Interrupted Systems Mitigating Social Gender Roles: A Qualitative Inquiry of Motherscholars During a Pandemic

Christine Platt 1 * , Melissa Goates-Jones 2, Ramona Maile Cutri 3, Louise Fidalgo Wheeler 3, Tamara Walden 4

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp. 153-177

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A qualitative reflexive narrative methodology was employed to examine factors that constructed and constrained the experiences of working women academics who were quarantined with their children full-time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Twenty-four motherscholars responded to a computer-based survey with open-ended questions encouraging participants to share their unique stories. Purposive and convenience sampling was employed to obtain a diverse and representative sampling of women that included marginalized groups such as women of color and women who self-identify as members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning and all other people (LGBTQ+) associated with this community. Key themes identified include division of labor, self-care, privilege, socialized gender roles, feelings about partners, boundaries, safety, parenting, privacy, and impact on career/productivity. Focusing on participants’ personal experiences of privilege or lack thereof, and the interruption of established systems, provided greater insight into how socialized gender roles are intensified during pandemic conditions. When established systems were interrupted, participants were more fully exposed to the negative impacts of socialized gender roles. Support structures motherscholars rely upon are fragile, particularly in times of crisis, which is when they are needed most. Institutions should recognize the hardships incurred during the pandemic and consider adjustments to performance expectations. Future research is needed to determine how best to create stronger structures during times of instability.

Keywords: motherhood; socialized gender roles; social privileges; COVID-19 pandemic.