On the eve of President Joe Biden’s imminent outline of his new infrastructure plan, which will hopefully include some “human infrastructure” arrangements to make life at least marginally less awful for American mothers, Vox is reporting that 20,000 American daycares have shut down during the pandemic. The fact remains that women, and especially women of color, have been the hardest hit economically and otherwise during the crisis has led women around the country to ask out loud a question that has been asked silently since, well, always: “Does anyone give a fuck about us?”
A new report from the New York Times focuses on the question rather than the answer, which is inconclusive. In the article, American mothers describe the myriad problems that, combined, have made motherhood one of the most difficult jobs in America, including school closures, daycare shutdowns, mass unemployment, and no access to paid leave, just to name a few, all despite the fact that women are the most likely among Americans to work jobs considered essential. As the Times points out, Congress did not “mandate” paid leave in its stimulus bill, only offered tax credits for employers that treated its employees humanely, and while money was earmarked for school reopenings, that money came just as schools are winding down for summer.
“Mostly what we’re doing so far is putting a Band-Aid on a wound that needs stitches—eventually it’s going to bleed out,” observed Bridget Hughes, who was forced to quit her job when schools closed and she had no access to childcare. Considering her own situation, she added: “We’re making enough to keep from drowning, but we’re not making enough to pay for the things we actually need. We’re certainly not making enough for child care.”
As America begins its infrastructure debate afresh, many child and family advocacy groups are scrambling in one last desperate push to clarify the urgency of the situation:
“Nearly 200 businesses signed on to a letter to congressional leaders last week urging them to include paid family and medical leave in the upcoming infrastructure package, which many believe is the best chance to get the policy approved by Congress. Liberal organizations and caregiver advocacy groups started their own $20 million campaign, called #CareCantWait, that is pushing the administration to expand access to child care, paid family and medical leave, as well as home and community-based services for people with disabilities and aging adults.”
In Trump’s America, the fact that this country has never particularly cared whether its citizens live or die was perhaps more nakedly on display than ever before. But under the Biden administration, the future is still terrifyingly uncertain, and even cautious hope seems almost wildly optimistic for Americans in general, but for mothers specifically.