'I feel like I'm split in two': The unique impact of the pandemic on working mothers

Findings from a new report has brought to light the impact of childcare and homeschooling on women in Wales during lockdown.

A survey of more than 1,000 women revealed that childcare and homeschooling fell predominantly to them, impacting their ability to work and their health and wellbeing.

Speaking to ITV News, Lauren Letherby says she was left exhausted working full-time while juggling being a mum to her 7-year-old son during a global pandemic.

Lauren was working full-time in finance but due to the difficulty of homeschooling, she found a new job and reduced her hours to part-time.

Reflecting on the past year, Lauren said she felt like she was "split in two".

"I'm a mum and then I'm someone who works, whereas before I was a working mum. It was one identity but now I feel like I've got two that are constantly fighting and that's what makes it really challenging and difficult to balance it all.

"My partner and I will sit down and we'll check our finances and we'll see that it's going to be very very difficult climbing back out of that hole that we've got ourselves into because of going from full-time to half-time. We just can't run the household we can't afford the house."

Lauren felt like her identity was completely split in two since the pandemic.

According to the report by Chwarae Teg, a number of issues contributed to the challenges women experienced in lockdown such as:

  • Gendered assumptions within households and by employers, about who would be responsible for care

  • Inflexible working patterns, a lack of women in decision-making

  • Policy-making that failed to consider women's experiences

The impact of the crisis was not felt evenly. Particular groups of women were at higher risk of both the health and economic impacts of the crisis including:

  • Single parents

  • Women of colour

  • Women on low incomes and

  • Self-employed women.  

In households with a child aged under 5 years, women did on average 78% more childcare than men.

Chwarae Teg Chief Executive, Cerys Furlong said: "The experiences described by women in our report 'One Big Juggling Act' will resonate with many of us. Sadly, they are not unexpected. This pandemic has both revealed the extent of gender inequality and exacerbated it.

"Gender stereotypes mean women are still seen as carers first. We've accepted a precarious system of childcare that relies on women's unpaid work for far too long.

"Work remains inflexible for many creating tension with other responsibilities at home and too many women entered the pandemic in a financially vulnerable position as a result of poverty, low pay and insecure work. 

"Action will also be needed to address the underlying causes that left women at greater risk during the pandemic."