For Working Mothers, Back to School is Not Back to Normal in Aftermath of COVID | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #schools

A mother walks her daughter to Lafayette Elementary School in Clairemont. Photo by Chris Stone

School grounds are filling up at recess again as more students ditch virtual learning and return to brick-and-mortar classrooms. But for the many mothers who had to cut back on work during the pandemic as kids stayed home, back to school has not meant back to normal.

From sidelined businesses and lost income to night shifts and delayed health care, moms have paid a higher price during the pandemic.

Brandy Brager is one of them. The CEO of a five-person construction company, she used to be the kind of person who planned out a whole year ahead. Now, it’s day by day. “The way I think about my career changed,” said Brager, whose 10- and 12-year-old sons went back to school in San Jose in late March almost full time. “I had to cut my salary. My business had to take a bit of the back seat.”

Among working mothers who lived with a partner, 45.3% were providing all the care for kids at home, up from 33% before the pandemic, according to a USC study that analyzed survey responses last fall from 3,100 couples in the U.S. Just 8.7% of dads were the primary caregivers both before and during the pandemic, the study found.

“What we saw during this crisis was women taking on more at home even though they were still working,” said study co-author Gema Zamarro, a professor at the University of Arkansas and a senior economist at the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.

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