“In this together”? Gender inequality associated with home-working couples during the first COVID lockdown
Beáta Nagy, Réka Geambașu, Orsolya Gergely, Nikolett Somogyi
First published: 14 February 2023 Gender, Work and Organization – Feminist Frontiers – Wiley
The first lockdown, conferred upon us by the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, created a unique, 3-month-long, laboratory-like situation that made gender relations and women’s work especially relevant for social research. Full-time employed parents who switched to working from home were in a unique position to renegotiate the division of housework, childcare, or the management of school-related tasks. This paper explores what happened to the gendered division of unpaid work and what factors explain the (failed) renegotiation between full-time working parents. To explore this issue, we interviewed 52 Hungarian-speaking mothers in two countries, Hungary and Romania, who were living in heterosexual dual-earner families with children under the age of 14, and who were working full-time. Results show that, despite the unusual situation, the usual pattern of the division of unpaid work was sustained by most parents. Even though they were unhappy and sometimes overwhelmed with their workload, most mothers did not mind the division of care duties. Research findings deliver evidence that mothers’ lack of willingness and ability to renegotiate the division of unpaid labor in the household was determined both from “inside” and “outside” households. The gendered nature of care work and intensive parenting and mothers’ position in the labor market, including the flexibility of their employment, are two sets of mutually interwoven factors that contributed to women’s lack of willingness to challenge the unequal division of reproductive work.