A couple of weeks ago a mom in the town next to mine posted a buying request in our local Facebook parents group. “In search of a Fisher Price farm with or without animals!” Within an hour or so there were 23 comments, including offers of farm-related toys (“Would your child like this cow? It talks and can be pulled on a leash 😊 [free]”), and two different moms willing to give away the exact farm in question. ("Come get I will put on my porch!”) Someone else wondered if Target shipping might work and a self-described “local grandma” popped in for some moral support. “I must admit I don't know how I got on this FB notice,” she posted, “but it gives me a good feeling every day.”
Being a mother with an internet connection means being introduced to the mommy wars the instant you share your pregnancy announcement with a latte visible in the frame, but a perhaps less “clicky” yet important story is the very real support that moms offer one another in ways tiny and monumental, every single day, and even more so in times like this. In the "Motherhood in the Age of Covid-19" survey conducted by Romper in partnership with Too Small to Fail, 48% of the 2,000 mothers polled across the country said that they felt parents in their communities were supporting each other more during the pandemic than before. Significantly, only 7% felt less supported now by parents in their community, with 45% reporting that they have felt equally supported during this time as in the past.
Just one year ago, a stunning 73% of women in the sandwich generation reported suffering from burnout, and that was with school and day care in session and near full employment, not to mention a healthcare system that was just the usual amount of criminally dysfunctional. Now, the pressures are even more enormous and unprecedented.
Moms in the survey listed “not being the parent I want to be,” as a top stressor during the pandemic, alongside “feeling guilty about giving my child too much screen time” and “feeling like I don’t know how to support my children’s learning at home.” Whether quarantined with kids while trying to maintain full-time roles, coping with partners who are out of work, or having to go to hourly jobs without school or daycare options, mothers are completely stressed about living up to their own parenting expectations, a burden that weighs heavily. “The ongoing stress of not knowing how my children will be evaluated for this last quarter of their school year gets worse as time goes on, making it harder to juggle my work responsibilities with my kids' learning,” shared one in the survey. “My kids are starting to act out a lot more,” says another, while yet another worries about her ability to keep her baby safe: “If he got infected he would possibly die.”
But, the survey shows moms are not extending that same harshness to fellow parents — when asked to share tips and suggestions for other moms, respondents replied generously and with a common theme: don’t be so hard on yourself.
These tips they’re eager to share with other moms are of course what they want to hear.
“Your child loves you even on your bad days,” wrote one. “Don't worry about the children's education,” advised another. “They will be fine. They are smart and intelligent. They will survive this.” Still another said, “What we are being asked to do is not humanly possible. Working, parenting and teaching are three different jobs that cannot be done at the same time. It’s not hard because you are doing it wrong. It’s hard because it’s too much.” And, on a common theme: “Take care of yourself. If you need your kids to have more screen time so that you can have some more mental health time then so be it.”
These tips they’re eager to share with other moms are of course what they want to hear — permission to discard bad feelings about their ability to conduct distance learning or keep kids occupied throughout the day; permission to let their kids use those damn devices and screens; confirmation that children are resilient, and that whatever they are doing, it’s enough.
I recognize this as the grace we extend to our fellow moms, even when we can’t give it to ourselves.
When it comes to our real lives, other moms are more often than not a fundamental, necessary source of support, and they are stepping up right now.
Yes, we might find ourselves arguing online about whether or not it’s OK to throw in the towel on our kid’s remote learning — “On Facebook, the mommy wars have come,” the woman whose post about letting her son’s teacher know he was “done with first grade” went viral told the New York Times recently — but when it comes to our real lives, other moms are more often than not a fundamental, necessary source of support, and they are stepping up right now.
In the survey, moms shared stories of being helped in simple but significant ways. “Another parent has picked up school meals and delivered them to my children while I was at work,” wrote one mom, and it’s not hard to imagine the relief that came with something so basic yet vital. Another says her friend and neighbor offered the use of her backyard playset anytime: “It’s so nice to have a place to go where my kids can run off their energy and play when most parks and public places are shut down. I love that she is so open to sharing her resources with me.” They wrote of simply appreciating that fellow moms are “enforcing social distancing,” of being grateful to another mom for starting an online toddler music class.
“We are strong, we are amazing, and we are beautiful,” wrote a mom who took the survey. “... Don't worry about doing something wrong. The kids will be fine.”
No one in that Facebook thread asked if any of the other moms had considered finding all-natural wooden alternatives to plastic farms. They just wanted to help a fellow parent — someone whom they didn’t seem to know in person — succeed in one small parenting task: make her 4-year-old happy with some little toy cows and a red plastic barn.
You can view all of the findings from "Motherhood in the age of COVID-19" here.