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Mothers will be hardest hit if the economy reopens too fast | Jessica Zucker | Opinion


“Will some people be affected badly? Yes,” Donald Trump said on Tuesday, during an ABC News interview. He admitted that reopening the country would lead to more Americans unnecessarily getting sick and possibly dying. “But,” he said, “we have to get our country open.”

More than 70,000 Americans have died from Covid-19. Yet Trump has insisted – against the advice of many medical and scientific professionals – that non-essential businesses reopen early and people go back to work.

But if Trump were a mom (or, at the very least, an involved parent), and not, say, someone who at one point said of involved dads, “There’s a lot of women out there that demand that the husband act like the wife and you know there’s a lot of husbands that listen to that,” he would know that reopening America before experts recommend will not only pose a continued threat to public health, but will result in more lost jobs for working moms and other caregivers.

A reported 26m jobs have been lost in just five weeks as a result of the coronavirus lockdowns, and 60% of the people who have lost their job are women. Moms have long been the primary caregivers of their children, and even though more moms are working outside the home and fathers are more involved in their kids’ lives than ever before, moms are still shouldering the majority of the parenting responsibilities.

With nine in 10 children out of school, and daycares across the country closed, it is moms who will likely be forced to stay home even if, and when, their jobs resume. Historically, even in non-pandemic times, it is moms who end up adjusting their jobs for the sake of their families, not dads.

Now, arguably more than ever, we need more moms in positions of power.

If more moms were in charge, elected officials and other leaders would know that to open up the country without also opening up schools and daycares is to put millions of women out of a job. It also means putting additional strain on low-income families – especially black families and families of color, who are already disproportionately affected by Covid-19 – and will continue to harm the mental health of parents, whoare reportedly experiencing insomnia, stress, anxiety, depression, anger, emotional exhaustion and PTSD symptoms as a result of quarantine and its implications.

It’s no wonder that Nancy Pelosi, a mother of five and grandmother of nine, has called Trump’s plan to reopen the country “almost sinful”. Or that the House Democrats – whose ranks, after the 2018 midterm elections, now include a record number of momshave argued that “reopening the country without nationwide access to testing is dangerous”. The women, and especially the moms, who have managed to find a seat at the proverbial political table know what the president either refuses to acknowledge or is simply too stubborn to admit: it will be women, mothers and caregivers who will be most at risk if the country reopens prematurely. It’s House Democrats who proposed a monthly stimulus check to support families while they shelter-in place, instead of a one-time $1,200 payment, argued for increasing food assistance (Snap) benefits, and fought for millions of dollars in aid to hospitals in the $484bn relief package passed in April.

Meanwhile, in Ohio – led by the Republican governor, Mike DeWine – the department of job and family services is asking businesses to report employees who refuse to return to work during a deadly global pandemic. . More than half the country is now reopening in some form.

Seventy-seven per cent of healthcare workers are women. Nine in 10 nurses, respiratory therapists and nursing assistants are women. Fifty-three per cent of critical retail workers are women. In fact, women make up 52% of all essential workers, and 73% of the healthcare workers who have been infected with Covid-19. And it will be women that Trump and other Republican leaders will continue to sacrifice on the altar of consumerism if they maintain their heartless calls to reopen the country before it is safe to do so. Moms will lose their jobs, financial independence and freedom, and the gains they have made as workers outside the home.

We need more women – especially moms, who currently feel as if they’re working “five jobs” to maintain a semblance of normalcy – in leadership positions to help this country navigate such an unparalleled moment in world history. We could have had a mom in the White House after the 2016 presidential election. We could have had a mom in the White House in January 2021. But the absence of both those possibilities, coupled with the tragedy we’re all enduring and the cruelty and cold indifference of the men in charge, should serve as a reminder that this country would be better off, in more ways than one, if it was led by a mom.

  • Jessica Zucker is a Los Angeles-based psychologist specializing in women’s health, and the author of the forthcoming book I Had a Miscarriage: a Memoir, a Movement (Feminist Press, 2021)



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