“I have to think for four people”: Belgian Mothers’ Mental Labour during the Coronavirus Lockdowns

Charlotte Reding, Laura Smith


This semester-long study explores the under-researched topic of mental labour among middle-aged Belgian mothers in the context of the coronavirus crisis’ lockdowns. Mental labour refers to the presence of a cognitive burden induced by familial responsibilities, and it is often more prevalent in women than in men. By means of one focus group and six in-depth individual interviews, this research uncovers the different mechanisms that Belgian mothers developed during the first two coronavirus crisis lockdowns to better cope with their mental labour. Through this research, we hope to raise awareness of the mental labour experienced by mothers and highlight the different ways in which gender inequalities are perpetuated in the household, as well as envision how a better balance of tasks performed by men and women can be achieved.


mental labour; gender inequality; mothers and family; coronavirus lockdown

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.15273/jue.v12i1.11311


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The JUE is a peer-reviewed online journal that publishes original ethnographic research by undergraduates working in a variety of disciplines. Submissions are welcomed. Contact the Editor, Karen McGarry.

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