Czech Parents Under Lockdown: Different Positions, Different Temporalities

Using an intersectional approach, we explore how parents in the Czech Republic coped with the increased demands of childcare and how their perceptions of childcare changed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Building on Nancy Fraser’s theory of the social contradiction of capitalism, we address the question of whether the pandemic situation can be viewed as an opportunity to increase recognition of care. Qualitative interviews with parents from various socioeconomic backgrounds conducted from spring 2020 to summer 2021 demonstrate ambivalent experiences of care during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first school closure in spring 2020 was perceived as a rather positive interruption to everyday affairs. As the pandemic became protracted, the long-term negative effects of care under lockdown arose, especially among mothers, which included weakening labour market position, deteriorating economic situation, and growing dependence on a male breadwinner or social welfare. Our research shows the temporality of the COVID-19 care crisis. In the first stage of the pandemic, care was (also) assessed as an opportunity, a source of purpose, and a new value. In the next period, the experiences and expectations were rather negative. Over time, gender inequality at home increased as women took on most of the increased care burden and the social inequalities deepened, with some using their resources to compensate for the risks associated with the care crisis and others facing further exhaustion and income losses. Overall, parental care did not win greater societal recognition during the pandemic.