In last week’s blog, we discussed the ways in which the various options for school restarting in the fall could impact shared parenting plans. This week, we continue our look at how the pandemic is taking a toll on parents by focusing on how mothers are facing a disproportionate struggle, and in many cases are being forced to choose between working and caring for children as the health crisis continues to impact our lives.

School Plans Confirmed but Many are Unhappy

With the fall on the horizon, parents are starting to think about school, and how the return will look. While the province had outlined three potential scenarios, discussed in detail in our blog last week, Alberta has since announced a full return to school under what was presented as Scenario 1. This means that students will return to classes full-time, and at full capacity.

While this situation means that co-parents can resume regular shared parenting plans in the fall, many are concerned about what it means for their children’s safety, and by extension, the safety of adult family members who may be vulnerable to more severe cases of COVID-19. While the numbers have largely decreased, provinces across the country are starting to see an overall increase in cases as restrictions are loosened. Students and teachers are beginning to express concerns around what might happen when classes resume with 30+ people in a room together in September.

In response to these concerns, the Alberta NDP party has advanced a plan similar to what was presented as Scenario 2, which would involve a cap of 15 students per class. In addition, the plan would see the hiring of additional teaching and custodial staff, as well as limiting the travel of students or teachers between classrooms. As of this writing, the plan was being submitted to the Premier’s office for consideration.

Women Shouldering the Burden More Than Men

The Calgary Herald recently looked into the effects of the pandemic on working parents and found that women are facing more effects than their male counterparts. With childcare, camps and schools mostly unavailable for the past several months, the responsibility for caring for children has largely fallen to mothers. Both women and men have faced high numbers of unemployment since the pandemic hit, however, women are more likely to opt-out of working altogether, with unemployment approximately 3% greater for women than men.

One factor to blame is that female-dominated industries such as retail, foodservice and hospitality have been harder hit by closures than other industries. However, motherhood has also played a large role. In cases where both parents were relegated to working from home, women have felt more pressure to fulfill the role of a full-time parent while also trying to maintain their work responsibilities. In many cases, this has become exhausting and impossible to sustain. One mother quoted in the article said,

There’s no point during the day in which you’re not doing something. It’s all frenetic…You’re managing your children, you’re managing your job, and trying to find any time left over to sleep and eat. It all feels impossible.

While women make up just as much of the workforce as men, including in traditionally male-dominated professions, the pandemic has demonstrated the fact that women are still viewed as the default primary caregiver, even when both parents are equally employed. When childcare once again became a full-time parental role due to outside forces, it is largely women who have felt the pressure to take that role on. The same cannot be said for fathers, in general. A survey conducted by an advocacy group for women in the financial industry showed that women were 16% more likely to report mental health issues since the pandemic, and 10% more likely to report an increase in stress.

This has meant that more women than men have chosen to stop working entirely for the time being, which could have an impact on their professional career going forward, according to the president of the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Calgary:

These women are well-educated professionals, so that would be a big loss to the industry and to their own potential in their career…It’s taken quite some time for women to make inroads, especially in some of these male-majority fields like finance, law and accounting. We were just kind of inching up, and now there’s this potential for losing ground.”

Impacts on Co-Parenting and Support Down the Road?

Given the fact that many mothers are finding it impossible to work and watch their young children during the pandemic, it is likely that this will soon begin to have an impact on existing co-parenting arrangements, and possibly on child and spousal support as well. In cases where one co-parent, whichever parent that may be, has had to stop or reduce their work in order to watch their children, this is likely to result in a need for a support award variation. Just as the pandemic has had an impact in the number of divorces due to couples and families being largely forced to remain in close quarters for months at a time, existing and future support awards will also likely look different, particularly if the case numbers continue to rise, or a second wave hits, causing schools and workplaces to reconsider plans to reopen or increase restrictions.

The family law lawyers at Mincher Koeman are exceptionally experienced with respect to parenting plans and child access arrangements following the breakdown of a relationship. We will work with you to ensure that you receive a support award that accurately reflects the true financial positions of the parties. Contact our office today by calling us at 403-910-3000 or contact us online.

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