Type of Work

Research Paper

Publication Date

Summer 8-10-2021


During times of disaster, mothers are particularly vulnerable emotionally. Furthermore, disaster sociologists argue that disasters exacerbate existing inequalities. . As such, I analyze the COVID-19 pandemic as a disaster. I base my analysis off of interview data from white, class-diverse mothers in a central New York county, primarily using a disaster sociology framework. This research is guided by two research questions; (1) how do the experiences of mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic compare to those of women in other disaster scenarios?; and (2) solely utilizing a disaster sociology framework, what pre-existing social conditions are exacerbated by COVID-19 stay-at-home directives and at-home schooling? In concert with existing literature, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the unpaid (domestic) and paid divisions of labor in heterosexual families with children. Mothers, rather than fathers, disproportionately facilitated at-home learning and provided care for their children, often reducing their hours in paid employment or resigning from their employment completely. Mothers also employed emotion work to mitigate the negative emotions accompanying this unequal division of labor. Additionally, mothers used a unique form of emotion work, comparative emotion work, to invalidate their feelings. To alter their negative emotions, mothers evoked gratitude at their relative health and financial security during the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings illuminate the need to recognize the mental toll of the unpaid and paid divisions of labor on women in both disaster and non-disaster settings.

Hamilton Areas of Study


Hamilton Sponsoring Organization

Levitt Public Affairs Center

Hamilton Scholarship Series

Levitt Summer Research Group Grant

Hamilton Faculty Advisor

Mahala Stewart