Calarco: A Mother's Day for the history books

Rob Calarco, Suffolk County Presiding Officer
Posted 5/7/20

This weekend we will celebrate Mother’s Day, and it will surely look different than those of years past. There will still be flowers, but they will likely be received through contactless …

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Calarco: A Mother's Day for the history books

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This weekend we will celebrate Mother’s Day, and it will surely look different than those of years past. There will still be flowers, but they will likely be received through contactless delivery. There will still be brunch, but it will probably be takeout from a local restaurant served at home. There will still be togetherness, but it will probably be of the virtual kind.

Mother’s Day 2020 will be one for the history books as we celebrate the moms and mother figures in our lives amid a global pandemic that has brought with it challenges we never dreamed we would face in our lifetimes. With the closing of schools and dependency on workers in essential fields – fields that are populated largely by women – what we require of mothers has perhaps never been greater.

The demands on mothers were enormous before the word “coronavirus” became part of our everyday vernacular. In many cases, mothers today share the responsibility of earning a paycheck in addition to the more traditional roles often attributed to the mom in the family. Now in a public health crisis, additional challenges arise. Many mothers are serving a new role as teacher’s assistant as they help their children adjust to remote learning. That means learning the new math, coming up with new routines, and juggling schedules if more than one person in a household needs the computer. Then there are teachers who are also parents themselves, trying to be there for their remote students while also helping their own children with online schooling.

Mothers in other professions are also working from home, which sometimes can demand even more hours than going into the office. I see firsthand the herculean efforts of my wife, Laura, who is working from home while also tending to our three young children. She is a beacon of strength for our family, fueled by a mother’s love.

And of course, there are the mothers whose profession has been deemed “essential,” taking them out of the house, away from their children, and onto the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. These mothers, especially those who work in health care, may even be isolating from their families this Mother’s Day.

Women make up a sizable portion of our essential work- force, and that means many mothers are among the soldiers out there fighting this battle. One out of every three jobs held by women has been designated as “essential,” according to a recent New York Times analysis. The reporting found that women make up more than two-thirds of those working at grocery store checkouts and fast-food counters. The numbers are even higher in health care, where women make up nearly 90 percent of nurses and nursing assistants, most respiratory therapists, and a majority of pharmacists, pharmacy aides and technicians. Census reporting indicates that women account for three-quarters of full-time health care workers. Women are also prominent fixtures in our classrooms, which have now gone virtual. According to Census figures, in the 2015-‘16 school year 76 percent of K-12 teachers were women.

My mother, Deb, has always been someone to jump in to help in any way that she can, and she has continued to inspire me during this pandemic. My mother is a seamstress, and she is using her sewing skills to support communities both near and far. Taking fabric that was originally destined to be dresses for herself and my sisters, she has made more than 400 masks. Many have gone to neighbors in her retirement community in Florida, and she sent a shipment to distribute to those who need them here in Suffolk County. She also made 100 headbands that can be worn with ear loop masks, and I passed them along to Long Island Community Hospital.

You have no doubt by now heard the rallying cry of unity that “we’re all in this together.” That is not to say we’re all in the same situation; different challenges are finding different people. “We’re all in this together” means we each have a role to play in fighting this virus. For some, that means going to work to provide an essential service. For many, it means staying home and adhering to social distancing, or simply being a supportive parent or child. For others like my mother, it means volunteering, whether it be your time, your financial support, or your skills. We are all doing what we can. No role is too small.

This Mother’s Day, we acknowledge all moms and mother figures whose roles are so important to who we are, not only in a pandemic, but every day. We remember the mothers, grandmothers, and mother figures we have lost, not only tragically during this pandemic, but also over the years. And we take time to reflect on what is truly important: our time together and the memories we share.

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