Op-Ed: A Mom's Wish List for the New Year

Op-Ed: A Mom's Wish List for the New Year
Jen Clanahan
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Moms worked incredibly hard over the past year. From child care to home-schooling to changing work requirements to trying to keep everyone healthy (including my family's mental health), 2020 was a year of nonstop challenges. Moms, in particular, were the ones stepping back from their jobs to care for or home-school kids.

Because the majority of the child-care responsibilities still fall to women, and because they are generally paid less, many have found it’s simply too much to juggle and have made the difficult choice to leave their job. Others have been forced out due to the pandemic. We are currently experiencing an alarming decline of women in the workplace. In fact, more than 850,000 women left the workforce in September of this year alone.

We are therefore ecstatic to see 2020 in the rear-view mirror and to welcome 2021. Moms have high hopes for the year. What is on our wish list? Several items that will give moms a well-deserved break:

Less screen time for our kids. We did not have a choice during the pandemic when schools were closed, but we still worried as screen time skyrocketed for our kids. While we have had to accept the devices as schools moved to a virtual format, it’s been particularly hard to get kids outside for some playtime even when they aren’t doing schoolwork. Convincing your child to go outside and play on their own or just with their siblings is a lot harder than encouraging them to see if their friend down the block is available.

This is related to our next wish: that schools can safely reopen. Many parents have struggled to work from home (if they are lucky enough to be able to do so) and help their kids with school at the same time. It has been extremely challenging, to say the least. On a related note, parents are also more grateful than ever for the work that teachers do day in and day out to not just teach, but also care for our kids.

Life gets back to normal. We are sincerely hoping that so much time cooped up at home and with many rapid changes has not had a permanent negative effect on our kids. Did they fall behind in school? Has their mental health withstood the test of quarantining? What about our mental health?

Health-care workers get a break. Health-care workers worked tirelessly to get us through this pandemic. Many have put themselves at risk, their family at risk or been separated from their families so they don’t bring the risk home. While moms have been working tirelessly, we also recognize that those on the front lines of this pandemic have been, as well, and we want a break for them, too.

Meaningful climate policy so our state doesn't burn up. The massive, record-breaking fires we faced this year, combined with the relentless distress of the pandemic, made the world feel downright apocalyptic some days. Social media feeds were full of fears of families who lived near a fire or knew someone who did, worry for the firefighters, the wildlife, our planet. The effects of global warming that scientists predicted have arrived. Elected officials have been talking about it more, but we have yet to see an actual plan that will do the job of sufficiently addressing it. The Colorado Legislature passed a bill in 2019 requiring that carbon pollution be reduced according to a specific schedule called the Colorado Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution. These reductions are statutorily required, but the state has not yet created a plan that will reach the targets, even though they had a July 2020 deadline to do so. We need bold planning that hits those targets, and the longer we wait, the harder it will be. There is an urgent need that they are not addressing.

A successful roll-out of the COVID vaccine will address some of our hopes for the year, but in this time of great need, our state leaders must dig deep, be strong and deliver real solutions. We call on our elected officials, Governor Jared Polis, Colorado General Assembly members and regulatory bodies like the Air Quality Control Commission to all step up in a way that will create change like we have not seen to date.

Moms are giving it all we can right now, and we expect the same from our elected leaders.

Jen Clanahan is a Denver mom and the Colorado state director of Mountain Mamas.

Westword frequently publishes essays and op-eds on the weekend. Have one you'd like to submit? Send it to editorial@westword.com, where you can also comment on this piece.

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