If you Google "Mother’s Day gift idea," you’ll be inundated with tacky jewelry, personalized trinkets, and sugary treats. It’s a sad compensation for the relentless stress that comes with mothering. And this past year has been particularly exhausting.
Even before the pandemic, working while parenting was a challenge, especially for mothers. Post-pandemic, the struggle remains. To give just an idea, my husband and I spent last weekend in tears, struggling with the fact that New York City is reopening and he is being called back into the office, separating him from his children and forcing me to reduce my already limited work hours and parent our two toddlers alone.
Forget bubble bath and breakfast in bed; this Mother’s Day, I want quality, affordable childcare to compensate for the options permanently lost due to the pandemic. I want return-to-work programs to reintroduce those of us who’ve fallen out of the workplace, and family friendlier employers that put an end to secret parenting once and for all.
On Mother’s Day — and every day — I want recognition for the incalculable value of our unpaid, invisible labor, including the mental load that weighs disproportionately on moms.
While I’m always appreciative of a homemade card, a little common courtesy is the gift that keeps giving. To my husband: Put your bowl in the dishwasher. Pick your damp towel off the bed. To his employer: Please don’t make him come back into the office when this doesn’t work for our family — especially considering studies have found employees are actually more productive when you let them work from home.
I spoke with five working moms who got real about what they’ve been through this past year, and what they’re truly hoping for this Mother’s Day.
‘Leave me alone’
People are realizing during the pandemic that health is more important than everything. Moms reach a point where they’re doing everything for everyone else and neglecting their own self care. But at the end of the day, no one’s happy when mom’s skipping meals or forgetting to properly hydrate.
After giving birth in May, I struggled with my weight and gestational diabetes. Even though I had a newborn to care for, I started prioritizing myself and lost 50 pounds with the help of a coach. I was so inspired that I started coaching others.
For Mother’s Day, I want to lock myself in my room for the day and only be interrupted with deliveries of snuggles and coffee. I feel like it sounds horrible, but the thought of ignoring my family and just staying in my bed for as long as I want would be bliss.
— Shoshana Fain, 34, Chicago, IL, health transformation coach, married with 3 boys ages 11 months, 4, and 5
‘I need a real vacation’
Last March, I quit my full-time job as an HR specialist to start my own business. I run workshops and mentor staff at all levels, teaching people about unconscious bias, microaggressions and other barriers to inclusion and diversity. When it comes to things like race, gender, sexuality, and other individual differences, people are overwhelmed and afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. That’s where I come in.
Being an advocate for change and a minority during this year’s social justice movements and in the midst of a pandemic was simultaneously exciting and terrifying. It brought on a lot of new feelings that were felt by the entire family. But we thrived.
For Mother’s Day, I’d love a vacation out of the country. I haven’t traveled since the pandemic began, and Greece has been on my vision board since forever. The blue roofs, beaches, and cuisine make it the ultimate relaxation destination. I’m ready for a well-earned break.
— Lekeshia Angelique, 39, Clarksville, TN, diversity coach and consultant, engaged with five kids ages 9, 9, 19, 19 and 23
‘A little kindness would be nice’
I’ve loved working in politics news the past three years. It’s felt like a public service more than ever. This past year especially, I poured my efforts into getting it right and amplifying a diverse group of wise and credible voices. My son splits time between me and his father, so my parenting is 24/3.5. I love that I’ve gotten the intense time with him this past year — we’re closer than ever — but I hate how often my attention is divided when we’re together. I’m always at the mercy of my work phone.
For Mother’s Day, I want my son to make me a card, which is a painful challenge for single parents; who’s going to oversee such a thing? I confess that I want flowers. I want the day off, but I work on Sundays. I want democracy and kindness. I want forgiveness to be cool. People can be really mean and unforgiving — especially on social media. I want to never see the Michael Jackson eating popcorn meme ever again.
— Cat, 38, New York City, journalist, divorced with one son, age 5
‘I want a better work-life balance’
Trying to work from home with a two-year-old and no childcare was not easy. Sticking my daughter in front of a screen and depriving her of the attention and social interaction she was begging for — I felt like such a bad parent at times. And at work, everything felt like an emergency. I was giving 100% at everything, but constantly falling short.
When I was let go in February 2021, I was shattered. I realized that as much as I’d loved my work, it wasn’t worth my sanity. I found a job freelancing in my field, plus size fashion.
My wish for Mother’s Day is simple: I don’t want to go back to what life was pre-pandemic.
I miss being in the office, and collaborating in-person with my coworkers, but I don’t miss the expectations put upon me — and that I put on myself. I don’t want to sit in a car for three hours a day battling traffic and then missing dinner or bath time. From now on, I want to define my work schedule. I’d also love for all our laundry to be done.
— Nicole Phillips, 37, Los Angeles, CA, freelance writer, married with one daughter, age 3
‘I need quality — not quantity — time with my child’
The hardest part about working and parenting this last year was throwing out the idea of what I thought everything should look like and becoming compassionate with myself about what life actually was and who I was in it. I was not prepared for a racial and health pandemic that forced me to become so much for my daughter. I had to be OK with not always being OK, and create a space that freed my daughter to admit when she was struggling so we could process through our feelings together instead of getting stuck in them.
For Mother’s Day, it would be glorious if I had some quality time with my daughter. A night or two somewhere close by for us to reflect and have fun together — and maybe a little time for me to just be, and sleep.
— Lydia Elle, 40, Southern California, self-employed, single with one daughter age 11
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Melissa Petro May 9, 2021 at 07:39PM