A request on Mother’s Day: Stop shaming us for needing a break

Leading up to this Mother’s Day, I’m feeling the incredible weight of these last 14 months of parenting. I’m so fucking tired. I desperately need a break. But what has made it 10 times worse has been the consistent shaming on social media of parents, mostly moms, talking about how hard the last year has been with our school-aged kids not able to go to school.

To be told you’re an awful, selfish mom cuz you don’t want to be around your kid 24/7 has taken a huge toll. The worst part is that it seems to be mostly fellow progressives doing it. I’ve been told for months that parents who want schools reopened want teachers to die — and this refrain hasn’t changed despite the fact that the evidence and data we’ve had for months has told us schools aren’t super-spreader sites—that we hate our kids, and “only want our babysitters back.”

I clap back against the expectation that parents should want to be with our kids 24/7, but it still gets to me that so many supposedly like-minded (progressive) people spout this bullshit. If you all really thought about the weight of what you’re saying we should be fine with, you would understand how unhealthy it is for both parents and kids to be with each other all the time. If you were truly socialists and community-oriented people (like so many of your Twitter bios claim), you would treat parents as if it takes a village to raise our kids, as Hillary said decades ago. You would want to grant parents the same grace you expect for yourself.

I’ve seen very little grace extended to moms during what has been, for many of us, the most difficult year of our lives—when we’ve had to deal not only with our own anxiety/depression/isolation/despair, but that of our kids. And we’ve never gotten a break from it. I understand many people living alone have also had a terrible year, but objectively, the excessive burdens parents (mostly moms) have been expected to bear with no outside help is unique and worthy of acknowledgement.

What I’ve seen is a ton of blaming and shaming and saying we’re selfish and entitled. Entitled because we want PUBLIC schools to be open and accessible to all kids, when all the evidence says it’s safe. Selfish—I was even called “evil” by someone on Twitter—because we want our kids to be learning alongside their peers and not feeling disengaged or isolated, because we don’t want our kids needlessly suffering when we know schools are safe. I don’t know how the discourse became so distorted that advocating for open public schools became a symbol of entitlement or white privilege. As far as I can tell, no other country has treated public schooling as if it were so expendable, nor have they expected moms to bear the burden of staying home with their kids for over a year—and to sacrifice their careers to do it. (This is another beef I have — the consistent failure of the media to link the phenomenon of women being pushed out of the workforce to prolonged school closures, and the failure of high-profile feminists and progressive politicians to state publicly how important reopening schools is for gender equality.)

Ironically, this very individualistic notion — that we should want to be with our kids and to do everything for them, including fill in for their teachers— doesn’t dovetail with more communitarian mindsets and socialist-leaning countries, where parents are given more financial support (like subsidized childcare and paid leave) and schools have been the last to close and the first to open.

The rest of the world seems to understand that it takes a village — but this country is so individualistic and hostile to parents (once our kids are out of the womb, of course). In other parts of the world, it’s not controversial to want schools to hold up their end of the bargain, to fulfill their social contract with parents (whose tax dollars fund them) that means someone else (a professional) can educate them and YES, also care for them for part of the day. Teaching is distinct from caregiving work, but teachers are not more valuable than childcare workers or senior care providers. When teachers say all parents want is our babysitters back, they not only devalue their own profession (as if parents can just do what they do with no training), they also devalue the crucial work of non-educational caregiving! As if caring for small children or even elderly people (our most vulnerable) is somehow less important to society.

When did it become selfish and entitled for parents to ask for help? When did it become unreasonable for us to say we cannot work AND oversee our kids’ education? For all their virtue signaling, this pandemic has shown me that many leftists seem to despise parents and kids as much as the GOP. The individualism and expectation that we just figure out our own child-related problems by ourself runs deep regardless of your political leanings. Parents, especially moms, ARE NOT OK!

Moms are constantly expected to grin and bear it, to be martyrs for the sake of our kids’ wellbeing. I don’t want to be a martyr. And I don’t want my kids to see me as a martyr and expect that that’s what moms should do. I want people, especially self-described leftists and socialists, to stop shaming moms for needing a break.

Writer. Editor. Independent scholar. I write about pop culture (music/TV/film), Cuba, higher education, and identity. https://rebeccabodenheimer.contently.com/

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store