DOI: 10.1111/gwao.13107 ISSN: 0968-6673

Care as infrastructure: Rethinking working mothers' childcare crisis during the COVID‐19 pandemic

Meng Li, Corrina Laughlin
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Gender Studies


During the COVID‐19 pandemic, the United States government promoted the idea of care as infrastructure to justify government spending on nonphysical infrastructures. In this article, we demonstrate the usefulness of adopting an infrastructure framework for researching care and caring through an analysis of working mothers' communication on Reddit in the early days of the COVID‐19 pandemic. Employing infrastructural inversion as a heuristic, we conceptualize the childcare crisis experienced by working mothers in many Western societies as an infrastructural disruption in which the cascading failure of childcare infrastructures exposed the background work of care as well as its vulnerability and invisibility. We also argue that, against this backdrop, an alternate infrastructure of digital caring emerged. However, this informal infrastructure was inadequate to sustain the needs of working mothers, and its emergence, in itself, provides proof of the need to value care as infrastructure. Ultimately, we showcase how conceptualizing care as infrastructure can enrich feminist theorization of care, and that centering care as infrastructure redresses the bias toward physical infrastructure in the scholarly literature.

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