Over the past year, we’ve all kept up with constant changes in government rules and regulations around mask mandates, business shutdowns, vaccinations and, most recently, state reopenings. While these guidelines have shaped how we interact with the outside world, they’ve provided little direction on how to adapt our home lives. Now, as we face a newly reopened America, we’re expected to pick up where we left off—a difficult task for everyone, but a nearly unimaginable request for parents.
The mental load of parenting through the pandemic has been nothing short of unbearable. Parents were forced to navigate completely uncharted waters—from figuring out how and where to create a place to work, to going without child care, to supporting our children’s transition to remote schooling, and much, much more—all without much direction from government officials.
Unsurprisingly, the weight of the mental load fell almost entirely on women. It’s no secret that millions of working moms, and disproportionately Black and Latinx mothers, left the workforce, in large part due to the increased amount of child care and domestic work on their plates.
As the country starts to reopen, one thing is certain: The life we return to must be different from how parents, particularly mothers, survived over the past year. Further, it must not set us up for a similar fate for the next crisis, whatever and whenever that may be.
We all have a unique opportunity to rewrite what the life we return to looks like. It’s time we address the chasmic divides between men and women, parents and non-parents, that came to light during the pandemic. Here’s where we should start:
While parents may be the unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must collectively decide to change the kind of lives we return to. By changing our view on what it means to be a parent—to prioritize respect, support and value—we can ensure the next crisis we endure doesn’t result in the same hardships parents faced over the last 18 months.
Priya Rajendran is the founder and CEO of S’moresUp, the company tackling modern-day parenting challenges while helping prepare kids for the real world.