Mothers. Families, and Covid-19: Building Back Better

O'Reilly, Andrea J. | $24,240

Ontario York University 2021 SSHRC

The current research shows that sustainable and holistic COVID‑19 recovery will require more than a vaccine. In many ways, the pandemic has acted as a beacon, further exposing longstanding cracks in systems of caregiving, women’s rights, and gender equality. The proposed conference “Mothers, Families, and COVID-19: Building Back Better,” co-hosted by the Mothers Matter Centre (MMC) and York University, examines the impact of the pandemic on mothers’ care work and wage labour in the context of employment, schooling, communities, families, and the relationships of parents and children. With a global perspective, the conference will explore the increasing complexity and demands of childcare, domestic labour, elder care, and home schooling under the pandemic protocols; the intricacies and difficulties of performing wage labour at home; the impact of the pandemic on mothers’ employment; and the strategies mothers have used to manage the competing demands of care work and wage labour during the pandemic. But understanding the issues brought to light and exacerbated by the pandemic is only the first step; the second is translating this knowledge into strategies for social change. As such, the notion of “building back better,” a sentiment that has been rhetorically echoed across the globe, is one that cannot be overstated, particularly for vulnerable mothers who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The social, economic, and civic inclusion of mothers in day-to-day life is necessary to successful post-COVID 19 recovery.

Mothers do the bulk of domestic labour, childcare, and elder care. And with the implementation of social distancing measures and pandemic protocols, the burden of their carework has increased exponentially in both time and concern, as mothers are running households with little or no support, under close to impossible conditions, and while often engaged in wage labour. Moreover, the unequal distribution of unpaid work in the home and the increased burden of care throughout the pandemic has been particularly detrimental for mothers in the paid labour force. This conference, which has 87 confirmed speakers from 12 countries, will explore the impact of COVID‑19 on mothers’ wage work and care labour, with a focus on what “building back better” tangibly looks like for the mothers most affected.

This virtual conference will provide a unique, highly accessible, and cost-effective way to bring together communities under pandemic travel restrictions and will allow for a timely examination of, and response to, the impact of COVID‑19 on mothers and families as countries transition to a post-pandemic world. By bringing together the multi-sectoral expertise of researchers, practitioners, and vulnerable communities themselves, this conference will present a full spectrum of knowledge related to mothers’ conditions over the course of the past year and will emphasize the creation of collaborative and innovative strategies for post-pandemic recovery. The importance of this conference cannot be overstated, as it is the first to examine the impact of COVID‑19 on mothers and families with the aim of deepening understanding of the multi-faceted effects of this pandemic and how to leverage those findings to build a brighter future for mothers around the world. The knowledge mobilized by and through the conference will be widely disseminated as a report to diverse social agencies and will be preserved through the recording of the conference, which will be stored and made available through the MMC website. Moreover, articles developed from the conference will be published in a special double issue of The Journal of the Motherhood Initiative in 2022 and will be made available in open access format.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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