The heightened stress and demands of being a teacher during the COVID-19 pandemic have been well documented in recent studies, and researchers from the University of Buffalo are now exploring how remote learning has played into teachers feeling overwhelmed.
According to their findings, remote learning has been the hardest on teachers who are also moms. While this shouldn’t come as a total surprise to consumers since reports have found that mothers have been struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers explained that the stress associated with teaching from home is exacerbated by the pressures of caring for children and households.
“Balancing a teaching career and motherhood seems to be becoming more difficult,” said researcher Julie Gorlewski. “Both roles carry an expectation of selfless nurturing and can result in physical and emotional exhaustion.
“The implications of this work are particularly relevant today, where the roles of motherhood and teacher are intensified by the shift to online learning as a result of the pandemic. Through a greater understanding of the lived experiences of teacher-mothers, this study can inform policy and practice to better support an integral segment of the education workforce,” she said.
Increased job demands
The researchers interviewed 12 women who were both mothers and teachers for grades ranging from elementary through high school. The participants were asked to report on their day-to-day experiences as both remote teachers and mothers and explain how both roles have affected them in recent months.
Ultimately, the researchers learned that teachers who are also mothers are dealing with a lot of exhaustion. Teaching from home has left many women with the majority of the household work and child care. This can be particularly challenging when thinking about paid time off or paid maternity leave, both of which can be hard to come by for teachers -- especially those at the beginning of their careers.
Additionally, many of the women reported feeling added pressure when it comes to handling things around the house. They said that handling childcare, household needs, and teaching added a lot of stress to their lives.
Teaching remotely has also increased the parent-teacher and student-teacher communications, which makes it harder to fully disconnect from work when the school day is over. This also makes it more difficult to find time to grade assignments or plan for future lessons.
Creating change for teachers
Though the teachers also noted the benefits of their dual positions, their responses show that there are changes that need to happen. Moving forward, the researchers hope that households and educational systems adapt to better serve women who are doing their best to juggle two full-time roles.
“This unanticipated and challenging global event has the potential to reveal some of the invisible work of mothers and educators,” said Gorlewski. “Advocates can use these results to promote better norms and policies to support teachers and all working mothers.”