When you already sacrifice so much every day it’s hard to say yes to another prolonged sacrifice when you know help isn’t coming. When you know it’s all on you. Every day. All day.
So when mothers in my social media feeds went from posting about flattening the curve in March to posting COVID conspiracy theories just a few weeks later I was shocked, but I shouldn’t have been.
“Sacrifice everything to stay safe,” the powerful and privileged said without throwing a life preserver. America’s mothers were already the most stressed out moms in the world pre-COVID. And drowning people will drown others to survive.
When President Trump tweeted that he had COVID I wasn’t shocked (few in the news business were—we’ve spent the last several months talking to people with advanced degrees in medicine and epidemiology and debunking misinformation), but I hope this news is surprising to many.
I hope that those who started out posting about curve flattening before switching to Q Anon talking points can return to where they started. Because as much as it’s tempting to believe that this is an illusion so that we can get back to normal, the real illusion is that we were okay before.
The President of the United States has COVID-19, a disease that so many have downplayed and disregarded in part because of his suggestions, but also because they felt they needed to.
There are mothers out there right now who started off the pandemic by battening down the hatches and buying as much Lysol as Instacart would bring. Millions of them lost their jobs—and many more are choosing to walk away from theirs because this is all too hard.
How can a mother work without day care, school or grandparents? They wondered.
How can she follow the health experts’ advice if there’s no money coming in?
How can she keep her kids home if she knows she’s gonna lose the day care spot she spent months waiting for?
How can she stop working if she needs to keep paying for the birth of a child who is now old enough to read the numbers on the bill?
And so some (with a lot of help from algorithms and certain politicians) came to the conclusion that they would reject a reality where so many demands were being placed on them and, more importantly in the case of many white, middle-class moms, where their footing in privilege was being threatened.
They believed the President when he said COVID was a hoax because they were scared and stressed and live in a country where individuals take the blame for the failures of society. And nobody wants to be that individual. Everyone wants to be the American success story but most are closer to being evicted than they are to being a millionaire. That’s a hard reality to swallow when you’ve spent your whole life worshipping the American Dream.
COVID-19 is showing us how vulnerable we are, and we don’t like that.
It’s an understandable human reaction to decide that we’re done with it and delude ourselves. The conspiracy world is a lot like multilevel marketing in that way: It seduces mothers who feel unsupported by society but have been conditioned to believe they don’t deserve support. It provides community and feels like a chance at security, but getting involved is risky.
As the kids on TikTok say, the pandemic isn’t over just because you’re over it. The coronavirus is still spreading.
It spread to the highest office in the country.
It’s time for a reality check.
Everybody’s quick to judge the mom who ignores COVID, but what about a society that ignores moms?