Every mother has been affected by the pandemic in some way. Schools are out; extracurricular activities are cancelled; even libraries, zoos and parks are closed. The kids are at home, and in most cases, it is their mothers who are caring for their physical needs, stepping in as crisis home-educators, and trying our best to help the children in our charge comprehend or at least cope with the big changes gripping our world.
It’s a special Mother’s Day, indeed.
Mothers, pandemic or not, are the most essential workers in America. Of course, this work, though demanding, comes with great reward. If you’re like me, you’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster this spring, experiencing worry about our health, gratitude for what we have, and at times, exasperation, grief, joy and hope.
We’ve highlighted the stories of some moms who are working in essential jobs. Leaundra Manning is a trucker. Melissa Rogers is a physician assistant. These women, and so many like them, are part of the workforce keeping critical industries running in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But there’s another type of mom working extra hard during this strange time: Moms who are co-parenting with an essential worker. I can relate. My husband is a hospitalist and has worked long hours caring for COVID-19 patients (and then taking long conference calls about changing hospital protocols on his days “off.”)
For these moms who are co-parenting with essential workers, the “juggle” of pandemic life is not so much a team event as it is a solo act. Many of the essential workers in the military, medicine, fire and public safety, mass transit, food and agriculture, energy and infrastructure are men, and many of the people caring for their children are moms. As the saying goes, behind every great man, there’s a great woman. Behind every father in an essential job is a mother doing double duty at home, picking up the slack, making it possible for him to lean in.
Perhaps there’s one way we moms in this category are lucky: we are used to it. Military families, certainly, know what it means to make sacrifices. Medical spouses are used to seeing dad (or mom) pull long hours at the hospital. Truckers’ wives (and husbands) know how to hold down the fort for weeks and weeks at a time.
And another way we are lucky: At least one person in our household still has an income. Today’s unemployment numbers show that, for many families, this isn’t the case. Economic hardship creates another whole set of concerns for many moms.
But the virus poses a new risk and has created new challenges for families like mine, where dad is working hard outside of the home and I am sheltering with our littles. For one thing, it’s made it harder for us to connect with our communities of support that typically surround us. For another, it’s sparked concern about the health and safety of the essential workers in our family and what germs they might bring home.
Next time you see (or make) a sign thanking the various types of heroic essential workers keeping the world spinning, be sure to include moms. I’ve had several friends reach out to me to offer prayers and emotional support, and we have had neighbors drop off food items and even shovel our snowy driveway. These small acts of kindness make me feel like my efforts are seen and appreciated.
Some moms are in essential jobs themselves. The partners, family members, and caregivers who help care for their children deserve our thanks as well.
Some moms are co-parenting with partners who are in essential jobs and feeling the pressures related to that.
And of course, some moms and dads are working at home together, in jobs that may or may not be deemed essential.
Or they may have lost jobs as a result of the pandemic.
But the work all moms do in caring for our families is essential, pandemic or not. It is, actually, the most essential work. Keep your head up, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.