The value of women’s work, both paid and unpaid, has never been more apparent than during the coronavirus crisis. As Diane Coyle recently noted in The Times, women’s shift into paid employment was one of the great economic transformations in recent history, but it did not free women from their myriad unpaid roles as caregivers, homemakers and community volunteers. These six women talked to The Times about what it’s like to straddle that divide. Their quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Although my life was unstable and traumatic, I feel like that experience has molded me into the person I am today. I worked so hard to get to where I am. Once I transition into a social work role, my pay will increase and I won’t have to work at my second job as often. I often find myself telling my daughter things will be different financially when I move into another role. — Naudia West
I think there’s just that idea that the amount of confidence that a woman can have coming into a job should be a little bit less than a man’s. That’s one thing I have always struggled with. I’m very confident with what I do, and sometimes I have to tone it down or make it look a little different so that I can get my raise or get a promotion. I always have to work a little bit harder. — Eli Howard
There were times going through the fire academy when I would come home and take my son to preschool and just cry because it felt like, how can I do this for one more day? But it was necessary to make ends meet, and it’s a great job, and I’m really proud to have stuck with it and to be able to pass it on to the next generation of women in firefighting. — Dacia Grayber
I think there’s this perception in society where the man is the one that fends for his family and then the woman does the housework and prepares the meals and so on, but it’s not like that anymore. But there is still the perception out there, which is challenging. — Jenny Boykin
I am the only breadwinner of the whole family. I think every day about how I’m going to get the payment for the mortgage, how can I feed my family. It’s pretty hard for me, but I decided to go back to work. It is a hard decision. If I had another choice I would stay home. But I don’t have unemployment yet. — Liza Cruz
Society sees school bus driving as nurturing work, not as a high-quality skill set. So I’ve learned that we have to argue, negotiate, debate and prove why we’re valuable.
When I was married I worked outside the home, and then I’d come home and I would cook, clean up the kitchen. I would do the yard more often, and I didn’t really think about it. I’ve been single for eight years, and I do feel fatigue doing everything here. The yard … I would like it to look better, but tell myself I can at least cut the grass. — Beth Blumklotz
Leah Nash is a photographer based in Portland, Ore.
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