while the teacher tries to explain something without any feedback from the students. At the same time, parents were either unfortunately laid off, or if they were lucky, they were sent home to work remotely as best they could. All of a sudden, all family members were to be in the same house for the whole day, with each person needing to figure out how to succeed in a vastly different, online environment.

Given these circumstances, it would make sense for one parent to take time off work (or quit altogether) to help the children get adjusted to virtual school (hell, to get themselves adjusted to it) and try to make sure their child wasn’t falling behind for the next year. Meanwhile, the other parent has some of their own load lifted and they can adjust fully to remote work.

There was no need to strike a work-life balance, because there was no work anymore, just life.

This opportunity provided insight into what it’s actually like to be a “stay-at-home” (SAH) parent. All of a sudden, there was no need to strike a work-life balance, because there was no work anymore, just life. You could direct all of your energy towards easing the stress you used to feel about coming home and dealing with the family, instead of balancing your efforts between that and work. You didn’t have to worry about work, and then cooking dinner and helping the kids with their homework and cleaning the house and tending to the dog and getting the kids ready for bed and finding time to take care of yourself.

All of a sudden there were 8 to 12 hours freed up that were previously allocated towards work, and whatever time was left in the day, you could spend on yourself – things you wanted to try or learn. I personally know some people who took up baking, crafting, or other hobbies during the lockdowns, and then made decent side hustles out of them.

Additionally, parents were likely to see the effects of spending more time with their children on their children. It's not a secret that little kids need their parents to keep them safe and healthy, but the positive effects of things like eating dinner together as a family on teenagers are also huge. Parents had over a year to see their children and their family dynamic in a new light, and many were likely unwillingly to give that up.

Children’s Education Was Taken Back

As the government restricted freedoms outside the home, many eyes shifted to focusing on virtual and post-virtual education, and many ugly things were brought to light: A teacher expressed concern on Twitter about “helicopter and snowplow parents” and “spectators” interrupting virtual education. Some schools in the country allowed sexually-explicit books to be available from their libraries (with the endorsement of the School Library Journal). A teacher at the Dalton School in Manhattan featured masturbation in her sex-ed curriculum for first-graders.

The number of households with homeschooled students doubled from March 2020 to March 2021.

With students falling behind thanks to virtual learning, and the faculty exposing students to objectionable material, it made sense for parents to take education into their own hands. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the number of households with homeschooled students doubled from March 2020 to March 2021. While it remains to be seen if that’s a change that will persist, it’s certainly interesting that many families took the plunge into homeschooling. It’s demonstrative of parents wanting to see their children succeed and taking that into their own hands when the state shows apathy or malicious intentions towards their children.

Liberation for Women and Workers?

While both men and women quit their jobs this past year, the quit rate among women was 1.1 percentage points higher than men. While quitting could have been a personal choice made for any of the reasons above, there’s certainly the possibility that women were made to feel like they were forced to quit and would still like to re-enter the workforce someday.

The quit rate among women was 1.1 percentage points higher than men.

The good news is that employees have more negotiating power now than ever before – workers that companies desperately need are in the position to request things that better accommodate life: remote work, flexible schedules, more paid time off, just to name a few. It seems the current climate allows for people to ask for more that will allow them to truly balance work and life.

Closing Thoughts

If the trend of having fewer people in the workforce continues, it could mean a lot of good for children and for families, but it could also mean trouble for Americans.

If the trend continues, and younger people aren’t working while older people are retiring, there are fewer jobs filled, which could call for outsourcing to other countries, or employers turning to illegal immigrants. This would hurt the economy since immigrants are more sought-after when they’re willing to accept lower wages and fewer benefits, and thus any Americans who want to work are put on the backburner.

While some restructuring is good and benefits children and families, it should come from families opting to make that choice because it benefits them, and not out of feeling like they’re forced to go that route. It remains to be seen, but by and large, the pandemic appears to have germinated the seeds of the stay-at-home mom era.

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