(It is such a needed topic, it deserves the complete article. It will be shared over the day in four parts.)
I wondered if the editors at The New York Times realized the irony in the title “The Pandemic Created a Child-Care Crisis. Mothers Bore the Burden.” Working mothers, who once bore their children in the womb, were forced by the pandemic to now bear what was called the burden of their children’s care.
In response to this “child-care crisis,” the author writes, mothers “became the default solution.” Forced from work back into the home, “forgotten and shunted to the sidelines,” these women waited for their kids to get vaccinated before returning them to daycares and schools. The milestone reached in January 2019 — when women outnumbered men in the workforce for the first time in American history — crumbled before the triumph could be fully enjoyed: Men, once again, hold the majority. Only 56 percent of women are working for pay — the lowest since the mid-eighties.
At stake for these working mothers, the author claims, is not simply a paycheck, but self-determination, self-reliance, and the survival of their complex selves. As this childcare crisis lingered over weeks and months, “the shock turned to despair at the drudgery of the days, the loss of their professional purpose, the lack of choice in it all.”
Some of the women interviewed for the article expressed sentiments like, “I love everything about motherhood, and yet it doesn’t feel fair that I should have to sacrifice my career.” Others asked, “We think we’ve progressed so much, and then this pandemic happens and we all just revert back to these traditional behaviors. . . . And this is a good moment to reflect, why do we do that?”
Have we arrived at the bottom when the Times sees nothing amiss in including the example of a mother who walks dogs professionally, wanting out of full-time mothering in preference to being “out and dirty with animals”? Rather outside with dogs than inside with her kids.
Much is amiss in our society and our families, as the article displays without realizing it. But instead of criticizing the disagreeable, I would actually like to defend these women and some of their sense of misfortune. The loss is greater than they suppose, and it includes us all, for it includes the household.