- ‘Mommy wars’ is a fraught term and experts say makes it seem like fights over COVID are frivolous.
- Experts say frictions are fueled by a U.S. fend-for-yourself model around caring for kids.
- Parents may squabble over masks and vaccines because they don’t have support to make real choices.
Everywhere you look, mothers are fighting over COVID. At school board meetings, in Facebook groups, within families and among friends. Some mothers are adamant their kids shouldn’t be masked in schools, others feel it’s an important safety measure. Some mothers have vaccinated their older children and are counting down until a COVID vaccine becomes available to their younger ones. Other mothers are so ardently against the vaccine that they are moving states, moving districts, threatening to home school if one becomes mandated.
The tensions bring to mind the “mommy wars,” a fraught and controversial term used to describe animosity between mothers – stay at home versus working moms, breastfeeding moms versus bottle-feeding moms, cry it out moms versus co-sleeping moms, COVID-cautious moms versus risk-tolerant moms.
Sociologists say these frictions between mothers, historically and throughout the pandemic, aren’t caused by frivolous arguments between women, but are fueled by the cultural belief that children’s well-being is an individual responsibility rather than a collective goal. They say when caring for kids isn’t treated as a collective good, parents are left muddling through anxiety, confusion, fear and guilt on their own, and it’s why many of them are coming to wildly different conclusions about the threat of COVID and what’s best for their kids.
“It creates a huge mental burden for parents because they’re the ones who have to figure out what’s best for their individual families, given the specific circumstances that they’re facing,” said Jessica Calarco, a professor of sociology at Indiana University who has been surveying mothers’ attitudes toward COVID during the pandemic. “When we make something a ‘mommy war,’ we trivialize it and it makes it easy to distract from the larger systemic problems that families are facing that have put us in this mess.”
Sociologists who study parenting and health say the absence of universal mandates around masks and vaccines, as well as the government’s failure to explain to parents how science and health guidance during the crisis would expectedly evolve, have created mental hardship for parents trying to navigate their families’ well-being. That cognitive work, experts say, can also leave less space for consideration of community health. When parents are so busy worrying about what’s best for the kids, it can be more difficult to consider neighbors, too.
“Women may seem ‘at war’ now because people are having to adopt individual COVID solutions and protection measures in the absence of government supports and structural solutions,” said Caitlyn Collins, a sociology professor at Washington University. “Fighting amongst each other distracts us from the real source of blame for this impossible scenario. We can’t fix global problems with individual solutions, but that’s the suggestion from the U.S. government now, just like it’s always been with childrearing and family supports in the U.S.”
Experts say parents weren’t given enough education on the scientific process
Calarco said poor leadership in the early days of the pandemic exacerbated tensions among parents.
‘I have cried. I have begged.’:Couples clash over COVID
At the outset, she said, parents weren’t given enough education on the scientific process. There was no clear message guiding people’s expectations, explaining that recommendations would likely change as more research was done, as conditions changed, as new variants emerged. There was little warning that the choices people made would also change scenarios, in some cases including the effectiveness of a vaccine.
Parents weren’t prepared for the shifting nature of the virus and expected the early messaging would apply throughout the pandemic. Many became confused, angry and distrusting of the CDC and other organizations when guidance evolved.
“There needed to be more humility around the early evidence and that it very much could change,” Calarco said.
Calarco also said that had parents been paid to stay home with their children, it would have alleviated many difficult choices they had to make between their own paid work and their children’s schooling and safety.
“Even if maybe they did care about the risk for other families or for teachers, they didn’t have enough support to be able to make that choice for other people’s benefit,” she said.
‘No one’s going to tell you whether or not it’s a good idea to let your child go to that birthday party’
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women are often the primary health care decision-makers for their families. Calarco’s research has shown mothers are typically the ones shouldering the additional health burdens associated with COVID, which explains why tensions among this group are so high.
Some are more concerned about the possibility of their child contracting COVID, others are more concerned about their children’s mental health, and the experiences they may be missing when parents are vigilant.
“If your kid gets invited to a birthday party in the absence of lockdowns or mandates or clear public health guidance, no one’s going to tell you whether or not it’s a good idea to let your child go to that birthday party,” Calarco said.
Parents have to figure out who’s going to be at the party, if it’s inside or outside, whether people will be eating, how likely it will be that everyone will be masked or vaccinated, what current case rates are where they live, the chances their individual child will get infected, the chances they’ll get seriously ill if infected, the chances that they’ll infect someone else.
“That’s a huge cognitive burden for parents to have to figure out in every situation that they go into,” she said. “We sort of say, ‘figure it out for yourself, do what’s best for you,'” she said.
To cope with this model, parents simplify risk calculations. When they make a decision on whether to send a child to a birthday party, they often make it by focusing on what’s good for their individual child or family, not on how their decision might ripple out to affect the safety of other people. Parents keep their decision-making narrow because in the context of COVID, the decision-making is hard enough.
‘We could probably agree that a thousand children dying is a thousand too many children dying’
The biggest parenting debates around COVID focus on masking kids in schools and vaccinations. Research shows many parents are making decisions about masks and vaccines in response to early messaging that kids were not likely to contract or become seriously ill from COVID.
Recent evidence has shown that while children are still far less likely than adults to be hospitalized or die from COVID, they are contracting and transmitting the virus. Children birth to age 12 in the U.S. have made up more than 5.5 million COVID cases since the pandemic began, according to the CDC. In January, there were more kids being admitted to hospitals with COVID than ever before.
Jennifer Reich, a sociologist at the University of Colorado-Denver who has studied vaccine hesitancy, said parents make vaccine decisions “cafeteria-style,” treating each vaccine as a unique decision. She said prior to COVID, epidemiological and quantitative data showed 20% to 30% of American parents were not fully vaccinating their children according to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices schedule.
Analysis:Skeptics doubted vaccines long before COVID, despite health gains
The COVID vaccine is no exception. Most parents are making decisions about whether to vaccinate their kids based on a risk-benefit calculation. The challenge is that there are still many unknowns around COVID, including long-term impacts.
“We’re approaching a thousand pediatric deaths of COVID, and for parents, compared to the 900,000 adults that have died in less than two years, that sounds like really minimal risk,” Reich said. “At the same time, we could probably agree that a thousand children dying is a thousand too many children dying since children generally don’t die of very many things. That might just be a thousand preventable deaths. How do we evaluate that risk?”
Some parents, Reich said, are not vaccinating for COVID because vaccination doesn’t eliminate transmission altogether. They view the benefits of the vaccine as fairly minimal, even as the risk of infection is very high, because outcomes tend to be fairly minor for most children.
COVID hospitalizations:Overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated.
“Every parent has their threshold of what they think they can control, what they think they can manage. It may or may not be statistically true, but it feels true for how people make decisions,” Reich said.
‘What would it take to put us all in a boat where we could actually have the support we need’?
Reich said the U.S. has oversold the belief that a person can personally manage disease risk alone through hard work, risk management and self-surveillance. This has become the overarching story of health, and she said it’s had dangerous consequences.
“The assumption is that people who get really sick must not be working hard on their health, they must have a poor diet, or they must be overweight, or they must have done something to deserve a bad outcome,” she said. “This has become a kind of cultural common sense, even if it’s not medically true, and COVID messaging has absolutely increased that story.”
Reich said the story of COVID has become one around risk as it relates to age and pre-existing conditions, but that doesn’t account for the full story of Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, of pediatric hospitalizations, of the nearly 1 million people who have died of COVID.
Calarco said it’s easy for exhausted and frustrated parents to direct their ire at one another, rather than at the deeper source of the problem. People’s proximate connections make easier targets, but Calarco said they are less productive.
“We’re squabbling over masks or no masks or in-person schooling or no in-person schooling or vaccines or no vaccines, mandates versus no mandates, as opposed to thinking about, ‘What would it take to put us all in a boat where we could actually have the support we need to care not only for ourselves but also for other people’s wellbeing too?'”
Razzies royally torch 'Diana' musical and 'Space Jam 2,' show love to Oscar favorite Will Smith
In its proclamation of the worst films of 2021, the Razzies lambasted a critically reviled Princess Diana musical and LeBron James’ “Space Jam” sequel, but spread love instead of hate for Will Smith.
The Golden Raspberry Awards, annually announced the day before the Academy Awards, bestowed five dishonors on Netflix’s “Diana: The Musical,” a filmed production of the recent Broadway show that closed after 33 performances. “Diana” beat out “Infinite,” “Karen,” “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and “The Woman in the Window” for worst picture, plus picked up worst screenplay and worst actress for star Jeanna de Waal.
“New Legacy,” the live-action/animated hybrid basketball comedy featuring James hooping it up with Bugs Bunny and Co., earned three Razzie awards. James was named worst actor and also was saddled with worst screen couple – which went to James and “Any Warner Cartoon Character (or WarnerMedia Product) He Dribbles On” – while the movie snagged worst sequel.
How to watch the 2022 Oscars:Everything you should know about Sunday’s Academy Awards
“House of Gucci” star Jared Leto lost his Screen Actors Guild race for best supporting actor but nabbed the Razzie for worst. And Bruce Willis does so many VOD movies now that he received his own special category (worst performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 movie) that, to no one’s surprise, he won – for “Cosmic Sin.”
Smith, who’s expected to win the best actor Oscar Sunday for “King Richard,” received this year’s Razzie Redeemer Award for previous Razzie honorees who’ve come back with quality efforts. Recent winners include Ben Affleck, Sylvester Stallone, Melissa McCarthy and Eddie Murphy.
The full list of this year’s Razzie “winners”:
Worst picture: “Diana: The Musical”
Worst actor: LeBron James, “Space Jam: A New Legacy”
Worst actress: Jeanna de Waal, “Diana: The Musical”
Worst supporting actress: Judy Kaye, “Diana: The Musical”
Worst supporting actor: Jared Leto, “House of Gucci”
Worst performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 movie: Bruce Willis, “Cosmic Sin”
Worst screen couple: LeBron James and Any Warner Cartoon Character
(or WarnerMedia Product) He Dribbles On, “Space Jam: A New Legacy”
Worst remake, rip-off or sequel: “Space Jam: A New Legacy”
Worst director: Christopher Ashley, “Diana: The Musical”
Worst screenplay: “Diana: The Musical”
As more marijuana dispensaries get targeted by robbers, SAFE Banking Act lingers in Congress
A bill that could allow electronic transactions at weed dispensaries nationwide is again make its way through Congress but the SAFE Banking Act might not be the cure-all that supporters envision.
In over a decade of operating cannabis shops in Washington, Shea Hynes never once worried about his stores getting robbed at gun point – until recently: In a span of three weeks, his stores were robbed three different times at gun point.
Reports of armed robberies at cannabis dispensaries like Hynes’ have nearly doubled in the first quarter of this year compared with all of last year, according to data maintained by the Craft Cannabis Coalition. The group, which represents more than 50 stores in Washington, has recorded more than 65 armed robberies so far this year, compared with 35 in 2021 and 29 in 2020.
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Takeaways from Friday's Sweet 16: North Carolina looks like national title contender
CHICAGO — In a ridiculous coincidence, the Saint Peter’s Peacocks wrote NCAA Tournament history on National Peacock Day with a thrilling upset of Purdue.
The mid-major became the first-ever No. 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight, outdoing previous No. 15 seeds Oral Roberts (2021) and Florida Gulf Coast (2013). Exactly 0.8% of people picked the Peacocks to get this far, with the school from Jersey City, New Jersey, defying all odds. Is Saint Peter’s the best Cinderella of all time?
Meanwhile, the ACC is sitting pretty with three teams – Duke and now North Carolina and Miami (Fla.) – in the Elite Eight on the same day the Big Ten saw its last team go down.
A look at three key takeaways from Friday:
Saint Peter’s writes NCAA history
Coach Shaheen Holloway has this team playing inspired basketball, and now the Peacocks (22-11) are just one win from the Final Four. The best Cinderellas of the last two decades to reach Final Fours – George Mason in 2006, VCU in 2011, Loyola-Chicago (2018) all were double-digit seeded mid-majors. But none was as highly seeded as this Saint Peter’s team that’s now beaten No. 2 seed Kentucky, No. 7 Murray State and No. 3 Purdue.
WINNERS, LOSERS:Poised Saint Peter’s keeps the dream alive; bye-bye, Big Ten; hello, ACC
OPINION:Saint Peter’s embodies wackiness and uncertainty of this NCAA Tournament
ANALYSIS:Purdue’s loss leaves Big Ten shut out of Elite Eight. We could see this coming.
MORE:Legendary Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson: Coach K’s farewell tour ends Saturday
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While other bracket-busting NCAA Tournament darlings of yesteryear have had flair (FGCU’s “Dunk City”) or a lovable fan (Loyola’s Sister Jean), this team from the MAAC is doing it with defense, namely with nine steals. In spite of being undersized against the Boilermakers, the Peacocks used aggressiveness and hustle to outduel their seemingly superior opponent behind 6-8 freshman Clarence Rubert and 6-7 junior Hassan Drame. Daryl Banks III (14 points) is the go-to scorer for Saint Peter’s, but Mr. Clutch has been guard Doug Edert (10 points) off the bench. One stat to note: a 19-for-21 clip from the free-throw line. What’s been most impressive is the Peacocks’ ability to stay hungry and poised under pressure, winning close games in all three NCAA Tournament matchups.
Blue-bloods show title potential
Duke and Villanova advanced on Thursday, and fellow blue-bloods Kansas and North Carolina will now join them in the Elite Eight. And yes, if both the Blue Devils and Tar Heels win Sunday, we could see them meet in the Final Four.
Ever since North Carolina embarrassed Duke in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Heels have been red-hot – knocking out No. 1 Baylor in the previous game in overtime. That continued against a UCLA team that reached the Final Four last year and seemed destined to get back. Caleb Love was brilliant again, finishing with 30 points off six three-pointers. Armando Bacot’s tip-in with 22 seconds left sealed the win in another impressive outing for coach Hubert Davis’ resilient team.
The last remaining No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament, Kansas stayed alive, escaping Providence by five points. It’s coach Bill Self’s ninth trip to the Elite Eight with Kansas and 11th of his career, as the Jayhawks (31-6) are one win from the Final Four. They’ve now won eight in a row and are looking like a title contender after entering the NCAA Tourney having won the Big 12 tournament.
The secret weapon for Kansas has been guard Remy Martin. For the third consecutive tournament game, Kansas got a jolt off the bench from the fiery Martin (23 points), the Arizona State transfer who has erupted in these NCAAs after playing a reserve role throughout 2021-22.
ACC > Big Ten
Despite garnering nine NCAA Tournament bids on Selection Sunday – the most of any conference – the Big Ten is out following Purdue’s stunning exit vs. Saint Peter’s. The league tanked in the first two rounds, with No. 5 Iowa – the conference tourney champ – getting upset by Richmond in the first round. No. 3 Wisconsin, No. 4 Illinois, No. 7 Michigan State and No. 7 Ohio State all lost in the second round. And now, with Michigan’s loss to Villanova, the overall underachievement is on full display. That’s a 9-9 finish in the tournament.
No Big Ten team has cut down the nets since 2000 (the Spartans), and it’s a depressing outlook for the league that posted the second-best NET score in 2021-22 and showcased several teams with Final Four potential.
The ACC, which finished with the sixth-worst NET score as a league, has Duke, North Carolina and Miami all in the Elite Eight. That’s after the Tar Heels, Hurricanes and Notre Dame were all bubble teams in early March. The NCAA Tournament is about matchups and pathways. No matter how well the Big Ten did in the regular season, much like the Pac-12’s surprising finish last year, the ACC is well-positioned with three teams still alive and two of them title contenders.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.
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