What is it about?

As a result of the UK governments attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19 through national lockdowns, employed mothers throughout the country were required to provide home-schooling and care for children at home, often whilst performing paid work. In order to explore the impact on mothers of this sudden transition to home-working enforced by the government, this paper draws on actor-network theory (ANT), a theoretical concept whereby human and non-human actors (e.g., technology) are given equal status and are described as existing in fluid ‘networks’. Through a qualitative study focused on employed mothers’ experiences of being ‘mobilised’ as part of this government initiative, we observe how mothers re-ordered their own local networks and support systems in an attempt to combine homeworking, home-schooling, and childcare.

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Why is it important?

This paper provides an insight into how mothers experienced, and responded to, severe disruption to the networks that previously supported their working lives, such as schools and nurseries, during this non-voluntary transfer to homeworking. The findings highlight three different ways mothers reordered their networks in response to this disruption and, importantly, demonstrates how the prejudices mothers may face influence this reordering process. In particular, the paper highlights how the homeworking initiative often forced mothers to revert to traditional gender roles. In light of this, we argue that the Covid-19 response constitutes a risk to equality agendas and emphasise why women should not be treated as a reserve army when governments seek to mobilise employees in national causes.

Perspectives

As a working father, I was proud to co-author this paper. While the pandemic was not a walk in the park for fathers (although initially, in the first flush of lockdown when the sun was high in the sky, I did do a little more actual walking in the park with my children), mothers, in particular, suffered intensely from trying to juggle its many competing demands. We hope this paper sheds some light on that dark time.

Anthony Patterson

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Re‐ordering Motherhood and Employment: Mobilizing ‘Mums Everywhere’ during Covid‐19, British Journal of Management, June 2022, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/1467-8551.12630.
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