When I told my spouse our child's school would be closed this week and for the foreseeable future, I had tears in my eyes.
"Relax, babe. Just relax," he told me.
I love this man. I married him. I had a child with him. I love him so much. But those four words highlight how far apart we are sometimes. I cannot possibly relax right now.
He feels like nothing is going to change for him and I feel like my world is falling apart.
He's going to go to work tomorrow and I will stay home, because I always do. He's right when he says our family has an incredible privilege that most don't: I work from home for a company that was founded by two mothers with parents and flexible work in mind. As Motherly's Senior News Editor, I'm deep enough in the statistics each day to know he's right—this company is my saving grace in this situation. Most working mothers don't have what I have. My bosses have my back.
But that doesn't mean this isn't going to be hard in a way that my partner can't understand.
Tonight I'm crying for myself and all the other mothers who just found out school is closed. All the moms who are making frantic phone calls right now, trying to rearrange their lives while people tell them to "relax."
Yes, some dads are going to stay home from work this week, or watch the kids over their laptop screen while working from home. But significantly more mothers will. The research shows that when kids are out of school moms are 10 times more likely than fathers to have to take the day off and stay home.
Before anyone mentions #notalldads, let me say that I applaud and value today's dads for stepping up in ways the generations before them did not and that I recognize how much today's fathers want to be equal parents. But I don't believe that means they can see how hard this is going to be for us moms—we're going to carry the load here and our loads are already so heavy.
Modern dads who believe in the idea of gender equality and see so much potential in their wives and daughters and female colleagues can also hinder progress toward gender equality because they enjoy a place of privilege at the expense of the women and girls in their lives. That kind of thing is uncomfortable to recognize and easy to ignore.
This is hard, but it is the right choice.
My text messages, inboxes and social feeds are filling up with strong words from local mothers who cannot believe our schools will be closed this week. We found out just before 5 o'clock on a Sunday evening that schools and day cares would be closed on Monday and most people were not prepared to rearrange their lives literally overnight.
Still, I do not begrudge health officials for making this choice. This was the right choice to flatten the curve of the coronavirus. We've got to engage in social distancing, and schools and day cares are basically mass gatherings. Officials are trying to keep us safe, but in doing so they've highlighted just how vulnerable we are.
As Motherly's Senior News Editor I write this so often it should be tattooed on my forehead, but 85% of mothers don't feel society supports or understands them. They told us so during Motherly's second annual State of Motherhood survey, the only statistically accurate survey of millennial moms.
Moms told us they're not supported and the pandemic is proving it.
When schools closed and my husband said "relax, babe," fellow moms are saying things like "I can't breathe right now," or "I'm having a panic attack."
There are mothers who need to go to work this week. If they don't, they could be evicted or they won't have food for their families. And now they have no one to watch their children. Some children will probably end up staying home alone this week, others may end up in situations that are the opposite of "social distancing" and end up packed into unlicensed day cares in a neighbor's basement.
This is why 2020 has to be the #yearofthemother, and why Motherly wants to share the stories of all mothers.
About 325 words ago I said that many modern dads are blind to the barriers preventing true gender equality because their privilege allows them to ignore it. Before that I mentioned how privileged I am to have the position I do here at Motherly, a company that is pioneering flexible work for parents.
I can't let my privilege make me blind to the struggles of other moms. While I am grateful that I will be able to do my job from home this week (with Paw Patrol running in the background instead of CNN, and with non-stop interruptions to refill chocolate milk or find the blue crayon), I know that many moms can't do their jobs from home.
I know some moms have no health insurance and are terrified about what even a mild case of COVID-19 could do to their family financially.
I know some moms depend on large gatherings, events or tourism and other factors being impacted by this pandemic and now have no way to earn an income.
I know some moms gave up paid work to support their partner while raising kids and are now going to be wondering how to stretch a single, smaller than usual paycheck when a health crisis is destabilizing their partner's industry.
I know the motherhood penalty is going to come down so hard on so many working mothers who are going to shoulder the load during this crisis at the expense of their career, because too many workplaces punish people for acknowledging their humanity and especially their role as parents.
The pandemic is highlighting all the ways that society is failing mothers, parents and kids and Motherly is going to keep informing the world about this, and keep asking lawmakers what they're going to do about it.
So, no—I can't relax right now.
If you are a mother who is being impacted the pandemic in a way you think we should be talking about please email firstname.lastname@example.org.