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Photo of this mom working in the bathtub alongside her toddler highlights our care crisis

Heidi Metcalfe Lewis had to build a work space out of a bathtub. However, she is demanding a policy change so other mothers do not have the same experience.

Photo of this mom working in the bathtub alongside her toddler highlights our care crisis
Image Source: heidiwmlewis / Twitter

Prior to COVID-19, women shouldered the burden of unpaid domestic and care work. For instance, the OECD Development Center estimates that women across the world spend two to 10 times more time on unpaid care work than men do. The global pandemic only increased this burden on women, as schools and offices went into lockdown. In this context, a photo posted online of mom and employee Heidi Metcalfe Lewis is going viral. The picture depicts Metcalfe working on her laptop in her workspace—the bathtub—and her child playing with toys on the bathroom floor. The photograph has stirred conversation about the "second shift" that women, more often than not, are expected to fulfill, Good Morning America reports.



Lewis, who is based in the state of Maryland, is a mother of two. Additionally, she is the Communications Director at Politics and Prose. One day, her husband snapped a photo of her bathtub workspace and, nearby, her one-year-old daughter playing with a water table toy. The photograph highlights the larger picture of unpaid care work within the home, particularly as daycare centers closed and schools moved to online learning due to the pandemic. Sharing the photo online, the mother stated, "Pictured, me—keeping my head above water, but only just. Not pictured, the 2.4 million mothers that have left the workforce since the pandemic started."



The photo went viral when the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code and mother of two, Reshma Saujani, shared it online. Lewis said, "It took on a life of its own from there." Saujani currently leads the Marshall Plan for Moms, a project to help mothers return to the workplace and pay them for the work they do at home. According to UN Women, unpaid care and domestic work are valued to be 10 and 39 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, respectively. This can contribute more to the economy than the sectors of manufacturing, commerce, or transportation. In this light, it is evident that much of women's work is invisiblized.



In an interview with Good Morning America, Lewis shared her thoughts about the photograph and the story behind it. She stated, "We're all showing each other how burned out and exhausted we are, but what's being done? I don't want a Hallmark card, I want a policy change." President Joe Biden concurs. As part of his administration's $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, there are greater investments into child care and education. The plan would also first, place a cap on how much low and middle-income Americans must spend on child care; second, extend Affordable Care Act tax credits; and third, expand paid leave.



For many caretakers, the majority of whom are women, this will provide some relief. "Working moms need everything in the American Families Plan—and we needed it before the pandemic—but we also need fully operating K-12 schools," Lewis affirmed. "I want to hear the representatives I voted for explore why school closures happened [and in some cases are still happening] and start to hold people accountable."


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