Growing Community: Who Feels Like a Shock Absorber?

There was a recent New York Times article titled, “Mothers are the ‘shock absorbers’ of society.” This really caught my eye because it’s not a new awareness: mothers often carry the heaviest burden of caring for a child, keeping all things home-related running and, most often, returning to work in just a few weeks after having a baby. Thankfully, dads are sharing many of those responsibilities, so kudos to everyone involved! This article, however, explained how things have changed since COVID hit us all.

Overall, four times more women than men dropped out of the labor force in September. “Three women dropped out for every woman who got a job,” per the NYT reporting. The article speculated that this is largely due to remote learning and lack of available childcare.

One mom described herself as the shock absorber in the system, and the poorer and more precarious you are, the more shock you’re expected to absorb. We’ve seen this locally and heard first-hand accounts of job loss, school loss, having no paid leave or it’s been used up for a while. It was hard enough for many working moms before COVID — some worked just to be able to pay for child care. This is a decision that makes sense in the long run but is so very stressful for families with young children.

When a parent, typically mom, leaves the workforce, she pays a financial penalty, often causing strain in the marriage and creating losses that can take years to regain. Parents shouldn’t have to choose economic security or the health of their family.

It’s still hard to know how this will end for so many people in our community. We are here to listen and to help with whatever resources we can find. We have meetings — sometimes several times a week — with a range of organizations that help with housing and rent assistance, providing food, offering mental health services, testing and health resources, child care assistance and often just sharing information so we can be better at helping you. We don’t have answers for everything, and for sure no magic wand, but we understand, and we all do our best. All this in the face of serious staff shortages, lower funding and in some cases, just plain fatigue.

There are a couple great places to look if you need help: covid19.pitkincounty.com/get-help/ has listings and phone numbers. Aspen Community Foundation has also compiled a list of support resources here, at a2pcovid.org/. Another wealth of resources, most free of charge, is through Mind Springs: mindspringshealth.org/colorado-spirit-initiative/.

Shock absorbers wear out. This is our plea for you to take care of yourself, stay safe, stay healthy and if you feel like you’re a shock absorber right now, please reach out and give yourself a break.

Growing Community, by Shirley Ritter, the director of Kids First, and Katherine Sand, the director of Aspen Family Connections, runs every other Wednesday in the Aspen Daily News. It features topics of interest related to early childhood, parenting and education. To reach the authors, email Shirley at shirley.ritter@cityofaspen.com or Katherine at ksand@aspenk12.net.

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