The Day After the Second COVID Mother’s Day

The cards have been opened and read, the flowers admired, the meal not cooked by Mom fussed over and the dishes done. We’ve passed our second Mother’s Day under COVID.

Last Mother’s Day we were still in a state of collective shock and denial about the pandemic.

It had been four months since SARS-CoV-2 had been sequenced, three months since the first outbreak in the U.S., two months since we began to lockdown in earnest. The country’s daily average new case count was less than 200, and we counted deaths in tens of thousands.

As of this now-past Mother’s Day we had lost 581,056 to COVID with 607 deaths reported Saturday, 246 more on Sunday. At least one recent study estimated the true number of deaths due to COVID at 900,000 — more than double the reported number.

Many of those lost were mothers and grandmothers, and mothers-to-be. In the the last several weeks mothers died of COVID after giving birth, having never held their infants.

We’ve lost mothers who will be coolly labeled “excess deaths,” among them a mother and grandmother in my own family who did not seek help in adequate time.

This is not to minimize all the other mothers we’ve lost for a host of usual reasons, including unacceptable increasing maternal mortality in this country, disproportionately affecting women of color.

While we celebrated motherhood yesterday we must remember the day after and here forward not only mothers who aren’t here with us but the families they left behind who may have observed yet another first holiday without their loved one.

We must look after the mothers still with us.

~ ~ ~

Mothers who survived this past year of pandemic have been under incredible pressure; 35 million moms with children at home increased their unpaid care time by 57 million hours as childcare and home schooling fell to them disproportionately. They’re exhausted, tapped out of resources, and fed up with the unrelenting guilt trips about the glory of motherhood on top of the nasty demands from the business world which insists workers are slackers laying about, sucking down unemployment benefits.

Meanwhile the previous shortage of childcare has become catastrophic, in part because many moms who worked as daycare providers and grandmothers who may have provided care for free have gotten sick, developed long COVID, or died.

What daycare remains open is increasingly expensive — in 2019 the average cost for an infant and a preschool child was $22,000 a year — and moms who earn minimum wage may not be able to afford care depending on whether they are eligible for any state or federal aid.

Hourly tipped workers whose workplaces have limited capacity due to COVID restrictions may not earn enough tips — they certainly can’t make enough on their base wages which in 18 states and Washington DC doesn’t reach $2.50 an hour.

What happens when an outbreak happens and schools need to rapidly change to remote learning? Moms drop everything and end up at home to care for their kids, needing to drop work hours and shifts or quit altogether. Far too many mothers can’t get paid time off let alone unpaid time off to address their children’s needs even when there isn’t a pandemic; it’s worse during COVID because there are so few alternatives to simply quitting when there’s no backup care provider.

If we truly want to do something meaningful and of real use for mothers in this country, we need to do more than send cards and flowers. We need to deliver for them the remaining 364 days a year.

Moms need:

– A living wage beginning with $15 an hour for all minimum wage workers;

– Health care for all, not just insurance for some;

– A comprehensive program helping to meet the needs of new parents, persons with serious personal or family health challenges, providing paid leave (see the FAMILY Act);

– Establish a national paid sick days standard (see the Healthy Families Act);

– Establish a national childcare program to expand availability and at prices based on income, beginning with the Child Care for Working Families Act;

– Integrate the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act into a national childcare program so that children do not have to be shuttled from daycare to preschool essential to preparation for K-12 education;

– Care for working mothers-to-be with passage of the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act, which protects pregnant workers’ right to reasonable accommodation, prevents retaliation for requesting reasonable accommodation, and prevents pregnant women from being forced to take leave, paid or unpaid, if reasonable accommodation is available;

– Address the massive economic losses sustained disproportionately by women during the pandemic, a considerable percentage of which are mothers.

Both the Healthy Families Act and the FAMILY Act were introduced in 2019 but ended up shuttled off to die in committee. The FAMILY Act has been resubmitted and needs to passed if we are to successfully recover from this pandemic without further sacrifice on the part of mothers.

The Healthy Families Act does not appear to have been re-introduced yet under the 117th Congress (at least no bill comes up for this term under that name).

The Child Care for Working Families Act was re-introduced in April in both houses of Congress after failing to pass under the 116th Congress.

Senators Wyden and Warren introduced the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act last month.

The Pregnant Worker Fairness Act has already been approved by the House Education and Labor Committee as of March 24; it has wide, bipartisan support and needs to be passed ASAP before any more pregnant workers are forced out of their jobs without reasonable accommodation.

~ ~ ~

You made your phone call to the mothers in your life yesterday to tell them you care. Now make the calls to your representatives in Congress to follow through and insist they take action to pass the legislation to help mothers and grandmothers, and mothers-to-be.

Don’t just talk, do the walk.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121 or use

32 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    Good gods, I didn’t even touch on the need for help with adult and eldercare which is just as challenging as childcare, especially now as the oldest Boomers begin to need care.

    ADDER: And I didn’t touch on making free school lunches permanent for K-12 students. It may seem like no big deal but when you’re a minimum wage worker, especially one living in a food desert, making nutritious lunches every day is both a massive demand on time and extremely expensive.

    ADDER-2: And student debt…sweet baby Jesus, how can young women even entertain getting pregnant when they’re stuck paying down exorbitant student debt for a decade or more? All those folks whining about the drop in birth rates over the last handful of years let alone this past year during the pandemic have no clue what getting pregnant, birthing, and supporting an infant costs these days.

    • Fran of the North says:

      I saw a post today that said that 165K U.S. pandemic deaths were to those in long term care. Certainly not all mothers, but quite probably far more than 50%.

      • Rayne says:

        Those are likely among the documented deaths given the settings. Imagine that many more-plus shadow deaths not in long-term care settings. ~shudder~

    • Honeybee says:

      … among them a mother and grandmother in my own family who did not seek help in adequate time

      So sorry to hear this. It has been a time, hasn’t it.

  2. punaise says:

    Speaking of parenting:

    Op Ed: Having kids is becoming a white privilege in California

    Over the years, our report has documented the rising tide of inequality in California. But 2020 was particularly startling to us.

    Skyrocketing child care costs have now overtaken housing prices as the highest expense in all but five California counties.

    Not all groups are suffering the consequences of these rising costs equally. Our data indicates that the very act of starting a family is becoming a white privilege here in California.

    • Rayne says:

      Oh yeah, when persons of color are disproportionately represented among the lowest paid workers and those without health care benefits?

    • posaune says:

      and the higher costs of special needs childcare.
      outrageously expensive in DC: $30/hr minimum.
      I’ll bet CA is even more. White privilege indeed.

  3. Hug h says:

    Thanks taking the time to write this. The fortitude that my 83 year old Mom has shown over the last year caring for my 85 year old Dad suffering from dementia is astonishing.

  4. P J Evans says:

    My brother and his wife provide care for two of their grandchildren – they live in the same city. I doubt the parents could afford day care, even with decently-paying jobs.

    • Rayne says:

      That. I had to change career paths because I couldn’t afford daycare on what I was making as a low-level office worker 27 years ago, even though I was making more than minimum wage and had benefits. If I hadn’t changed careers it wouldn’t have been worth my time to work as childcare would have cost every after-tax dollar I made and then some; fortunately with the job change and a 40% bump in pay, I could keep $400/month for all my other expenses and not cut into my spouse’s take-home pay. We had no family locally to help with childcare.

      Childcare expense has only gotten grown in that period of time.

      • Ruthie says:

        I “suspended” a fledgling career when I had my first kid because I would have possibly just covered the cost of gas and childcare. Little did I understand at the time how difficult picking it back up would be, especially after moving to a new state a few times for my husband’s job. Trying to restart with no local network, especially after moving in the summer of 2008, was anywhere from difficult to impossible, and more so with every year/move. We were lucky that the financial burden wasn’t a big issue within a few years. Still, that seemingly small decision from 25 years ago snowballed in a way I never anticipated and didn’t want.

        • Rayne says:

          Oh I feel you there, Ruthie, all of that. I look back now and I realize even my own spouse had no idea what I was doing to keep it all together — the career change meant being on call 24/7, finishing a thesis in the wee hours literally typing while breastfeeding, juggling a kid in preschool and another in daycare, dragging kids to the office, on and on — and all for chickenfeed.

          Upside: I’ve got a lot of lived experience to help my kids navigate this. (My folks didn’t have to do any of this because they could work offset shifts.)

      • P J Evans says:

        The kids’ mother works for the family & children’s service agency, and sometimes has to spend the night in the office because they couldn’t find a place for the kids to go. Some of those kids have nothing but the clothes they’re wearing.

  5. punaise says:

    seen via DKos:

    “All the job gains in April went to men. The number of women employed or looking for work fell by 64,000, a reminder that child-care issues are still in play.”

  6. Peterr says:

    Personally, I lost my mother-in-law during the epidemic (not from COVID). She lived in an assisted living facility, and in the last year of her life we could only visit her in person in the 36 hours before she passed. Very hard on Mrs Dr Peterr. Professionally, I have two funerals waiting to be held at some point in the future, when the families involved feel better about traveling and gathering in larger groups.

    It’s not just the loss of loved ones that is so hard, but the usual rituals of grief that provide comfort have been altered drastically or halted indefinitely. “If we can’t sing at the funeral, the funeral is going to wait until we can.” Meanwhile, we find new ways to grieve and offer comfort, but we also find ourselves grieving the loss of the ways in which we gave and received support in the past.

  7. Sprout says:

    I volunteer as the Treasurer for a non-profit children’s daycare/early childhood education center. Complaints about the cost of childcare and elder care must be placed in the context of the pay scales for the people that provide those services. They’re horrible, very much on the low end of the pay scale and typically staffed by women. There’s so much wrong in this area that it’s hard to know where to begin. Very few would challenge the notion that educating, caring for and developing our children is vitally important, yet when you look at the amount of money invested in this supposedly critical function, there’s next to nothing. National funding for childcare is just the beginning. And yet, we have a political party representing close to half the nation that will fight to the bitter end to deny funding because, jeez I don’t know…space aliens have taken over?

    • Rayne says:

      Childcare/early education personnel don’t get paid anywhere near enough for what they have to do. I was very lucky to rely on a daycare provider who lived in my neighborhood; if she didn’t have the wherewithal to handle her daycare like a small business entrepreneur, she wouldn’t have been able to make a go of it. Not everybody going into childcare/early childhood education has the combination of entrepreneurial savvy combined with a calling to do childcare, making her rather unusual among care options where we lived. Likely why so many centers are non-profits, because making a profit is extremely difficult.

      Childcare is infrastructure — we need to fund it like it is. Screw those stupid right-wing asshats who insist Americans have more kids but are clueless about how those families are supposed to get by.

      • Peterr says:

        There is a non-trivial segment of the GOP who believe that childcare should be solely the responsibility of a stay-at-home mom. Women entering the workforce (by their ligths) is a sign of societal rot. Asking GOP politicians to vote to pay for childcare is wasted breath. They know that this segment of their base sort of don’t like it because it violates their economic beliefs (the market will solve this problem), and they *really* don’t like it because it violates their religious beliefs about the proper place of women.

        • Rayne says:

          Can already see how they treat women with brains and independence — just look at what they’re doing to Cheney.

          And I suspect the GOP’s perception of the “proper place of women” isn’t at all based in Christianity as they may claim but more based in their refusal to share any power outside the white patriarchy.

    • Solo says:

      Oh yes, indigenous cultures express a beautiful and deep reverence for woman, for the feminine, the matriarchal. Often said simply and clean: “Moon is singing woman/to the ancient fire. Always woman.” (from RIDING THE EARTHBOY FORTY, James Welch, Gros Ventre and Blackfoot poet and novelist)

  8. BobCon says:

    For the older moms, the right wing brainiacs — Hoover, Heritage, Club For Growth, AEI, etc — are still scheming to pull a Louis DeJoy-style attack on Medicare.

    Under Trump, Seema Verma tried to push the same kind of slash and burn privatization on Medicare that has been going on at the USPS, and unfortunately she and the rightwing pseudointellectuals have the ear of a lot of deficit dunces in the press, like Glenn Kessler.

    Due to demographics, older moms make up the greater share of the potential victims of soulless idiots like Verma, Stephen Moore, and Larry Kramer, and it’s critical to keep an eye out for gaslighting by the GOP and their allies in the press.

  9. Ed Walker says:

    One of the right-wing jerks whining about the decline in births is Ross Douthat at the NYT. In his Sunday column, he denies that capitalism has anything to do with his concerns about traditional religions, births, families, and whatever he means by communities. He seems to think everything is a liberal plot. Anyway it’s funny to see him trying to argue with Eric Levitz writing about the absurd Republican party in New York Magazine.

  10. mospeck says:

    Rayne, it’s getting better. It’s getting better all the time. Lennon notwithstanding, it really is truly a remarkable time. This particular rock could be a lost one, but then there’s a lot of other rocks out there :)
    Perhaps one should consider
    And now we got the 1st (of a long line of) engines that can get you there cheap and fast and make it happen (rocket science is in a golden age right now and “I feel the earth move under my feet “–Carol King).
    Who are these strangers who pass through the door..who cover your action and go you one more..who are these children who scheme and run wild..who speak with their wings and the way that they smile..what are the secrets they trace in the sky

  11. e.a.f. says:

    Thank you for your article and a belated Happy Mother’s Day!
    In Canada child care is also expensive. Only one province has a good plan, Quebec. It a cost of $10 a day. The rest of us in Canada aren’t quite sure why the other provinces and 3 territories don’t have it, but only Quebec. .

    People don’t seem to understand that with out decent child care kids are the real losers in this. At some point given the cost of housing and day care, people simply won’t be able to afford to have children. The work load dumped on women is huge. I remember a study they did in Canada back in the 1980s of marriages where both parents worked. Men seemed to think they did a good job of contributing to “helping” in the household. turns out that was approx. 10 minutes a day. doubt if much has changed. Yes, and many fathers think they are helping. ya right, its not helping its their responsibility. those are their children also. Now in 2021 we do see more fathers looking after their children and performing house hold work, but still the majority of work is done by Moms. At an early age I realized Dads had way more fun in life, grade 8 and decided I was not going to be a Mom, it was too much work. Having spent time looking after friends’ children, over the years on a Saturday, omg, that is so much more work than going to an office. If it weren’t for Mothers all over the world, we’d be in worse shape than we are.

    I do hope the americans pass all the Leg. they are proposing. Parents and children need it.

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