I read something in The Economist last night that I want to share with you. The Economist has always been very hawkish in its campaign for schools to re-open more promptly than they did and they carry a strongly-worded leader on the subject this week.
(I use the term “re-open” relating to schools advisedly, by the way I understand that schools have been open for the children of key workers and at-risk groups, teachers have been working and that they have been available to families for support. What I mean by schools being “closed” is that most children in the UK have not being going into a school building to have daily lessons.)
Anyway, The Economist: in their leader about the importance of schools opening properly and promptly in September to all pupils they laid out the following information:
The under-18s are a third to half less likely to catch the disease. The under-10s are a thousand times less likely to die than someone aged between 70 and 79.
In Sweden staff at nurseries and primary schools, which never closed, were no more likely to catch the virus than those in other jobs.
A new study of 1,500 teenage pupils and 500 teachers who had gone back to school in Germany in May found that only 0.6% had antibodies to the virus, less than half the national rate found in other studies.
And today the Times reported that Mark Woolhouse, an infectious diseases doctor from Edinburgh University said that scientists have yet to confirm a single case of coronavirus passed from a student to a teacher.
This is all pretty interesting. And I’m telling you all this because it’s made me realise that when it comes to the school closure issue there are charities and pressure groups that advocate for children and there are unions and pressure groups that advocate for teachers. But where is there pressure group or the union or the charity that advocates for mothers? Is there one? Please tell me about it in the comments box. With all respect, Mumsnet doesn’t quite count. Almost, but not quite.
The school closures have, as we all know now, put an inordinate amount of pressure on mothers to pick up almost every single piece of slack at home – the cleaning, the cooking, the supervision of the remote learning, the endless, endless emotional labour that comes with living through such a time. And please don’t tell me it’s relative, I don’t think it’s relevant if another group is having a worse time than mothers during lockdown in the UK. Relative suffering has been used for years as a stick to beat us with and I’m really sick of it.
This situation isn’t because men are useless bastards, it’s because for now, it’s just the way it is. And if your husband is amazing and helpful and you haven’t experienced this, then I am happy for you – but you are the exception, not the rule. If this whole situation had been even 10% as difficult for men as it has been for women it would have been sorted out much faster. It’s been a tax on us just like the tampon tax. Just deal with it – deal with it because you’re a mum.
When you don’t earn or don’t earn as much as your husband, there is a certain amount of shrug-what-can-you-do about all this. But the stories that are coming out now about women who earn as much, if not more, than their husbands experiencing this same massive imbalance are alarming. This is just not okay! Keeping children attending school daily has now become a feminist issue.
Because what worries me is that although schools are set to re-open in September, there will be localised campaigns between now and then to keep certain schools shut – I already know of one in Cambridgeshire, there are bound to be others. I’m also worried about a potential second wave. Will the schools shut again, just because better safe than sorry? Because even though keeping the school doors open is a calculated risk like crossing the road or getting on an airplane, as somewhere in the collective consciousness there is the certainty that the mums will just clear up all the mess, why not shut the schools? What are we going to do about it?
And then I worry that the mothers will just have to take it on the chin all over again when we might not need to – just in the same way that we’ll just do it, just like we’ll do that thing even though we asked someone else to, and we’ll wash up, don’t worry, and no, it’s okay I remembered that thing and yes I filled up the car and also picked up the shoes that were left on the beach.
I worry that no-one is advocating for our rights because no-one gives a shit about us. I start to get crazy and worry that it’s a conspiracy, that some people – men and women -want to keep schools closed because they consciously or unconsciously hate us: that the whole world is geared towards making sure every single mother is kept barefoot in the kitchen. I spiral off and worry that the virus is just this wonderful, marvellous excuse to send us straight back into our boxes where literally everyone thinks we actually belong. I know I sound paranoid now. But just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean I’m not right.
But, please tell me I’m wrong. Make your argument in the handy comments box for the schools being closed until there is a vaccine. Restore my sanity! Tell me what podcasts to listen to and articles to read about Sweden and Israel and all the children who have caught and suffered badly with coronavirus. Tell me about all the teachers who have caught coronavirus from their students. Tell me that the last four months hasn’t been totally and completely for nothing.
Seriously. I’m listening.