“Why doesn’t America care about mothers???”
This was a quote I heard this morning that stopped me dead in my tracks. It was from a podcast episode titled The Agony of Pandemic Parenting from The New York Times podcast, “The Daily,” hosted by Michael Barbaro. The episode centered around a hotline that had been set up for mothers to call in and leave messages about what they were experiencing during COVID-19. The comments ran the gamut, but most were echoes of what we hear every day about the pain of being “on” 24/7 with your children and the challenges and stresses of working full time, parenting and homeschooling. The episode also follows the audio journal of a single mother in Spokane, Washington, and her 11-year-old son.
Toward the end of the episode, a montage of quotes from the phone line were played again, and that’s when a young woman posed the simple question, “Why doesn’t America care about mothers?” It hit me like a ton of bricks. I spend almost every waking moment advocating for gender parity, for women to be recognized as equals in every part of society, to earn equal wages, to be given access to healthcare and to be celebrated members of our society. But I thought we had “motherhood” in the bag.
America is the land of Mother’s Day! We revere the second Sunday in May, and it is all but a requirement to deliver an homage of flowers, cards and an obligatory brunch to say thank you to the women that gave birth to us. But none of these actions do anything to care for mothers. None of these actions truly supports mothers.
For the past thirteen months, mothers have been asking for help. They have pleaded for help getting or keeping healthcare, for paying rent, for additional support to manage their job and families, while learning to home school their children.
Women have left the workforce at four times the rate of men over the last thirteen months. The assumption in our country is that the mother will continue to shoulder the bulk of “at home work” while managing her children’s education AND try to maintain or get a job!
When you put all of this together, “Why doesn’t America care about Mothers?” seems like a reasonable question and one that we should all be asking.
The cynical side of me would anticipate an answer like this: if you were irresponsible enough to get pregnant and have a child in America, then clearly you should independently pay for healthcare, a good education, and all of the additional support you might need or you wouldn’t have made that decision in the first place.
But as a citizen and a human being, are we really that callous and selfish not to support mothers and children who are struggling in unprecedented numbers? Motherhood is NOT a sole pursuit. It typically takes two people to create a child, and a multitude to raise and support it, including extended family, childcare workers, teachers, doctors, counselors, coaches, neighbors. Why are we abandoning mothers by the tens of thousands when they are crying out for help, and sometimes in complete isolation?I don’t have all of the solutions to these enormous problems, but I do know that walking away from mothers in their time of greatest need will have an impact on our society for decades to come. Can our community and government finally recognize the vast, gaping need in our country that has so agonizingly been revealed by the pandemic and step in to provide financial help, mental health, and childcare support for families? Can we work as a country to truly celebrate and support motherhood? Or should we stick to the Sunday brunch option?