No one could have ever predicted how our lives would be upended by a global pandemic. Parents have transformed their “normal” lives into ones that consist of the constant juggling of Zoom meetings, remote learning and togetherness of family.
Covid-19 has also raised the stakes for mothers in America, putting pressure on them to handle even more than they did before. In the second episode of the Modern Ruhles podcast, MSNBC anchor and senior business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle talks with writer, NBC THINK contributor and mother of two, Danielle Campoamor, about the challenges parents, and moms in particular, are facing during the pandemic.
America’s high standard of motherhood
“It stems to how we hold up motherhood in this country. We have associated it with martyrdom. The more you give up, the better mom you are,” Campoamor said. “All of these mixed messages that we've been forced to choke down as moms since forever have been bubbling up now.”
Mothers have been forced to not only juggle their career and children’s schedules like they did pre-pandemic, but now they’re forced to do it all under one roof, while being a substitute teacher, chef, housekeeper and the magician that somehow gets their child to focus on schoolwork.
It oftentimes feels like it goes unnoticed. Campoamor noted “it speaks to a lack of understanding and tangible gratefulness for motherhood and parenting in general.” The stress of the pandemic only makes the tasks and expectations for mothers worse.
This is not what moms signed up for
Ruhle raised the point that even with both parents working or single parents being the breadwinners, “the American mom carries the weight of the children.”
She shared how it’s been affecting her own work-life balance with her children. “I'm racing inside to make lunches that they don't want to eat, and even if it's the most basic lunch an outsider can be like, ‘Yo, you just have to make your kids lunch.’ Yo, just making your kids lunch still takes 35 minutes and so you did a lousy job at it, you weren't good at work, and you just feel like, ‘This blows! I thought everything was supposed to get better.’
The two also discussed how many moms feel stuck right now, especially when outsiders simplify the endless responsibilities moms have.
“That gets reinforced with this idea that, as moms, we can’t complain, because this is what we signed up for,” Campoamor said. “This is not what I signed up for when I became a mother. This was not on the ticket.”
The woman’s “choice” to leave the workforce
Ruhle and Campoamor discussed the harsh reality of so many women having to choose between their career and making sure their children are cared for because they didn’t have access to childcare.
“During Covid-19, while we are working and managing even more of the childcare and responsibilities, dads are three times more likely to actually get promoted during this time than we are,” Campoamor explained. She added that “865,000 women were forced out of the workforce just last month because we don't have access to childcare, we cannot manage both, so women are making the difficult decision, they're choosing their children and their families.”
Turning to unhealthy vices to cope
Campoamor’s NBC THINK piece also focused on how moms have responded to this pandemic in a very specific way: drinking. Campoamor personally dealt with a mental health decline “at an alarming rate” over the last several months and noticed that her drinking was increasing and then starting earlier until she realized it was not healthy or sustainable.
“I realized I wasn't alone and so many of my friends who are mothers said that their drinking was increasing,” Campoamor said. “I was seeing that talked about on message boards and Facebook groups and suddenly I realized this is something that's happening right under our noses.”
Ruhle asked about the underbelly of the drinking because it certainly wasn’t celebratory drinking. Campoamor responded, “It's easy for us to say that this is a Covid-19 pandemic problem, but the mommy wine culture has been around for a very long time, as has our lack of systemic support for moms.”
The podcast episode covers even more deeply personal challenges mothers have been facing during this pandemic and the way motherhood is perceived in this country. The full episode can be found on iHeart Radio or anywhere you get your podcasts.