On March 23, our family heeded the government’s call to stay home. We were impressed by the swift response our leaders took to this unprecedented disease outbreak. I began the uphill battle with online learning and kept the family quarantined. We gasped as we watched weeks later other states following suit. We predicted that April would be a wash and home life would require all hands-on-deck with the children.
While folding laundry in April, I happened to see Gov. Jay Inslee on CNN talking about the lives he has saved by being the first state to close. The state’s effort has now transitioned to a “Stay Home Stay Healthy” campaign. Let’s explore that.
If your definition of “healthy” is alive, then yes, we are. But at what cost? Mothers have been pushed to the absolute extremes as multitasking takes on new meaning. Let us remember that the original goal of the stay-home order was to prevent the medical system from being overwhelmed — not stopping COVID-19.
Mothers everywhere have a story to tell about the toll this virus has taken out of us. Yesterday, I delivered food to a family friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer. The children waved at me through the window in tears.
If the governor wants to own the narrative that he has saved lives by the stay-home order, then he needs to also acknowledge both the economic and emotional devastation families are experiencing on a daily basis in Seattle. Are there any curvy graph charts for that?
Consider schools. With all the science and smarts that Seattle has, we know this: Children thrive when there’s a routine and structure. Moms have not only relied on schools to educate our kids, but also to help balance the work obligations and other family responsibilities that inevitably fall more to moms than dads.
Of course, everyone is willing to step up and support public health, but we need a much clearer understanding of the offramp. Schools are closed, and two months into this, some have still completely failed to provide adequate learning for the majority of their students. And on the policy side, unlike other states, there has been almost no guidance about whether or how schools will safely reopen for fall.
Instead we have endless vagaries: Is it about testing, tracing and/or social distancing? It seems like there’s unlimited criteria for not doing things, but no plan for how to do things well. Just more phases without dates.
Ironically, the phase one openings this week are in the industries traditionally dominated by men, such as construction, landscaping and car sales. (And let’s be honest, the “approved list of activities” are also male dominated — hunting, fishing, golfing, boating?) But the service sector — where many more women work — won’t see its jobs reopen until phases two to four. Happy Mother’s Day!
On the home front, online learning has been a challenge for us, especially with a preschooler. How can a seven-hour school day be boiled into two hours of online work? What about extracurriculars?
What do I want for Mother’s Day? I want schools to be back fully operational this fall. I want my phone to stop ringing from friends who are hurting. And I would love to go to the bathroom in peace without my children stalking me.
Full disclosure, some of this may have been written while hiding from my children.
“Mommy what are you doing?”
“Mommy is getting her voice heard!”
“On the potty?”
To all the mothers in Seattle … I hear you. Happy Mother’s Day.