Next it’s the “Kids” –
November 21, 2020 – Mothers are also facing a financial reality that becomes more strained by the day. It is important to remember that most women are in the labor force—in 2016, 74.5% of women between the ages of 24-44 were working outside the home. That includes 70.8% of women with at least one child under the age of 18.
Households rely on the income that women provide; for many families, it is a necessity, with mothers now being the primary or sole earners for 40% of households with children (as compared to 11% in 1960). And for those with greater financial flexibility, household expenses are commonly structured around the availability of women’s income. We have been experiencing profound changes in the economy that have led to layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts, currently estimated to affect nearly 1 in 2 households.
We know that women make less than men during the best of times—in 2018 women’s weekly wages were 81.1% that of men, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. During this recession not only were sectors with higher proportions of female employees disproportionately affected, but female employees have been disproportionately more likely to be laid off than their male counterparts. Women-owned businesses are also more likely to be in the healthcare, education, or retail sectors that have been so hard hit during COVID-19. Partially due to lower income overall, women also tend to have less buffer to weather financial storms.
This paints a dire picture for women’s mental health. We can readily empathize with financial strain, the fear that accompanies it and the catastrophic negative impact it can have on mental health. We may also appreciate that despite the reluctance we might frequently feel to get out of bed and go to work on a Monday morning, there is a well-established link between employment and mental health. We know that becoming unemployed is associated with depression and suicidality, and that gaining employment is associated with an improvement in mental health.Furthermore, in a socially distanced world in which women are substantially less able to receive household help or have contact with females outside their immediate household, there is a greater burden on the support that partners provide. Unfortunately, we know that within relationships, financial concerns are a major driver of conflict between partners, jeopardizing the support available to struggling mothers.