Cleaning out some mental clutter
By Melissa Stefanec
Writing about parenting is a lot like actually parenting. There is so much to cover and not enough time to cover it. There are so many topics I simply don’t have the energy to tackle.
The topics I avoid are intimidating. They are often complicated, nuanced, controversial, self-incriminating, time-intensive or disheartening. I shy away from writing them like I shy away from cleaning out the garage or categorizing family photos. Some things are best left on the proverbial back burner.
Nonetheless, the things I never get to doing still demand my energy. Lack of physical engagement with a task doesn’t preclude mental engagement. So, this month, I’m tackling a number of topics that I don’t want to write about, but I’m doing it on a micro scale (mini-columns, if you will).
1. The real risks of childhood vaccination
There is a frightening amount of misinformation circulated about vaccines. Vaccines save lives. That is a fact. As with any medication, there are potential risks. If you want to truly educate yourself on the risks of vaccinating people (at any age), the World Health Organization maintains factsheets for all vaccines — on the internet just search “WHO vaccine reaction rates information sheets.”
The fact is, for healthy people, serious side effects from vaccines are very rare. Depending on the vaccine, we’re talking one in several million rare. On the whole, getting a vaccine is safer than contracting the disease it aims to prevent.
If you take the time to read up on the diseases these vaccines protect us from, you will quickly learn how dangerous and life altering these diseases can be.
But, don’t take it from me or your “enlightened” friend on social media. Read these fact sheets and work from a place of vetted information.
2. Wages and the motherhood penalty
Although I hear people talk a lot about the gender pay gap, I don’t hear as many conversations about the motherhood pay gap. I looked at data from 2017 and 2018, and it tells a frightening story.
According to an analysis by Time magazine, on average, moms working full time made 70 cents on the dollar when compared to white males. Black moms made 54 cents. Latina moms made 46 cents. (Please note, I couldn’t find this information for Indigenous women.)
To put that in perspective, on average, women made 79 cents on the dollar compared to white men. Black women made 62 cents. Latina women made 54 cents. Indigenous women made 57 cents.
There is a real problem here. It needs to be talked about and addressed. On average, moms made nine cents less on the dollar than the composite average for women. Black women made eight fewer cents. Latina mothers made eight fewer cents.
The motherhood wage gap is real. Bring it up at your next dinner party (you know, in 2022).
(The numbers presented for mothers use data from 2017. The numbers presented for all women use data from 2018.)
3. How many moms left the workforce or lost their jobs in 2020?
2.1 million. Let that sink in. That stat is from a report from the National Women’s Law Center. Some of those women left “voluntarily.”
As the pandemic drags on, the stats are becoming more frightening. In December of 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics cited a net loss 140,000 jobs in America.
How many of those were women? All of them. I want to scream it from the hilltops. In December, all of the 156,000 jobs lost were lost by women. Men, on the other hand, gained 16,000 jobs.
This pandemic is robbing women of their livelihoods as they cater to childcare, schooling and unpredictable schedules. Many women’s retirement accounts, pensions and life-long earnings will be forever altered. Other women won’t be as lucky. It will be more than their retirement accounts that suffer.
According to information from U.S. Census Bureau, in 2016, of the 11 million U.S. households run by single parents, 8.5 million were run by women. This mass exodus from the workforce will hurt families — in their wallets, in their bellies, in their ability to thrive.
4. The dangers of too much screen time
There are so many studies out there that reveal the potential dangers of too much screen time for kids. For example, scientific studies say screens can contribute to slower brain development, insomnia, obesity, language delays, impaired executive function, behavioral problems and worse parent-child relationships.
As if that wasn’t scary enough, there’s the laundry of list of the harmful content children can be exposed to when online. According to the American Academy of Childhood and Adolescent Psychology, that content can portray violence and risk-taking behaviors, videos of stunts or challenges that may inspire unsafe behavior, sexual content, negative stereotypes, substance use, and misleading or inaccurate information. Children who spend unmonitored time online can also be subjected to cyberbullies and sexual predators.
The risks of too much and/or unmonitored screen time are real. They are frightening. Most parents don’t like the outcomes of too much screen time, but we are in a difficult place.
So, there they are — the topics I’ve been afraid to write about. Here’s to cleaning out the mental clutter. It’s my sincere hope that these mini-columns help someone. Thanks for reading.