California Gov. Gavin Newsom told parents, teachers, and caregivers on Wednesday night that schools will not reopen this academic year and talked about trying to focus on distance learning during the growing coronavirus pandemic. But perhaps most importantly, Newsom acknowledged that mothers, including his own wife, are carrying the weight of the struggle at home during this stressful and unprecedented time.
"The right thing to do for our children, the right thing to do for the parents, for households, for the community which they reside, is to make sure that we are preparing today to set our school system up where we are increasing class time, but increasing it at home," Newsom said during a press conference on April 1 as the state of California has confirmed over 8,000 positive cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and 171 deaths. On March 19, Newson issued stay-at-home order in California. At the time, he said that he expected the order to be especially important for the "next eight weeks," according to USA Today.
At his press conference on Wednesday, Newsom, a father of four, went on to say that he understood how difficult these next few months would be for parents across the state. "So for all the parents out there, millions of you, that now may be very anxious about the expectation your school is not going to reopen, you may have thought that was the case but you were waiting to hear clarity, which I hope we’re providing now today," Newsom said. "Let me just express deep respect and empathy, and particularly for mothers."
After saying that his wife, documentary filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom, does a "heroic amount of work" in raising their four children, all of whom are under 10 years old, the governor did something extraordinary: he acknowledged just how "disproportionate" the stress of this new situation would be for moms in particular:
Moms are already carrying disproportionate amount of weight in terms of managing the household. Moms are also working, and many of them are teachers themselves that are having to provide distance learning, having to cope with all the stress and anxiety, looking out for all of their kids they love dearly, and making sure they’re taking care of their own kids and their childcare needs and the like.
Newsom added that there is a "gender reality" that needs to be talked about during the COVID-19 crisis. Moms tend to take on the bulk of the emotional labor in households, and add to that the very real anxiety of a global pandemic as well as deep financial insecurity during the lockdown, the pressure on moms in particular is nearly impossible to quantify.
Several mothers have since taken to Twitter to thank the governor for his acknowledgment. "Thank you @GavinNewsom for acknowledging mothers and more specifically mothers who are also teachers that are working harder than ever to keep education going while instructing our own children at home," one tweeted.
"Thank you @GavinNewsom for specifically acknowledging mothers and working mothers," another said. "As California officially announces the remainder of the academic k-12 will remain online and conducted through distance learning. It's been hard..."
Newsom's announcement that Californians will be adapting to distance learning for the foreseeable future might have added an extra burden to moms, but an acknowledgement, from a male politician, of the gender reality and that mothers are carrying the weight of their family's stress on their shoulders is momentous.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.