Mother’s Day is this weekend in the US, normally a time to appreciate your own mother if you are lucky enough to still have her in your life. May is also mental health awareness month. In the spirit of that holiday, I’d like you to pause for a moment and think about another mom in your life, one with school-age kids.
The disproportional impact on Moms is staggering
That mom has just gone through the most unimaginable fifteen months of her life. And according to recent polls, the long term mental health consequences of the pandemic are hitting her hardest. Sixty percent have said they have felt sad or depressed more frequently, Another poll shows nearly half of mothers reported unwanted weight gain, 29% reported drinking more (that rises to 52% for those with children ages 5-7), 77% didn’t get the desired amount of sleep and nearly one in four have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Facing a nearly impossible juggle, women with children also disproportionately made up the 5 million women who left the workforce. Leaving reduced some of the workload, but increased isolation and financial stress. There were some positives reported as well, including more quality family time, stronger connections with neighbors, and less stress related to running from activity to activity or getting out the door in the morning.
Facing a nearly impossible juggle, women with children also disproportionately made up the 5 million women who left the workforce.
It’s always fascinating to read research about a cohort you are part of. I certainly have had more “awake at 3am and can’t get back to sleep” nights than I did prior to the pandemic. I’ve gained weight -- and lost weight. I’ve had weeks where I drank more than before and weeks where it’s a lot less. I’m incredibly grateful that after a few tough months on the financial stress front, things settled down. We certainly have appreciated much freer weekends, more family dinners, neighborhood friends and less business travel. I’ve certainly worried, and still do, about what comes next for the economy and society.
I am also well aware that I had some incredible advantages, most notably live-in child care, who understood how careful she needed to be when seeing friends. Schools that went back hybrid in one case and full-time in the other in September. Kids old enough to be independent and who themselves proved to be incredibly resilient. A partner who absolutely shares the workload.
This is why we need the Marshall Plan for Moms
But many women do not have those advantages, which is why the Marshall Plan for Moms, spearheaded by Girls Who Code Founder Reshma Saujani, is gaining traction. This plan calls on Congress to adopt a framework that makes it possible for moms to work and have kids, including plans to safely reopen schools, policies like paid leave and pay equity, increasing access to affordable child care, and even direct payments to moms who had to drop out of the workforce to cover school and care gaps during the pandemic. They’ve launched an online digital flower store for Mothers Day that showcases what moms really need and raises funds for the effort (hefty enough donations earn real flowers). "Every year on Mother's Day we come together to celebrate our moms, but the truth is, this year, we have to repair the broken structure of motherhood in America. Because what moms really want—what they really need—is a national reckoning: one that reimagines our culture and rebuilds a system to actually value our work."
What Moms really need this Mother's Day
So as you think about the moms in your life this weekend, I’d ask you to do two things. First, learn more about the Marshall Plan for Moms. Check out the flower store, the legislation introduced, or even write your representative to say you support it. Second, pick up your phone and text, call or email a mom you care about. Tell her you know it’s been a rough year. You know the juggle was never easy, but this year you were asked to do the impossible. Offer to take her kids for an hour or two. Swing by with dinner, ready to serve. If you are handy, ask her what’s on her list that no one has gotten to yet. If you are her boss, find a way to give her the gift of time.
To quote Saujani, “Other countries have social safety nets. America has moms.” On this Mother’s Day weekend, let’s acknowledge that moms need us to build a better working world.