Why grandparents are essential to the economy—and parents’ sanity
The "I want my mommy" moment.
Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Ida B. Wells wins a posthumous Pulitzer, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s district is now a coronavirus epicenter, and we miss our parents and grandparents—for all kinds of reasons. Have a nice Tuesday.
Today’s essay comes to us courtesy of our colleague Michal Lev-Ram:
– It takes a village. My editor, Adam Lashinsky, taught me about the “I want my mommy” moment several years ago. I had actually experienced it plenty of times before, but never given it a name—leave it to an editor to come up with a headline for an emotional state.
The “I want my mommy” moment can mean different things for different people. For journalists, it is best described as the 11th hour of a deadline, that stomach-churning, career-questioning existential crisis you claw your way through when trying to finalize (or, um, start) a draft when you have very little time left. It usually hits you at around 2 o’clock in the morning, or sometime thereafter, and may be preceded by a few days of poor personal hygiene.
Lately, I’ve been feeling the “I want my mommy” moment a lot, but not just while on deadline. My mom—and dad, he does his part too!—are among the 22% of grandparents who regularly provide childcare for their grandchildren in the U.S. (This stat comes from a 2014 study from Pew Research Center, and I’m guessing the number hasn’t significantly fluctuated since). Before the pandemic, my parents regularly picked up my three kids from school and daycare. Now, not only do they not babysit their grandchildren, they don’t even see them because we want to be cautious—seniors face higher risks of complications from the virus, as we all know.
This reality has been hard on us all, my parents included. And it is particularly challenging not knowing when it will end. The virus has made me realize just how much I rely on my parents to help with my children—and how difficult it is parenting without them. My grandparents did the same for my mom, especially in the days when she was single, with two very young daughters and a full-time job. Growing up, we spent almost every weekend at their house. It was my second home, and I’ve always wanted my children to have the same closeness to their grandparents. It’s not just a matter of bonding though: My parents play a huge role in my ability to do my job, providing an unpaid but invaluable service to our economy, as many other grandparents and family members do.
I know I’m lucky. I have a job I can do remotely. I live 10 minutes away from my parents, and they are alive and well and an incredibly vital part of my children’s upbringing, even over Zoom and FaceTime—our modes of communication for the time being. (An extra perk: My mom makes homemade tahini to-go for my sister and I, and we pick it up from their doorstep weekly.)
But I ache for the days that I can call them up and just stop by. To drop off the kids when my toddler refuses to nap and I have a story to turn in. To give them a hug. Yes, I know I’m lucky. And I realize I’m 40 years old. But I still want my mommy.
Today’s Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe.