PBS News Hour, December 2021
While scientists are still decoding the omicron variant, working parents know one thing already: It adds yet more uncertainty to an exhausting year.
Just as the youngest school-aged children had gotten the green light to get their COVID shots – with the promise of protection from serious illness, and the hope of fewer outbreaks at school and precautionary absences that can add up from regular old runny noses – the virus had thrown out a new curveball.
The worry that the coronavirus will upend life at any moment has never let up for families. And that chronic unpredictability has had consequences especially for women, who take on more unpaid caretaking responsibilities at home compared to men, and who suffer stubborn wage disparity in part because of it.
In September 2020, 865,000 women left the labor force. According to economist Alicia Sasser Modestino of Northeastern University, that exodus had a lot to do with the return to school and the demands that remote learning placed on parents. When the PBS NewsHour talked to Modestino this summer for our documentary “Raising the Future: The Child Care Crisis,” she had predicted as the year came to a close that many moms were going to be “at the end of their ropes after 18 months of this.”