By Monica Hesse / The Washington Post
What I would like for Mother’s Day this year is a new duvet cover, some sunglasses, a professional carpet cleaning for the dining room rug, and a [expletive] vaccine for my [expletive] child.
I am writing this column from the basement of my in-laws’ home in an active living retirement community, where my family has been mooching child care in the waning days of the pandemic, and where my primary means of entertaining my 10-month-old daughter is taking her to watch athletic 85-year-olds play pickle ball, and I can honestly say that we are very lucky and also that what I would like for Mother’s Day this year is a [expletive] vaccine for my [expletive] child.
For a large percentage of you, this column does not resonate. Perhaps you don’t have children. Perhaps your children are older than 5 and have been vaccinated for months. Perhaps your children are part of the 75 percent of children (!!) who apparently have already had covid as of the end of February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For the percentage of you who are still partying like it’s March 2020, a.k.a. avoiding indoor restaurants and parties and concerts and museums and department stores and Jiffy Lubes and movie theaters and FedEx stores and dentists’ offices and retirement dinners, and who can count on two hands the number of buildings your child has ever been inside (my daughter thinks Safeway is Disney World), I know what you want for Mother’s Day and it is not a bathrobe.
You have wanted this since December of 2020 when vaccines became available for individuals 16 and older. And then since May 2021, when use was expanded to adolescents 12 and older. And then since October of 2021 when kids ages 5 to 11 could get the shot, and then since November 2021 when experts predicted a baby vaccine by year’s end. And then since this Feb. 11, when another unexpected snag delayed things for “two months.”
The FDA now says vaccines for children younger than 5 might be available as soon as June. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha. [Expletive.]
What I would like for Mother’s Day is to go back in time to the part of the pandemic when officials were still saying things like “We’re all in it together.” I would like them to clarify that what they actually meant was, “We’re all in it together until most of us get antibodies, at which point the parents of uninfected infants and toddlers are in it by themselves.” I would like them to take a hard look at the double-helix of boredom and rage that lives inside parents who still have to ask off work because there’s been a covid outbreak in the toddler room at day care and somebody has to look after the kid. Because we are most certainly in it by ourselves.
If I read another statistic about how working mothers have born the brunt of the pandemic I will open the window and make incoherent pterodactyl noises for nine minutes straight, because there’s a point at which reading that it’s crap for all working moms doesn’t feel helpful. It feels as though America is doing what it does best: acknowledging that working moms are frequently placed in impossible spots, and then pretending we can make up for it by giving them a holiday where they eat a pancake in bed.
I don’t want commiseration, I want a shot. Right in my daughter’s fat little thigh. Jabby-jab.
The past two years have been difficult for all families. But I would wager — myopically, perhaps — that they have been especially disorienting for families of children whose entire lives, birth to now, have been encompassed by the pandemic. There is no “before” to return to. There are no sustaining memories of what it could look like to be a parent in a time without covid. I delivered my daughter while wearing an N95 mask and birthed this fragile, soft human into a world that is impossibly beautiful, which she has seen not nearly enough of. I will show it to her, all of it, as soon as I can lift her gently in my arms, hold her tight, and then pin her down on an exam table so a nurse can come at her good with a needle.
For Mother’s Day I [expletive] want a [expletive] [expletive] vaccine for my [expletive] child. It is the only thing I want. Also a bottle of good dry shampoo.
Monica Hesse is a columnist for The Washington Post’s Style section, who frequently writes about gender and its impact on society. She’s the author of several novels, most recently, “They Went Left.” Follow her on Twitter @MoncaHesse.