-OpEd-

CHICAGO — In addition to being mothers, women are often heads of households and employees. And in social terms — whether single or married, working at home or outside — the spread of the coronavirus is affecting us in different ways than men.

Right now, so many of us are working remotely at home with our children and husband in a similar position, and that means exercising the above roles in addition to meeting the health requirements quarantine conditions have imposed on us. Add to these the emotional weight of having our children and spouse at home.

What does all this mean? It means that in addition to our paid work, the situation is forcing us to do the shopping, attend to the children, check that we have the right Internet connection and ensure we have enough emotional empathy to face down this time of uncertainty and social transformation with resilience. I hope you are lucky enough to have a husband or partner who is a real ally in this forced, health adventure.

Women also need the support of their partners in terms of empathy and romance.

While this reflection could be taken as a cry of desperation, my words are meant to highlight some concepts in the debate on the need for greater gender equality. These are issues men and women are now facing together in the home: reconciling work and home life, the role of women as agents of social peace and stability, the value of unremunerated work, and the time women devote to household chores and to caring for older adults, among other things.

Women have an innate capacity for empathy and solidarity. It's in our DNA. Our strength is not just in our reproductive capacity and ability to safeguard our species, but in our leadership inside the home and command of the children. But at this time, women here and elsewhere in the world need the support of their partners, not just in domestic work and in caring for children and the elderly, but also in terms of empathy and romance.

This pandemic will definitively change society beyond its impact on how we interact, the economy or the ways we engage in politics. This should also be an opportunity for the male gender to value, recognize and understand that family life is built by two, not one. Men should see that sharing responsibilities at home is one of the most potent examples that our children can learn from and replicate, both in their future families and working lives.



*Aylin Joo is Chile's consul in Chicago.


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