Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, women caregivers have been disproportionately affected. One in 10 working mothers with children under 18 report quitting a job due to COVID.
With Mother’s Day just having passed, I’m sure we are all feeling appreciative of the women caregivers in our lives. Data shows that two out of every three caregivers in the United States are women. These women are responsible for providing daily or regular support to children, adults, or people with chronic illnesses or disabilities. Many of them are also working women with jobs outside of their caretaking responsibilities.
Unfortunately, it’s these women caregivers that have suffered disproportionately, facing greater job losses and an increase in caretaking responsibilities since the pandemic began. Women caregivers are also at a greater risk for poor physical and mental health, with conditions like depression and anxiety being most prevalent.
A closer look at the effects of the pandemic on caregivers
According to data collected by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), 1 in 10 women report quitting a job due to a pandemic related reason and almost half said that one of the reasons was because they felt unsafe at their workplace. Additionally, over half of mothers with school age children said that the stress and worry of the pandemic has affected their mental health, with 1 in 5 characterizing the impact as “major.” Yet, only 16% of mothers have sought mental health care to address their additional stress.
Despite seeing improvements in recent years in regards to gender roles, women are still the primary caregivers and still more likely than men to leave their job to fulfill caretaking responsibilities. Prolonged school closures lead to a large number of working mothers having to take unpaid time off or leave their jobs entirely. One out of ten working mothers with children under the age of 18 reported quitting their job due to COVID-19 and half of that group also cited school closures as one of the main reasons, KFF’s data reports. Additionally, 3 out of 10 working mothers reported taking time off due to school closures. These numbers were higher for women of minority groups, with Latinas being the largest group to report taking time off to fulfill caregiving roles.
Caring for older family members
Caregivers are not just mothers of young children. Many women caregivers are also responsible for older family members. Data from the KFF states that, more than one in ten women reported they were caring for a family member who needed special assistance prior to the pandemic and that since the pandemic they have new caregiving responsibilities.
Again, women of color face greater numbers when it comes to family caregiving responsibilities. Almost one in five Black women (18%) report caring for someone who needed special assistance prior to the pandemic, significantly higher than the 12% of White women. For Hispanic women, 18% say they have had to take on new caregiving responsibilities since the pandemic started and nearly 1 in 10 Hispanic women workers say they have had to take time off work because they were caring for a family member quarantining from or sick with COVID-19.
All of these additional responsibilities and stressors can lead to mental and physical health issues for women caregivers. This is why it is important for caregivers to look after their own needs and for others to support the caretakers in their lives.
You might be interested: Stress Awareness Month: Coping with post-covid stress and stress at work
Tips and resources for women caregivers
The CDC offers many resources and tips for caregivers. Below are three key pillars to staying strong and healthy in the face of stress:
- Practice stress management techniques – Perhaps an obvious one, but to manage stress you should put time into addressing the cause of your stress and find healthy ways to cope. Some stress management exercises you can practice include: meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises. Connecting with others and making time to unwind and relax will also help you manage your stress. Don’t be afraid to put yourself first from time to time.
- Maintain your own health – Staying physically fit will help you feel better and stronger as you navigate your day to day caregiving duties. Make sure you are staying hydrated, sleeping well, exercising regularly and eating healthy, nutritious meals.
- Seek extra support – Nobody can do it all and you are not alone. When it all gets to be too much, do not be afraid to seek out extra help. Call a friend or family member. Divide your tasks among others. Seek out virtual support groups for caretakers or ask your doctor for additional resources such as counseling.