2021年2月5日 星期五

This Is a Primal Scream

America's mothers are in crisis. Is anyone listening to them?

This Is a Primal Scream

Csilla Klenyánszki

Today I am sending a special issue of the NYT Parenting newsletter to tell you about a new package that has been in the works for months. It's called The Primal Scream: America's Mothers Are in Crisis. Read the whole thing here.

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In early September, as the school year inched closer, a group of mothers in New Jersey decided they would gather in a park, at a safe social distance, and scream their lungs out. For months, as the pandemic disrupted work and home life, these moms, like so many parents, had been stretched thin — acting as caregivers, teachers and earners at once. They were breaking.

As are mothers all over the United States.

By now, you have read the headlines, repeating like a depressing drum beat:

You can also see the problem in numbers: Almost 1 million mothers have left the workforce — with Black mothers, Hispanic mothers and single mothers among the hardest hit. Almost one in four children experienced food insecurity in 2020, which is intimately related to the loss of maternal income. And more than three quarters of parents with children ages 8 to 12 say the uncertainty around the current school year is causing them stress.

Despite these alarm bells clanging, signaling a financial and emotional disaster among America's mothers, who are doing most of the increased amount of child care and domestic work during this pandemic, the cultural and policy response enacted at this point has been nearly nonexistent.

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The pandemic has touched every group of Americans, and millions are suffering, hungry and grieving. But many mothers in particular get no space or time to recover.

The impact is not just about mothers' fate as workers, though the economic fallout of these pandemic years might have lifelong consequences. The pandemic is also a mental health crisis for mothers that fervently needs to be addressed, or at the very least acknowledged.

"Just before the pandemic hit, for the first time ever, for a couple months, we had more women employed than men," said Michael Madowitz, an economist at the Center for American Progress. "And now we are back to late 1980s levels of women in the labor force." The long-term ramifications for mothers leaving work entirely or cutting back on work during this time include: a broken pipeline for higher-level jobs and a loss of Social Security and other potential retirement income.

"Covid took a crowbar into gender gaps and pried them open," said Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the University of Michigan. Her long-term concerns are even more fundamental: Will watching a generation of mothers go through this difficult time with little support turn the next generation of women off from parenthood altogether?

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Times editor-at-large Jessica Bennett spent months communicating with three women, who kept detailed diaries of their days, for a look at just how much American mothers are doing every waking second.

"With everything going on, I just don't have time to take care of my mental health right now. I have to keep it together for everyone else," said Dekeda Brown, 41, one of the three mothers featured in Ms. Bennett's piece. "I feel like a ticking time bomb that is constantly being pushed to the breaking point, but then I am able to defuse myself. Goodness, this is taxing."

We wanted to give mothers across the country the opportunity to scream it out like the moms in New Jersey, so we set up a phone line. Hundreds responded with shouts, cries, guttural yells, and lots and lots of expletives. "I don't know how to feel sane again. I'm just stuck in this position for God knows how much longer," said Elise Kelner, 30, a mother of two kids under 4, when she called in from Gilbert, Ariz.

We hope this series serves as a primal scream for America's mothers, a visual representation of their struggles. We're showing all the messy, heartbreaking moments of everyday fear and chaos, and the rays of joy that can sometimes shine through. If nothing else, we want moms to know that someone is listening.

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Tiny Victories

Parenting can be a grind. Let's celebrate the tiny victories.

When my older daughter came into my room early morning to wake me up on the weekend, my sweet 5-year-old son stopped her outside my room and said: "Let Mommy sleep. She needs some sleep to have a happier day." Considering how sleep deprived I am as a working mom with both kids remote schooling, it was a relief to receive a bit of empathy. — Faye D'Silva, Toronto, Ontario

If you want a chance to get your Tiny Victory published, find us on Instagram @NYTparenting and use the hashtag #tinyvictories; email us; or enter your Tiny Victory at the bottom of this page. Include your full name and location. Tiny Victories may be edited for clarity and style. Your name, location and comments may be published, but your contact information will not. By submitting to us, you agree that you have read, understand and accept the Reader Submission Terms in relation to all of the content and other information you send to us.

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