american mothers financial crisis in pandemic
John Moore / Getty Staff

She has an advanced degree, two kids and not a dollar to her name. She started the year with a move, to be closer to family and her children's father. Life was going well, but then she lost her job in March, lost her apartment weeks later and has spent hours on the phone fighting her eviction and seeking unemployment.

Since, she's cashed out her savings and investments, moved in with family and emptied her kid's piggy bank for gas money. She wakes up each morning feeling increasingly desperate and depleted, in the single bedroom she shares with her children. She can't see her therapist because her balance is overdue.

This is motherhood in America in 2020, as told by an anonymous mom. She wants to be nameless to protect her job search, but she is not ashamed because she's just one of so many mothers experiencing this right now.

"I feel like moms are being hit the hardest during this pandemic," she tells Motherly. "I know mothers on every level—essential employees, skilled workers, moms with multiple degrees and they are burning the candle at both ends...I know I'm not alone."

She sure isn't. In Tennessee, Hollie Lockett, mother of five kids, was laid off from her custodial position—but the bills kept coming. In Connecticut, Zully, a Guatemalan immigrant and mom, had to rely on a GoFundMe when she was diagnosed with COVID-19 and gave birth weeks early. In Virginia, Rhonda, mom of six kids, lost her job, then her home, then her car. In Florida, new mom Maggie Jensen saw her unemployment claim basically erased—after months of waiting, the status of her claim went from 'pending' to 'eligible' to mysteriously 'not registered'.

In all of these cases the mothers sought assistance after losing their jobs, and all were stymied by bureaucratic red tape and backlogs.

Mothers are waiting months for unemployment

The number of American workers filing for unemployment is at a record high, and state unemployment offices are backlogged. Desperate people are spending days lined up in unemployment office parking lots, or waiting on hold on the phone. Some have been waiting for unemployment for weeks or months. Of the mothers above, only Lockett got what she needed, and only after months of waiting.

And at the end of this month, when the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program expires, Lockett and millions of other Americans who did secure unemployment will be getting $600 less each week.

In Brooklyn, New York, Brook Garrison, a single mom, is luckier than many, because she actually received unemployment, but tells NBC News she "will be totally screwed" when PUA ends and she loses that extra $600. She hasn't worked since she was laid off from an Olive Garden in March.

Garrison worries about what her family will eat when the PUA program expiries because she expects food banks will be busy. Economists worry about that, too, as 30 million people are in the same boat as Garrison.

Our anonymous mom explains how hard it was to find out if she could even qualify for unemployment: "I couldn't get a hold of anyone for two months. I would spend three hours on the phone for the system to just... disconnect me. After two and a half months, I was finally able to talk to someone who clarified the issues, and filed the PUA claim. I was told it would take 21 business days."

By that time, PUA will have expired anyway.

The pandemic is financially devastating many parents, especially vulnerable mothers

Seventy percent of parents recently surveyed say their "family is struggling," an increase from 58% in March and 61% in April. Meanwhile, 56% of parents have gone into debt since the pandemic began. Single parents are more likely than married couples to have increased their credit card debt, and single mothers have seen more job losses than other groups during the pandemic. This is in part because they bear the burden of childcare alone and because solo moms are more likely to work in industries hit hard by the pandemic, like the service industry.

According to a Pew Stateline analysis of census microdata, 83% of single moms working as restaurant servers (like Garrison) had lost their jobs by mid-April. Seventy-two percent of single moms who worked as cleaners (like Lockett) were out of work, as were 58% of cooks, 33% of personal care aides and 14% of customer service representatives.

But even moms who work in higher-paying industries (like Jensen, who is in the real estate industry) are not immune to the financial pain of the pandemic. As the anonymous mom learned, a college degree doesn't guarantee work in this climate. In a recent survey of student loan borrowers, 45% of parents who've lost income during the pandemic said food insecurity was an issue for their family.

Food prices are up as incomes are down

New data released this week from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that even though American parents are poorer, it takes more money than ever to put food in the fridge. The cost of food rose by 0.6% in June, trending upward for the sixth month in a row.

Parents who are having trouble affording food can apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—formerly known as food stamps—a program the Families First Coronavirus Response Act aimed to make accessible to more families during the pandemic. Mothers with young kids may also qualify for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), but as the anonymous mom at the beginning of our story recently learned, these programs do not cover diapers. She doesn't know how she'll pay for them.

"We, the 99%, are drowning. I personally know a lot of stories like mine. I feel like we are headed to a depression of the middle class that will be more brutal than the 1930s and with no real hope in sight," she tells Motherly.

Rent is unaffordable for many mothers

Food costs are soaring and so is the cost of housing in America. A new report by National Low Income Housing Coalition released this week details how impossible it is to afford housing.

Our anonymous mom knows this all too well. Her move in January was prompted, in part, by a raise in rent at her old place. She found a "shady" apartment closer to her family and says the people in her city who can afford their own homes either have generational wealth or were married with multiple income streams. That's not her reality, and it puts owning a home (or even renting a good apartment) out of reach.

According to the report, the average American renter's hourly wage is $18.22 and "as a result, the average renter must work 53 hours per week to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment."

As the report's authors note: "Some of the most important workers during the COVID-19 outbreak earn even less [than the average renter's wage]: grocery store cashiers earn a median wage of $11.61 per hour, while building cleaning workers and home health and personal care aides earn $12.94. They would have to work 83 and 74 hours per week, respectively, to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment. Many single parents or caregivers would find it difficult if not impossible to work those hours."

Our anonymous mom knows how hard it is to work as many hours as you can get and still not get by, especially when childcare spots are expensive, hard to come by and disappearing every day.

So how can parents get financial help in 2020?

So many parents have questions about financial assistance right now, and the sad truth is there are no easy answers.

We don't know if the federal government will extend the PUA program.

We don't know when state unemployment offices will catch up.

We don't know when or how mothers will be able to go back to work.

And that mom, the one with the degree and no money to her name? She doesn't know what she is going to do, either. She contacted her state representative this week, which finally led to some action on her case. It turned out she was not eligible for unemployment because she accepted a new job in January. Had she made that move 30 days earlier she would have qualified.

"They are reprocessing my claim and said I should have a definitive answer in two days but that I should come to terms with the fact that I won't see any funds," she says, explaining that the move was so necessary. In her previous location, she had no support when her kids would get sick and her day care required them to stay home if they ran a fever (which wasn't uncommon). She'd run through her PTO and her vacation days and couldn't afford to miss more work when her kids were ill. She needed help.

"Would this be as big of a problem if there were stronger social systems put in place? Absolutely not," she says, wondering, "How have we fallen so far?"

She's currently looking for a remote job and taking meetings over Zoom while her children try not to make noise in the cramped, borrowed and shared bedroom they all hope will only be their home temporarily.

In This Article

    The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

    Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

    Conz Preti

    Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

    This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

    Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.

    Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:

    Belly oil


    Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.


    Belly mask

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

    Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)


    Nipple + lip ointment 

    HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

    Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.


    Belly tattoos

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

    A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!


    This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

    The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

    We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

    All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

    And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

    Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

    Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

    Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

    When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

    Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

    Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

    You've got this.

    Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

    The Motherly Birth Class


    Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    This post is sponsored by BABYBJÖRN. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Secret Agent play set


    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    Stepping Stones


    Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.


    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


    Sensory play set


    Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Foam pogo stick


    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.




    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.


    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.


    Pull-along ducks


    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Rocking chair seesaw


    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    15 stylish back-to-school haircuts for kids

    Give them back-to-school confidence with a fresh new style.

    Jetta Productions Inc / Getty

    With a fresh haircut, your child can get a major confidence boost in time for the first day of school. With back-to-school season in full swing, book those hair appointments soon in time for classes to be in session. Whether your child wants a simple haircut, an intricate hair style, or even hair dye for kids, there are plenty of options to consider before school starts.

    Boost confidence for the first day of school with one of these hair cuts for kids.

    1. Fringe

    An easy way to create a whole new look is to add fringe. Piecey bangs over the forehead can give your child extra confidence as they prepare for the first day of school.

    2. Fade

    For shorter styles, the fade is a popular haircut for kids these days. Plus, with summer's high temperatures still in full swing during back-to-school season, this hairstyle will also keep kids cool.

    3. Bob

    Another cooling option, the shorter bob style offers a lot of versatility. Go for a short bob with a length that lands around the ears, or keep it long for a "lob" that hits just above the shoulders.

    4. Hidden undercut

    This hairstyle involves shaving the hair around the bottom half of the back of the head. It usually often includes shaving a pattern. With hair left down, you can't tell this cool feature is there, but pull hair up into a ponytail or bun, and the pattern is an artistic addition to any hairstyle.

    5. Braids

    Try out classic braids in natural hair for a protective style that is also long-lasting with easy maintenance. Add beads or bows for a cute addition that will complement any first-day outfits, too.

    6. Mohawk

    For a spunky look, shave hair into a mohawk that is longer on top and shorter on the sides. Use gel to style the mohawk, including in the iconic spikes that stand straight up.

    7. Faux hawk

    If your child isn't quite committed to shaving the sides of their head, you can also try a temporary faux hawk by pulling hair taut along the sides of the head and pinning it into place with longer pieces on top. This also works great with curly hair.

    8. Crop

    The crop is a simple, straightforward hairstyle that will look fresh for the first day of school and will also be easy to care for each morning. That's right—finally, no fights about brushing the hair before the bus comes!

    9. Hair dye for kids

    If your child is more experimental, you might try temporary hair dye for kids. Let them choose their favorite color, and add a few stripes throughout their hair for a bold but school-appropriate hairstyle.

    10. Quiff

    The quiff features a long, side-swept top with shorter, often faded sides. It's an on-trend look that isn't overly fussy, although a little gel or pomade in the mornings can help keep the longer hair on top stay in place.

    11. Deva cut

    You love those perfectly curly ringlets in your child's hair, so take care of them with the proper haircut! The Deva cut is designed especially for naturally curly hair. It involves the stylist cutting dry hair, so they can better shape hair to the natural curls. The result? Full, bouncy curls that will give your child all the confidence they need for heading back to school.

    12. Pixie

    A tousled pixie haircut for kids will look stylish and refined with minimal effort. Plus, it's a shorter style that will keep kids cool as they run around outside for recess.

    13. Asymmetrical

    An asymmetrical cut will offer a unique, interesting style that plays well with a variety of different hair textures and thicknesses. Plus, you can easily accessories with various clips or bows on one side.

    14. Buns

    As far as hairstyles for kids goes, buns can be as easy or complex as you'd like. Pull all the hair back into one chic, effortless messy bun, or add braids and hair accessories for a more formal look.

    15. Crew cut

    The classic crew cut will offer an adorable and timeless look. It's an especially great style for kids with thicker hair.

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