Opinion: Let's go all-in with in-school learning
It's been almost a year since we were notified that Oregon schools would be closed for two weeks in order to help flatten the curve. Eleven months later, schools are still closed, while kitchen tables and couches have been converted into wildly ineffective classrooms for increasingly frustrated children and their parents. Distance learning has had a devastating effect on our kids' mental health and ability to learn.
But there's another demographic being impacted by the school shutdowns that have been overlooked by the government and the media — moms.
This January, 275,000 women left their jobs. Only 57% of women are currently working, which is a 33-year low. Many women are being inequitably pressured to leave their jobs to compensate for closed schools and daycares as a result of COVID-19.
Working moms are being forced out of the workplace at a higher rate than working dads. We are already paid less, and are often overlooked for opportunities to advance in the workplace compared to our male counterparts. The long-term damage of so many women leaving the workforce will be devastating to their ability to return to our industries at the same pay scale and opportunities.
As a working mom, I've been lucky enough to keep my job, but forced to carry the burden of helping my two daughters navigate online distance learning while working full time. I'm fortunate to have an employer who is understanding of my situation, and blessed with a supportive husband. But despite my employer's understanding, I'm asked to do more than ever during the work day. I'm an employee, coworker, digital marketer, teacher, principal, lunch lady, PE teacher, and IT tech. It's impossible to give 100% to any of those roles under these circumstances.
It's unimaginable to continue having the same self-worth and confidence as a parent and an employee — two roles that define who I am as a person. I feel as if I'm constantly failing at one or the other, not to mention all my other roles within my family and community. Working moms should not have to feel guilty for being parents or employees.
We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of distance learning, and while hybrid in-person school has recently been promised for our school district, there is still no mention of returning to full-time in-person learning, five days a week. I dread getting what have become regular emails from my 2nd grader's teacher describing how my once thriving student is struggling with basic addition and her reading level isn't where it needs to be. The suffocating guilt and anxiety that comes from these emails often lead me to turn the camera off on my work zoom calls to cry out of frustration.
As a woman, a mother, and a workforce participant, I believe we have come too far to continue allowing ourselves to slip back into the 1950s. Let's not prolong this disaster by stretching a gradual return to in-person learning any longer. We need all kids — elementary through high school — to return to five full days of in-school learning per week.
MacKensey Pulliam is a working mom, a former Oregon Trail Academy governing school board member, and wife of the mayor of Sandy.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.