By Cynthia Richie Terrell on May 15, 2020
After just six days of sheltering in place, I found myself thinking about all the women I’d taken for granted.
I started with Griselda, who cared for my kids when they were babies, a few hours each week. I thought about Beth and Perrine, and every babysitter and cleaning lady I’d ever used — all the women I’d paid to come into my home over the past 13 years so that I could leave it and do other things.
If someone had asked me why I paid these women to do things that I could do myself — particularly when I made so little money with the time they freed up — I’d say that I did it because I wanted to work, because I needed to work, not just out of economic necessity but also out of a need to feel like a full human being. The implication here was that when I did the child care and housework and cooking and laundry, it was not work but something else.
Now, for the first time, everyone is doing the work we don’t call work when women do it. We watch Jimmy Fallon play with his daughters while filming “The Tonight Show” and think, “Maybe it’s work, after all.”
The day I turned 16, my father suggested that I get a part-time job. Not just any job — something difficult and monotonous, for little money and less respect. He thought it would motivate me to train for a more remunerative career.
That’s not exactly what happened. I worked as a cashier at a pharmacy, made deli sandwiches and waited tables. But I still majored in English. I came close to applying to medical school, but instead I had a baby, then another. My children’s father made enough to support us but not enough to provide for the child care we’d need were I to return to school or take a full-time job. And so throughout my 30s, I found myself largely occupied with keeping a home and raising my children.
There was a very encouraging piece in The Lilly by Caroline Kitchener about the record number of women who have filed to run for office this year though races for the U.S. Senate and governor are very competitive:
It wasn’t hard for Claire Russo to imagine herself running for Congress. She lives about an hour away from Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who ran in 2018.
Spanberger has three young kids, like Russo. She has a background in national security, like Russo.
And when Spanberger ran, she won.
The final number will likely be even higher: In 14 states, potential candidates still have time to sign up.
In 2018, female candidates set a record that was hard to beat: 476 women ran for the House, up from 273 in 2016. When women won a historic number of seats — filling the Capitol with female voices that have since seized the country’s attention — 2018 was pronounced the second “year of the woman,” a nod to 1992, when women made unprecedented gains across both chambers of Congress. The class elected in 2018 was the most ethnically, racially and religiously diverse in congressional history, and included the body’s first Muslim women and Native American women.
But of course running is not the same as winning. Women lost to men in two special elections for the U.S. House this week in Wisconsin and California, with the latter seat having been won by Katie Hill in 2018. Looking ahead to November, there are women running competitive races in 11 elections for governor, but none are favored. Women also may end up losing seats in the U.S. Senate.
As I sit here writing this on #MothersMonday — a day that honors working moms on the Monday after Mother’s Day—I’m tired.
Not tired because I am, in fact, a working mom juggling “distance learning” with my teenager 50 days into this stay-at-home quarantine. Rather, I’m tired because I am being forced to make sense of the senselessness for my 13-year-old son, and for myself, yet again.
I’m tired of posting messages on my social media, like “I can’t keep calm, I have a Black son” or using the “#Justicefor” hashtag du jour to express my outrage over the latest murders of innocent unarmed Black men. And yet, here I am again, speaking two new names out of respect for their existence and as a reminder that their lives did – and still do- matter.
The recent release of the videos documenting the tragic fatal shootings of Ahmaud Arbery, of southwest Georgia, on Feb. 23 and Dreasjon “Sean” Reed, of Indianapolis, on May 6, has left the country outraged, frustrated, and protesting for the lack of justice.
In a world that feels almost entirely different now—a world of Zoom meetings and distance learning, with essential workers putting their lives on the line and with unemployment on the rise—this particular imbalance has yet to be set right. In fact, the disproportionate burden we place on women to be both breadwinners and caregivers (plus teachers, Zoom schedulers, in-home nurses, and therapists too) has only become more substantial.
I am incredibly grateful for my family’s good fortune during this crisis: We are in good health, with a roof over our heads, food on the table, and job security. Yet I still feel an enormous burden in these trying times, and some days are much harder than others. As I often do in times of struggle, I have turned to my girlfriends and women I admire to give me strength.
With that, I asked some incredible women from California to share a day in their lives with me so that I might share them with you too. These are women who inspire me, struggle just as you and I do, and give me hope by simply doing their best to carry on.
First up, here’s how Representative Katie Porter, a freshman Democrat who represents California’s 45th District in the U.S. House of Representatives—and happens to be the lone single mom in Congress—is spending her time in lockdown, in her own words.
South Korea was the first country to hold national elections amid the coronavirus pandemic. The election drew a high level of global attention, as other countries no doubt wondered how the pandemic would affect their own upcoming elections.
Defying predictions that fears of the coronavirus would discourage participation, the April 15 parliamentary election instead had a remarkably high voter turnout. Media coverage took note of the government’s comprehensive disinfection regimen and social distancing at polling places, a system designed to reduce the possibility of infection.
The ruling Democratic Party’s landslide victory became a cautionary tale to other leaders — voters rewarded the government’s coronavirus testing and tracing efforts. But voting under the shadow of a pandemic may have obscured something else: This election marked the highest number of women ever elected into South Korea’s parliament. Here are five things to know.
My blueberries are getting plump as the weather in Washington, DC finally warms up, I hope you have a great weekend,
P.S. Don't forget to check out this week's reading suggestions from the RepresentWomen team!