Mothers have carried a huge load during the COVID-19 pandemic from job loss to poor mental health and increased childcare responsibilities. And moms who work as medical professionals are additionally burdened with keeping both the general population — and their own children — safe. That’s in addition to the heightened stress, depression, and burnout that female medical workers experience, according to research published in the journal BMJ Open. The study listed a fear of testing positive for COVID-19 (and subsequently putting family members at risk), long working hours, and an overload of COVID patients as mental health triggers.
We decided to check in with a few of these medical moms to share how they’re feeling at this stage in the pandemic. And boy, did they share!
I’m Tired of Healthcare Workers Who Spread Misinformation
“I’m exhausted by the utter lack of empathy and care for others, such as people refusing to [wear] masks or vaccinate on the basis of believing, ‘I have a good immune system.’ Maybe they should think about those who don’t? There are also no guarantees — people with good immune systems are crowding our ERs, general wards, and ICUs to the extent that car-crash victims have to be taken out of town, there isn’t room for people having strokes and heart attacks, and cancer surgeries are being canceled. I’m also tired of the healthcare workers who spread misinformation [because] others look to them [for] knowledge if they’re wearing a badge and scrubs, even if they’re spewing dangerously inaccurate and irresponsible advice. The rest of us have to work that much harder to dispel the ‘information.’”
“My youngest has no idea what it means to go to the grocery store or the children’s museum. He hasn’t been to preschool. My older kids were too afraid to play soccer and go to school in case they caught COVID and gave it to their high-risk father. Then, my husband also deals with me working late — he does the majority of the after-school dinner rush with the kids — while I [finish] my day, so I don’t lie awake at night fearing unmet questions or needs will result in a patient hospitalized, perhaps too late.” — Tricia Stadler, family practice nurse practitioner, Fishers, Indiana.
“I’m exhausted by the utter lack of empathy and care for others.”
Despite Everything We Do, Some Kids Have Died
“I am finding the narrative around kids and COVID-19 particularly exhausting. I see children in the emergency department, many of whom are otherwise healthy, sick from COVID. Some need oxygen, experimental medications, or admission to the hospital. Despite everything we do, some have died. To hear people talking about ‘life as usual’ because they believe that ‘kids don’t get that sick’ is exhausting and heartbreaking.”
“I can’t talk about what I see in detail, because of HIPAA and because I don’t want to give my friends nightmares. The compartmentalization is brutal. I am so grateful for some of my fellow physician moms who I can speak with openly. For all our non-medical mom friends, my advice is to be patient and keep reaching out. We will get through this, but we are tired and fundamentally changed by this experience. It will take time to rebuild some of our connections.” —Dr. Jennifer Mitzman, emergency medicine physician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio.
My 5-Year-Old Doesn’t Remember Life Before COVID-19
“My 5-year-old doesn’t remember life before COVID-19. I have too many photos of her sleeping in her car seat with a mask on because, why remove it? ….I feel at times like I’m in an exclusive VIP club of knowledge holders. Most members know we should get vaccinated. But how can I get that message out? My children are under the age of 12 and cannot be vaccinated. They don’t have a choice. As a mom, it is therefore my duty not only to protect them, but to protect everyone else’s children who are 12 and under. I am afraid of them getting COVID-19. Even if they mask up and follow the rules, my children can still suffer great loss if the adults don’t get it together and treat this pandemic like a public health problem — not a political issue or a conspiracy theory. COVID-19 doesn’t care who you are or what you believe. If it finds a way in, it will do what it does, and you’ll hopefully remain in the lucky majority.” — Dr. Lena Franklin, family medicine specialist, Indianapolis, Indiana.
“My 5-year-old doesn’t remember life before COVID-19.”
Vaccinated Medical Staff Is Stretched Thin Covering Unvaccinated Colleagues
“I work as a NICU nurse and though none of the babies in our ward have had COVID, I am completely exhausted by how toxic the work environment has become, owing to the politicization and misinformation surrounding the vaccine. I am vaccinated but there are quite a few NICU nurses at my hospital who buy into the conspiracies. I’ve heard some say, ‘You’re going to be dead in two years’ or ‘Your fertility will be affected’ if you get the shot and it just makes no sense. Especially since now many of these nurses have started getting COVID. Then, they’re at home for two weeks, leading to even more work for those of us who are vaccinated. Morale is very low. And now with the vaccine mandates, some may not have a job after September 30. I don’t know how we’re going to have enough staff, especially since those of remaining are already stretched thin.” — Kim [last name omitted for privacy], NICU nurse, Seattle, Washington.
Kids Are Dying From Unvaccinated Parents Infecting Them
“Children and adults are dying not just from COVID but from inadequate care because hospitals are full of COVID patients. Don’t be selfish. It’s one thing if you want to take the risk of death. But it’s not okay that anyone has to worry that their child, husband, or parent will not get ER care or have a complication that could be prevented, because the hospital beds are full of COVID-infected people who chose not to get vaccinated. Not to mention that kids are dying from unvaccinated parents infecting them. If my family can’t get the care they need because of those who refuse to get vaccinated, I’m going to be very upset and everyone else should be too.” — Dr. Sophia Yen, co-founder and CEO of Pandia Health, Sunnyvale, California.
Listen to the Science — Not the Fake News
“We just found out that my son-in-law has COVID-19 even though he is fully vaccinated. Now, my son (his husband), has just started graduate school at Columbia and is missing class to care for my son-in-law, and hopefully not fall ill himself, although he is also vaccinated. I have done my part working as a hospice nurse during lockdown. Please listen to the science and not the fake news! Another lockdown can be prevented. Please get vaccinated! For all of us.” —Ellen Long Stilwell, hospice nurse, New York, NY.
I’ve Bent Professional Boundaries Trying to Juggle Motherhood and Work
“I’ve had to make hard choices regarding clinical triage — I’m a trauma specialist and [see patients] with anxiety, depression, and identity development — as I couldn’t keep my [regular] client hours and stay at home with my [young] son. I actually created a ‘kid corral’ in my basement to keep him entertained while I provided telehealth and my partner worked upstairs…[but] I couldn’t do my job adequately unless my son was napping. I have bent professional boundaries by introducing my son to several clients, as he didn’t always nap, and I noticed myself slipping into a mildly-depressive burnt-out state. When I was able to return to the office, I jumped at the opportunity. I also chose to see only fully-vaccinated clients, which resulted in at least three clients receiving the COVID vaccine who might not have done so otherwise.” —Dr. Caitlin Erdman, psychologist, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“Please listen to the science and not the fake news.”
The Pandemic Has Denied Mental-Health Care to Those Who Need It Most
“Prior to the pandemic, I scheduled upwards of 30 patient sessions per week, several of which usually had to be rescheduled. Post-pandemic, the number of patients actually showing up dropped to fewer than 10. Then, with the shelter-in-place order, that number dropped to zero. I had to close two offices and suspend all face-to-face services indefinitely. For those needing psychological care the most, that meant the need simply went unmet…As the pandemic spread, I felt more powerless and scared for my children, husband, and elderly father…I eventually took advantage of telemedicine, telecommunications, and cloud computing to meet the needs of my growing patient base. —Dr. Tsoline Konialian, clinical psychologist, Pasadena, California.
Before you go, check out our gallery on Cute & Stylish Kids Face Masks.