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Francesca Valagussa, 40, works at her home at lunchtime, in Rome
Reuters/Yara Nardi
Kitchen sink drama.

Parents working from home are suddenly having a new conversation about equality

Cassie Werber
Member exclusive by Cassie Werber

On Monday, March 23rd, the UK’s schools and childcare facilities for younger kids closed. From that day everyone was urged to stay at home except for food shopping, essential work, and very limited exercise, as the coronavirus pandemic swept through the nation. In many households, both parents are now attempting to work from home alongside their children, a radical alteration to families’ circumstances that has already been playing out in China, Italy, some US states, and many other places.

As a consequence, for the first time since their kids were newborn, some couples with careers are having difficult conversations that expose fundamental, implicit assumptions they may never have had to address directly: Whose job is more important? When kids have unexpected needs, who tends to deal with them by default?

These negotiations will be tough. Not least because layered on top of the personal dynamics are fears of getting sick and losing family, plus existential dread. It’s all happened suddenly, and comes with other emotionally taxing conditions, like social distancing.