Last week, the New York Times Styles section reported on what might truly be the most foreseeable pandemic trend: post-lockdown divorces, which are allegedly creating an “avalanche” of work for attorneys in cities like Los Angeles and New York. As someone who was once quoted in one of the thousands of puff pieces about how difficult it was to spend every waking moment of your life with the person you’re supposedly in love with, this makes complete sense to me. As one attorney told the Times, “since April, our phones have been ringing off the hook, nonstop, and most of those calling are people who want to come in and start divorce proceedings.”
Because this story appeared in the Styles section, its central focus is on the problems people who read the Styles might have: having a well-compensated partner who lost a job, making it less attractive to stick around for the money; affairs uncovered when one partner could no longer book a fancy hotel uptown; disagreements about whether the nanny should still be allowed in the house, or whether the children needed to wear masks when they socialized with other kids.
But assuming some of these people getting divorced are women who date men, I have a couple alternate theories for why the divorce rate is spiking. For instance: During the pandemic, when both members of a couple were working from home full-time during a lockdown, 67% of women reported they were fully or mostly responsible for housework. When a child was homeschooled during the pandemic that shuttered schools for months, 3% of women said their spouse was doing more schooling than they were. Between May and June of last year, one in four women who left the workforce reported doing so because they needed to care for a child. One in eight men reported the same circumstances, and while most fathers say they’re actively and equally involved in raising their child, a full three-quarters of women say they do more child work than their spouse. The cumulative effect of all of this labor foisted on American women—labor that appears to go unnoticed by the men who are living with them and co-parenting their children—has been called “grotesque,” and it has help create a scenario in which women’s participation in the workforce is now as low as it was in the ‘80s. Now, imagine spending a year and a half working full-time, caring for your child largely unaided, and doing the majority of chores while your husband occasionally congratulated himself on putting the dishes away. Wouldn’t you want a goddamn divorce too?