The year 2020 has given us problems that we've never encountered before. The pandemic has stolen the spotlight, forcing our world to change and making us all bend and double over trying to adjust to the “new normal.” The U.S is leading in COVID-19 cases and resulting deaths with almost 21% of all of the world's cases and more than 200,000 deaths. This has created a deep sense of fear and concern among many, and with the coronavirus aiming at each of us individually, a group with a big target on their back is parents.
This pandemic has been confusing and chaotic with many people having been negatively affected in one way or another by this virus. With some children doing virtual learning, others doing part-time in-person classes, and others home schooling, the pandemic has affected most everyone.
For Shannon Wetherbee, this pandemic has created a new conversation in the household as college starts back up for her son. “I picture dorms kind of like a cruise ship,” Shannon shares, “it's not exactly cleaned as much as it should be.” At the end of the day, the question of how your child receives their education is a big one, especially if they're leaving the nest. This concern surrounding not only physical health, but mental health, has been a big topic of discussion for parents, and an issue to be considered in the presidential election. “I don't think the process was handled correctly,” Shannon said, “I don't think that it was organized or implemented in any way it should have been.”
For many young people, this virus can appear like something that only affects elderly or those with immunodeficiencies. Shannon knows this to be false, working at The Temple Health and Bioscience District, she is surrounded by doctors and scientists on a daily basis. “It's scary,” Shannon said, “It can be a lifetime debilitating disease and to subject your 19-, or 20-year-old, or 18-year old and not have any assurity that they are not going to be exposed is scary.”
For many, like Shannon's son, being infected with COVID-19 could have more implications than may meet the eye. “Being twenty… you feel immortal. You don't feel like anything's going to take you down or take you out and that's not the case with this disease,” Shannon said, “I keep reminding my kid, because he does powerlifting, that this disease could make it so he never powerlifts again.”
Sheena King is a black, single mother of four, with her youngest just entering college as a freshman. Much like Shannon, she, too, had concerns about sending all of her children out into a world with COVID-19. “It was her first and only high school graduation- you don't get that back- and a first time for her to go off to school,” Sheena said, “and with me- it's my last chance to drop off a child at college.”
Sheena is a third generation Texan who is motivated and passionate about voting. She understands that as a person of color born five years after the Voting Rights Act was passed, it's important for her to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibited discriminatory voting in many southern states. While this act was passed, we still see a lot of systemic voting discrimination in present day through more subtle acts that create a discrepancy in voter turnout.
According to an article by The American Bar Association, voter turnout is much lower for minorities, for issues ranging from language barriers or documentation which can be costly and difficult to acquire. This is a result of systemic discrimination, making people of color ineligible to vote. “To have more of a sense of accomplishment and to take action where you can, we're all volunteering to work the elections,” said Sheena, “we're all going to be doing our part to help with that process.”
With all of these concerns, many goals and dreams had to shift as thinking about the future went from long-term goals to getting through the next month- week- or even day. Especially for people of color pursuing this “American dream” ideal. Where there were issues and road blocks before, there are now what can feel like unmoveable mountains. “The goals that I had for them and that they had for themselves were attainable, definitely within reach, and they saw the trajectory… with the ideal that you could have the American dream,” Sheena said, “all of that has been really deferred now.”
Andrea Druillard's dream was always to be a mom. Now, as a new mom, her entire experience in motherhood has been within the confines of the COVID-19 timeline. In the middle of June, Andrea gave birth to her daughter, and while she's loved being a mom, it's been extremely stressful.
“Being a new mom- it could be kind of lonely because if your friends aren't in the same position it's like ‘Oh, well I can't go there because I have my baby,'” Andrea said, “and then with corona on top of that…” Andrea often has to go to doctors appointments by herself, not getting that joyful pregnancy experience to share with her husband. When the big day came, there was a lot of fear that she would have to go through labor alone. Luckily, the hospital she was at allowed her husband to be in the room, although no other family members were allowed.
Not only was it stressful being alone, but Andrea was also among millions in the United States who, due to COVID-19, lost their job. “I got laid off during this corona pandemic,” Andrea said, “I was seven and a half months pregnant.”
This spike in unemployment has been compared to the recession in 2008, where unemployment spiked to 10%, it is now at an astounding 14.7%. And who's been hit the hardest by this? Parents- more specifically moms.
“On top of being pregnant, corona, and all of that- it was very stressful because I was planning on having my job,” Andrea said, “I was only going to take my six weeks and then go back to work. Because at the end of the day, I needed the money, right?”
According to a research article called “Women in the Workplace”, many women are leaving the workplace or downgrading their careers in order to meet the needs of their household. They are more likely to be laid off, much like Andrea, due to their having more jobs in retail, restaurant, and commercial facilities that are closing during this pandemic. After being laid off, her husband was offered two weeks of unpaid vacation to help with their newborn daughter. However, in these circumstances, that wasn't the end of the world. “One positive thing I could say is that he's been home since the pandemic so raising this little peanut has not been by myself.”
While for most parents, this pandemic has been stressful, others have found some positive sides. In the pre-pandemic world, Preston Pierce's world was busy and stressful, while the pandemic hasn't eliminated all stress, it has allowed him to spend more time with his wife and two young daughters. “My job- the hours of being a band director is so demanding- all the extra hours,” Preston said, “so it was nice to have all that extra family time.”
Even while looking at the positives in the difficulties that 2020 has yielded, this imminent election has only continued to cast a shadow of fear and uncertainty when looking up at the leaders of the United States. For many parents, change needs to happen in this election. The upcoming election has shined a light on the future of the U.S. and these parents are voting for just that: their childrens' futures.
“We have more power and control than we recognize,” said Sheena, “This is not who we are... and it's not who we aspire to be so when you know better, do better.”