More parents are leaving workforce to stay home with kids amid pandemic

Posted at 10:02 PM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-14 00:02:21-05

As if being a parent is not hard enough, the pandemic is stretching them too far.

'Mom' and 'Dad' are now just one of many titles parents hold, like employee, teacher, IT help desk, and more.

New data from the Pew Research Center shows that many families are forced to leave the workforce to keep up at home.

Some economists are concerned about the short-term and the long-term impacts this could have on the job market.

"I worked full-time," said Colleen Merrell. "The kids were in the dining room doing work and, at the time, my son was in kindergarten and my daughter was in 2nd grade. So, they are not… they can't log into Zoom. They can't access my email to get into the Zoom link to figure everything out."

Merrell is an East Valley mother who shared her experience navigating online school with the Rebound Arizona.

"I felt like I was just pulled, and I hated every day feeling like, 'I'm not good at anything,'" Merrell said.

She says she felt like a bad mom, a bad wife, and a bad employee all at once. The balancing act of wearing too many hats was bringing her down.

So, she made the choice to leave her job behind, along with the paycheck, the benefits, the 401k, and the purpose that came from a career she worked so hard for.

"My daughter's cute. She's like, 'Mom. Thank you for giving up your job for us, you know, to be here to help us and it was so sweet, and I said, "Sweetie, I didn't give up my job. My first job is always to be a mom,'" Merrell said.

She does not regret it. She also realizes she is very lucky to be able to do this for her family after discussing it with her husband.

Merrell is certainly not alone in this either.

That new national data shows the percentage of mothers not in the labor force jumped 3% in one year. For fathers, the rate increased from around 6% to nearly 8%

"What the data is saying is, that there is a short term and a long-term macroeconomic factor onto our economy that we are not thinking about," said Hitendra Chaturvedi.

Chaturvedi is a professor of Supply Chain Management at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey's School of Business.

He explained that there are multiple ways this will impact our economy. If people are not going to work, companies will search for solutions.

Chaturvedi said, investment into automation has increased roughly 60%.

"The gap between the rich and the poor is increasing because automation is causing improving productivity, but the wage has been stagnant," Chaturvedi said. "That's a sign not of a healthy economy."

If less people are working, they have less disposable income.

Then, when they do try to get back in the workforce, there will be a large gap on their resume and reskilling will likely be necessary.

"Employers, traditionally, don't look on that very favorably... I'm hoping that with coronavirus, the reason is well understood by employers," said Chaturvedi.

He said it is critical to go after the root cause of these problems: the coronavirus. He believes 2021 will be a pivotal year for the job market and the economy.

His best advice for people who have had to leave their job is to make sure they stay in touch with their previous employer and check-in.

"Raise their hand. 'Hey! I'm on the radar. Don't forget about me,'" Chaturvedi said.