The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on what is being call a “she-cession”, with alarming numbers of women leaving the legal profession specifically, and the paid workforce in general, to deal with child-care obligations and the spectre of “homeschooling hell.” Women, disproportionately relative to men, and women of colour in particular, are consigned to precarious, part-time work, so those that have not left the paid workforce voluntarily have experienced layoffs and unemployment. In short, it has been a disaster on many levels: there is a shadow pandemic of women’s inequality that is following the public health crisis on its heels.
It is simply not possible to care for children while working a paid job, simultaneously, without child care. The attempt was made. Something had to give, and what gave was women’s career aspirations. In jarringly large numbers, away the women went.
As with the pandemic more generally, the vaccination situation is powerfully revealing of the disproportionately negative circumstances people with child-care responsibilities, largely mothers, bear.
COVID-19 vaccination is a monumental undertaking – impressive and massive in scope – that will become an indelible ‘remember when’ story for all of us who have experienced it. It is a wonderful and exciting opportunity to get vaccinated. I was incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to be vaccinated very recently, participating in the widespread distribution of AstraZeneca to GenX across the country. I was thrilled. I donned my Doc Martens, showed up at the pharmacy, got jabbed, posted a selfie, and cried for joy. Then the vaccine immune response knocked me absolutely flat with fever, aches, and delirium. It was a brief period of feeling unwell, but it hurt like hell.
Although I am a single mom after a COVID divorce, I am fortunate to have the father of my children actively involved in shared parenting. I was able to rest for 24 hours after my vaccine without worrying about child care. It is no small privilege that I did not have a child-care concern for my four children in the hours following my vaccine. Many mothers are not so fortunate. I have at least two friends who are uncertain about making vaccine appointments because they are not sure how to deal with the child-care issues that may arise if they have an adverse immune response.
My COVID divorce has revealed to me how much I have always, throughout my parenting journey, been reliant on a supportive network, or village, of other mothers, and other women. Now that I am vaccinated, and now that my own children are teens, I figure it is my turn to help support mothers who are socially isolated in the pandemic.
This is why I collaborated with some other single moms in starting an initiative to build a network to provide free short-term emergency child care for people in the hours immediately following their vaccine appointments. The vaccination effort is this generation’s moon landing, and it is also an opportunity to take small steps towards collaborative support for child care that, we can hope, will result in giant leaps for women’s equality. This is not a for-profit enterprise. Nobody makes money. We are just a small, volunteer group of thoughtful, committed individuals, doing what Margaret Mead suggested: working to change the world.
Here is my website; sign up!
About the author
Dr. Rebecca Jaremko Bromwich, LLB, LLM, PhD has been a member of the Ontario Bar since 2003 and a member of the OBA since 1999 and currently serves on the OBA’s Equality Committee. She has had a varied career in litigation, law reform, and legal academia and now works as Manager, Diversity and Inclusion for Gowling WLG’s offices in Canada and Russia. She has written and co-authored several legal textbooks and academic anthologies and is the author of the 2020 novel, Not Your Penance. Last but certainly not least, Rebecca is mother to four amazing teenagers.