Life

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If Moms Chose 2020's Word Of The Year...

... Because "pandemic" only begins to describe our 2020 experience.

Since 2008 and 2010 respectively, Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com have chosen a "Word of the Year" based on increased interest in a given word (as measured by how much more it's been looked up as opposed to previous years) and the general zeitgeist. The first Word of the Year, for example, was "bailout" in 2008. In 2019, Merriam-Webster chose "they" (as in the use of "they" as a singular pronoun) while Dictionary.com opted for "existential." But in an historic first, both companies have chosen the same word – the 2020 Word of the Year is "pandemic." And, really, was there another option? Well, in general, no. If you're a mom... possibly. Because "pandemic" only begins to cover it.

Look, I'm not going to do that thing where I act like mothers are the only people who have it hard right now. Everyone has it hard right now. We're all facing new challenges and seemingly impossible struggles. But the challenges and struggles of moms have been particular, pervasive, and well-documented. We know that in the absence of in-person school and sufficient social supports, it's moms who are picking up the slack. We also know that this is not only hurting our mental and physical health, but it's also negatively affecting our careers. In September alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 865,000 women left the workforce, a rate four times higher than male workers. Analysis from McKinsey and Company suggest that the job losses women in particular have suffered as a result of the pandemic have set back decades of economic and career progress for women.

All this is hard evidence. But anecdotally? All you need to do is to ask literally any mother right now "Hey, how are you holding up?" Their rueful chuckle and far-off stare speaks volumes. We're not OK and everyone knows it, but the overall response from basically everyone, including from those with the power to do something, is a sad shrug and a "Well, what can you do?"

So with that in mind, while "pandemic" encapsulates the 2020 experience, here are some other words that speak specifically to how many moms have plodded through the past nine months.

Zoom

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Yes, everyone has had to do a lot of Zooming in this Age of COVID. But most people just have to worry about their own meetings. Moms have overwhelmingly not only had to worry about their own Zoom meetings but their kids' school meetings, coordinating family gatherings and holidays that are happening online, doctors appointments, even extracurricular activities, like Girl Scouts. We're Zooming and also making sure other Zooms happen.

Also, since we're generally doing a lot of the errands — grocery shopping, etc — we're also Zooming through the aisles BECAUSE THE WORLD IS COVERED IN GERMS AND WE HAVE TO GET IN AND OUT AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE!

Sorry

Everyone is feeling a little bit sorry for themselves right now. But moms have the added level of sorriness of people who have a lot of responsibility but very little power. We feel sorry for ourselves and our families and we've had to say it a lot, especially to our kids, whom we feel very, very sorry for.

"Sorry you can't have a birthday party this year."

"Sorry you can't go trick-or-treating."

"Sorry we can't see grandma."

"Sorry my kid barged in on this important virtual meeting... again..."

"I'm sorry I can't play, sweetheart, mommy is working... still..."

Bathroom Cry

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Because whomst among us, at some time during this pandemic, has not locked herself in her bathroom and sobbed into a towel while her kids bang on the door asking for fruit snacks like they're zombie extras on The Walking Dead?

Our lives have become limited to the walls of our home and our kids are with us all the time with no really good outlet for their energy... or our many, many feelings. The bathroom is the one place we might possible be able to be alone — it is our fortress of semi-solitude.

(Though, let's be honest here: this isn't pandemic-specific for moms. But it's become even more important during the pandemic.)

Standards

We used to have them. We took pride in them. In 2020, we held them lovingly in our arms and, sometime around April or May, chucked them right out the window.

There is not enough room in this house for all these people and responsibilities all the time and standards.

Which standards were jettisoned, you ask? Oh: literally all of them. Parenting standards. Relationship standards. Job standards. Personal hygiene standards. We'll find them again someday... maybe. Until then, we're here in the sweatpants we've been wearing for the past three days, half-assing work and our kids' school and our housekeeping and our relationships just enough to get through.

Superhero

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Moms* have heard this word a lot in the past year and, truly, thank you. It's nice to be recognized for all we're doing. But you know what's better than recognition? Necessary practical, emotional, or financial assistance. Because compliments are nice, but they aren't particularly useful.

We don't want to be superheroes. We want to be supported.

*and doctors, nurses, grocery store employees, and other essential workers, many of whom, incidentally, are also mothers