This Mother’s Day, many moms will hear a familiar phrase: “Thank you for doing the most important job in the world.”
As a mother of two kids, I appreciate the sentiment. Plus, it’s nice to have a day that celebrates moms, especially when so much of our labor feels invisible.
But many of the moms I know agree that we’re sick of hearing about all that we do. We also don’t need to hear about “the joys of parenting” or how we are “selfless superheroes.”
What we really want is the assurance that we’re not alone. Because caretaking truly takes a village — and I don’t mean just an occasional babysitter or casserole drop-off. It requires a society with the infrastructure to help care for children.
So this year, I wish more people would say to moms: “We’ve got your back. How can we help?”
Here are just a few things that we can’t do alone:
1. Keeping our kids alive
There’s only so much we can do as parents to protect our kids in a society that has more guns than people and rampant school shootings.
As a parent, you can’t single-handedly make the laws or keep drunk drivers off the roads. Making our communities safe is a communal effort.
2. Providing for our families
3. Supporting our kids’ mental health
It’s hard for parents to give kids the mental health support they need without affordable and accessible mental health services.
The U.S. has “a chronic shortage of psychiatrists, and it’s going to keep growing,” says Saul Levin, medical director of the American Psychiatric Association.
The situation is even worse for rural areas: 60% of rural Americans live in an area with a mental health provider shortage.
4. Protecting our kids online
We can’t keep our kids off the internet forever. Parents are grossly outmatched when going up against a tech industry dedicated to getting our kids addicted to their apps and products.
Fortunately, better privacy and safety protections for kids online is one of the rare issues that has bipartisan support.
5. Teaching our kids how to be civil in public spaces
Parents are under constant pressure to make sure their kids are not a nuisance on airplanes, in restaurants, in grocery stores, and so on.
But as policy researcher Stephanie Murray writes, keeping kids quiet in public often demands “a style of parenting that is at once hypervigilant and overly permissive, where kids are given constant attention but no agency. Ironically, it works against the long-term goal of raising competent, well-behaved kids.”
If we want kids to learn how to navigate the world and work through their problems, then society needs to be more tolerant of the downsides that come with having children in public spaces.
6. Ensuring that our kids are well cared for
The pandemic showed us what can happen when childcare gets massively disrupted, and it was not pretty. Moms felt the most impact, reducing their work hours and turning down projects more than dads.
Unfortunately, the situation doesn’t appear to be improving. The U.S. spends less than 0.5% of its GDP on early care and education. With a lack of funding and a severe caregiver shortage, parents are still struggling to find and afford quality childcare.
When society doesn’t invest in its youngest members, it’s not just parents and kids who suffer. We all do. So, this Mother’s Day, instead of just telling moms what an important job they have, let’s give them what they really need: more support.
Jen Zamzow, PhD, is an adjunct professor of healthcare ethics at Concordia University Irvine, writer and mom to two young boys. You can find her writing in Psychology Today and her monthly newsletter “A Well-Lived Life.” Follow her in Instagram.
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