On Mother’s Day 2020, 4 Life Lessons To Learn From The Coronavirus
In the century since President Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation making Mother’s Day a national holiday in 1914, there have been wars and depressions and every political and economic situation in between.
But in a world that has changed so quickly in recent weeks—and one that is looking toward very real economic instability—Mother’s Day 2020 will take its place on the short list of most unusual second Sundays in May.
Due to the numerous stay-at-home orders in place across the U.S. this year, mothers may find themselves alternatively living with or without their children: Plenty of suburban moms are entertaining and feeding (and doing laundry for?) their early-released college students, perhaps along with post-college kids who have temporarily retreated from larger cities.
At the other end of the spectrum, many older moms may be entirely isolated from their children (and also from their grandchildren) by the visitation rules of the independent or assisted living communities in which they live. Many children who normally would travel to be with their mother in person are temporarily unable to do so.
So, where’s the upside? What can families possibly learn from—or even enjoy—on such a Mother’s Day? Here are four ideas.
1. Cherish What’s the Same and Welcome What’s Different
While Mother’s Day tends to be one of the most traditional holidays on the calendar—with its predictable lineup of homemade art from little ones, a well-intended breakfast in bed or brunch out, and flowers, flowers, flowers—this year may bring a mix of the traditional and the new.
When asked what was most important in selecting a Mother’s Day gift, shoppers affirmed their hope to be able to find something “unique” (43%) or something “that creates a special memory” (41%).
A few things, happily, never change: A 2010 survey from Reuters found that Mother’s Day is the most popular day for expats to phone home. Hallmark notes that Mother’s Day is the third most popular card-sending holiday in the U.S. And, given its Sunday designation, Mother’s Day has been reported in the past to generate the third largest church attendance of the year, after Easter and Christmas. (Note: Be sure to try a Streaming Church Service this year!)
Here in 2020, the New York Times has reported on the recent surge in popularity of “the humble phone call.” Even with all the near-continuous streaming and texting, people in semi-isolation are (re)discovering the joys of calling someone just because you wanted to hear their voice.
2. Don’t Shy Away From the Challenging Conversations
For families surprised to find themselves at home, all this forced togetherness—while challenging to the psyche—provides a nearly unprecedented opportunity to talk about what really matters. After all the volunteer homeschooling and video conferencing for work, there are still conversational openings you might not ordinarily have.
How long has it been since you’ve actually sat down with the people in your household and discussed the family finances? Creating a budget that works is as much about the thought process that precedes it as it is about the actual numbers.
It’s like the paraphrasing of Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat that says if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. What are your goals—either personally or as a family? Do you have children to educate? Asking—and answering—the right questions is critical to setting the framework in which you make your family money decisions.
Why not seize this opportunity to set your family up for success? With all the scary economic predictions, now could be a great time to get clear about your family’s finances. If any member of your family has lost—or is in danger of losing—a job or a business, work through the math of what it will take to get your family safely to the other side of COVID-19.
Not all serious family talk is unpleasant. This enforced national pause also is allowing some individuals and families some much-overdue breathing room: to discover new interests, clear out the basement, explore new career paths or simply get a decent night’s sleep for a change.
If you find yourself sheltering in place with children, you can take this unexpected chance to teach your kids about money. Children of all ages can benefit from a bit of at-home financial literacy training, especially when so much news is focused on the uncertainty in both the U.S. and world economies.
3. Appreciate That Each Person’s Experience Is Different
In the same way that COVID-19 can be more threatening to older adults, and to those of any age with underlying health conditions, it also discriminates from a financial perspective. One of the most challenging aspects of the coronavirus—from an economic standpoint—is the wide variety of effects it’s having on people and their families, depending on such factors as industry and geographic location.
A mom who is a grocery store clerk or a frontline medical professional may find herself busier than ever this particular Mother’s Day. If she’s a hairdresser, her salon may have been suddenly and completely shuttered in the middle of March. Or the small business she owns, or the restaurant where she works, may be experiencing a temporary (she hopes) decrease in demand for her services right now.
While families all across the U.S. are being affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the losses “are more prevalent among the families of low-income and Hispanic adults,” according to the Urban Institute. As of early April, 41.5% of nonelderly adults had reported the loss of “jobs, work hours or work-related income” within their families, due to COVID-19.
One writer concludes: “We are all on different ships during this storm, experiencing a very different journey.”
And so it could be said of mothers—not only during COVID-19—although the range of experiences moms are having right now makes this a particularly poignant Mother’s Day.
4. Simply Put, Our Mothers Are Busier Than Ever
Emily Guy Birken, when she’s not writing about personal finance, is the mother of two young sons: “Part of my current exhaustion stems from the expansion of my role as President in Charge of Everything for the family. That’s usually the case, despite my efforts, but it’s made much bigger by the stay-at-home order.”
“For instance, I’m the one who keeps the homeschooling schedules,” says Guy Birken. “I’m setting reminder after reminder on my phone to make sure the kids get to their online read-alouds, teacher one-on-ones and class discussions. I’m also the repository of all the sign-on information for the myriad apps/programs for the kids’ homeschooling.” While her husband does assist, mom is the one holding the fort.
Rebecca Lake, work-at-home mom and blogger at Busy Mom Smart Mom, says, “The biggest struggle for moms who came home from work or who were stay-at-home moms and now have the kids home all day seems to be just figuring out how to get things done. The problem is that routines have been completely disrupted, so there’s this feeling of disorientation.”
“As a work-at-home mom who also home schools,” Lake says, “I can vouch that having a routine is critical to being productive and staying sane when the kids are home all day.” Taking the time for self-care also is important, because, as she says, “even the most perfect routine in the world won’t help if you’re stressed out, run down or overwhelmed.”
Overwhelmed is a common quality of these confusing times, whether in reference to moms and other primary caregivers, first responders and essential workers or our government and community leaders. Give yourself permission to take a step back, take a few deep breaths and really be present to your situation: Hold on to what’s the same, reach out for what’s different and move ahead.
Within your family, have those difficult conversations about whatever hardships you’re facing—whether in your relationships or in your finances. No one is unaffected by this global public health and economic crisis and the systemic issues it’s quickly uncovering.
On Mother’s Day 2020, perhaps more than ever, our mothers deserve a great day of their own. If you have a mom, do your part this year—from whatever social distance is required.
By Daphne Foreman Forbes Magazine