Defending our working moms during COVID-19 and beyond


I recently read a New York Times article about the challenges of being a working mom during this pandemic. As a new mom with a 7-month-old baby, I find myself in constant negotiation with work, child care, and taking care of my elderly grandparents.

Because I’m breastfeeding, our family is able to save money on hard-to-find formula. And because our day care center is closed, we’re also able to save on child care.

Just like everyone else, we are trying to save money where we can, given the uncertainty. However, the emotional toll of round-the-clock child care, not to mention the onset of chronic pains common for parents, and the general anxiety of life under a pandemic is too costly in other invisible ways. Working moms need a hand now more than ever.

I recognize that I am one of the luckier ones. But domestic workers, nail techs, hair salon workers and retail workers across our borough already were struggling to get by before COVID-19. Low wages, a lack of health care, and struggling to pay for and find reliable, trusted child care are all measures of how we have been failing moms.

Imagine the struggle of a mom who just lost her job trying to get through to a dysfunctional unemployment system, while trying to make sense of their child’s homework assignments. Imagine that pressure if she isn’t a native English speaker, or isn’t a math whiz (I honestly can’t make sense of 90 percent of my middle school sibling’s math problems).

Education has always been seen as a pathway out of poverty. But without in-person support for students with a wide spectrum of needs, the pressure to support our students is on the shoulders of already heavily burdened parents without many resources to set them up for success.

Almost half of renters within Community Board 8 live in severely rent-burdened, low-income housing. Only about half of our fourth-graders are performing at grade-level in English language arts and math. Taken together, these are major stressors for moms who want to make sure their kids have better lives than they did, but who don’t have the help they need to make that happen.

Imagine if you are undocumented and don’t qualify for federal stimulus relief. With the U.S. Supreme Court set to rule on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals any day now, this means the additional stress and uncertainty of being able to keep your family together, or being placed on a fast track to deportation.

If there is anything we can take away from this crisis, we need health care for all now more than ever. We need meaningful relief for mixed-status families from our federal and state government. And working moms need guaranteed paid family leave and high-quality universal child care.

We also need quality, government-funded post-partum care for new moms. While there’s a lot of budget cutting going on in Albany and New York City, we cannot afford to lose life-saving help for moms administered by trusted community-based organizations.

Last, we need to make sure that our elected officials are making critical information and resources as accessible as possible. This means quality, user-friendly multilingual outreach. Google Translate just won’t cut it. We need to ensure that resources are being shared where people get their news from, including local newspapers, radio and targeted social media ads like on WhatsApp, WeChat and others.

This also means good old-fashioned poster campaigns at bus stops, in our bodegas and supermarkets to make sure that hard-to-reach members of our community are getting the answers to questions they need most.

COVID-19 is forcing us to re-imagine the kind of world we want to rebuild once we get through this. We know that working moms are the backbone of Broadway — as nurses on the frontlines, cashiers at the grocery stores, servers in local restaurants, as the familiar faces at Columbia Florist, and now as full-time home-school teachers struggling to keep food on the table and roofs over their families’ heads.

How we treat our moms is the ultimate measure of how we’re doing as a society.

Let’s give moms an early Mother’s Day gift and show up for all of them.

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Jessica Woolford,