CALARCO: Recognizing challenges for working mothers

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Last year, we saw a Mother’s Day unlike any we had celebrated before. We were just two months into the pandemic, still navigating a new world shrouded in sacrifice, adjustments, and unknowns.

This Mother’s Day, things are looking brighter. The economy is rebounding, vaccination appointments are readily available, and many who celebrated their moms from a distance last year will be able to get a little closer this time around.

As we celebrate the moms and mother figures in our lives, we recognize the immense pressure that has been thrust upon them during this public health crisis, whether it has been becoming a teacher’s assistant overnight, holding down the fort amid high stress, being the emotional rock for the family, or working from the kitchen table while juggling childcare and remote learning schedules.

The pandemic has had an especially distressing impact on working mothers. According to LeanIn.Org, 3 in 10 mothers have considered downshifting their careers or leaving the job market due to the pandemic, and reports are showing that women are leaving the workforce in record numbers. In February, Vice President Kamala Harris reported that 2.5 million women have left the workforce since the beginning of the pandemic. For men, the number was 1.8 million. The National Women’s Law Center estimates that prior to the pandemic, women’s participation rate in the labor force had not been this low since 1988. This trend is threatening the tremendous progress made over the years to close the gender wage gap, support working mothers, and get more women into high-level positions.

Childcare will continue to be a challenging consideration. This is an old issue that is taking on new urgency as women seek to reenter the workforce. When we talk about the road to economic recovery, it is easy to overlook childcare as being an essential piece to the puzzle, but it is part of the critical infrastructure we need to get our communities back to work.

Luckily, there is some good news on this front. The American Rescue Act recently passed by the federal government expands the Child Tax Credit and allocates $1 billion for emergency assistance to children and families. Locally, the Suffolk County Legislature, with an assist in federal funding, recently voted to restore funding to childcare organizations that contract with the county to provide services to residents. Ensuring access to childcare for all families will continue to be a priority as we build a stronger Suffolk County.

I see the hard work and dedication of working moms every day in my own life. Throughout this pandemic, my wife, Laura, has been a rock for our family, working from home while also tending to our three young children. This Mother’s Day, let us thank all mothers and mother figures who are doing what they need to do for their families. Let us honor the mothers whose work took them away from their children and onto the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.

And let us remember the mothers, grandmothers, and mother figures we have lost but who remain in our hearts forever.

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