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American mothers are drowning and no one is stepping up to help them

Seventy-four percent of mothers say they feel mentally worse since the pandemic began, according to our recent COVID-19 survey.

American mothers are drowning and no one is stepping up to help them

At Motherly, we talk a lot about the proverbial oxygen mask and how moms need to put their own oxygen masks on in order to be able to take care of their families. But we're all out of oxygen and we need help filling the tank.

As our annual State of Motherhood survey has shown, year over year, America's mothers are increasingly burned out and the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased maternal stress levels. Our COVID-19 survey found a majority of mothers (74%) say they feel mentally worse since the pandemic began, but data suggests the hectic and difficult year of 2020 will be the tipping point in making moms feel better long term.

The priorities of American parents are shifting, says George Carey, the CEO of the Family Room, a research and consultancy company that surveys thousands of people every year to determine trends in emotional priorities that impact decision-making. "In the 15 years we've been doing this, there has never been a time of more transformational changes in the emotional priorities of mothers," Carey tells Motherly.


According to Carey's latest data, we are in the midst of the biggest emotional upheaval in recent decades. It's not just mother's struggles that are changing, it's their minds, too. "For the last seven years, there has been every indication across these different emotional priorities that we measure that moms and dads, but especially moms have been totally fixated on their kids to the point where their own needs have been put to the side," Carey explains.

"And of course it's every parent's duty to be very focused on their kid, you'd be neglectful if you weren't. But parents 10 years ago were able to recognize that they have needs too. And over the last three and four years in particular, there's been a decrease in evidence that parents have any regard for their own needs, until this year.

"This was the year which seems to reverse that seven-year trend. And all of a sudden there've been enormous increases in moms' need for time to themselves and a community of their own friends and people who they can trust in their lives and competent leadership. Big, big increases in those emotional priorities versus last year," says Carey.

Carey points out that there has been "corresponding decreases in a number of their priorities around their kids, like their kids' education, their kids' happiness, their kids' wellbeing." He says it's not that these things have become unimportant to mothers, but rather that mothers are recognizing their own needs more.

At Motherly, we've seen it in our own community. Our mamas are interested in their own needs now in a way they haven't been before—and that is a good thing. Because if there was ever a time for us to put on an oxygen mask, it's now.

Unfortunately, moms are finding little support from society and governments. We've been thrown into a world where we are supposed to work, but also homeschool our children and keep our families safe. As the New York Times pointed out this week in a heartbreakingly accurate trending headline, "In the Covid-19 economy, you can have a kid or a job. You can't have both."

The unrealistic exceptions placed on mothers are not new—it's always been way too hard to have a job and children—but now that we're in a crisis and what few supports we had have been stripped away, it's beyond untenable and mothers... well, mothers are not going to take it anymore.

Mothers do not want to go back to a "normal" where we put our needs last, and we want leaders who understand that. Carey's data shows that mothers are prioritizing their own relationships and spiritual growth and are also looking for competent leadership in government. Competency is more important now than political party affiliation. Moms are looking to elect political leaders who are honest and surround themselves with competent advisors.

"Don't assume that the way things were is the way things will be once this virus has passed," Carey explains. "Because our 15 years of doing this research would strongly argue that we are into a new normal, which is not ever going to return to the way things were, or if it does, it'll be decades before we actually see those kinds of changes."

According to Carey, "this fundamentally changed people at an emotional level, not just a behavioral level."

As we get closer to November, politicians at all levels need to be paying attention to this, and so do our employers and our partners. Because while Motherly's COVID-19 survey found that moms wanted was more time with family and more flexible work options, Carey's data shows moms are desperate to connect with friends and community again. But that's hard to do when you have less than an hour a day to yourself without family responsibilities, as 63% of Motherly's respondents state.

Moms need oxygen masks. And society hasn't been providing them.

So we're going to make them for ourselves and each other. Because now that we recognize how much we need to be prioritizing ourselves, we're not going back. We're mothers, not martyrs. And we're so over 2020.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

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

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.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

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.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop 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.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

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.

$40

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.

$121

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