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Why grandparents are essential to the economy—and parents’ sanity

May 5, 2020, 12:46 PM UTC
Grandmother and granddaughter.
Getty Images

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Ida B. Wells wins a posthumous Pulitzer, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s district is now a coronavirus epicenter, and we miss our parents and grandparents—for all kinds of reasons. Have a nice Tuesday. 

Today’s essay comes to us courtesy of our colleague Michal Lev-Ram:

– It takes a village. My editor, Adam Lashinsky, taught me about the “I want my mommy” moment several years ago. I had actually experienced it plenty of times before, but never given it a name—leave it to an editor to come up with a headline for an emotional state.

The “I want my mommy” moment can mean different things for different people. For journalists, it is best described as the 11th hour of a deadline, that stomach-churning, career-questioning existential crisis you claw your way through when trying to finalize (or, um, start) a draft when you have very little time left. It usually hits you at around 2 o’clock in the morning, or sometime thereafter, and may be preceded by a few days of poor personal hygiene.

Lately, I’ve been feeling the “I want my mommy” moment a lot, but not just while on deadline. My mom—and dad, he does his part too!—are among the 22% of grandparents who regularly provide childcare for their grandchildren in the U.S. (This stat comes from a 2014 study from Pew Research Center, and I’m guessing the number hasn’t significantly fluctuated since). Before the pandemic, my parents regularly picked up my three kids from school and daycare. Now, not only do they not babysit their grandchildren, they don’t even see them because we want to be cautious—seniors face higher risks of complications from the virus, as we all know.

This reality has been hard on us all, my parents included. And it is particularly challenging not knowing when it will end. The virus has made me realize just how much I rely on my parents to help with my children—and how difficult it is parenting without them. My grandparents did the same for my mom, especially in the days when she was single, with two very young daughters and a full-time job. Growing up, we spent almost every weekend at their house. It was my second home, and I’ve always wanted my children to have the same closeness to their grandparents. It’s not just a matter of bonding though: My parents play a huge role in my ability to do my job, providing an unpaid but invaluable service to our economy, as many other grandparents and family members do.

I know I’m lucky. I have a job I can do remotely. I live 10 minutes away from my parents, and they are alive and well and an incredibly vital part of my children’s upbringing, even over Zoom and FaceTime—our modes of communication for the time being. (An extra perk: My mom makes homemade tahini to-go for my sister and I, and we pick it up from their doorstep weekly.)

But I ache for the days that I can call them up and just stop by. To drop off the kids when my toddler refuses to nap and I have a story to turn in. To give them a hug. Yes, I know I’m lucky. And I realize I’m 40 years old. But I still want my mommy.

Michal Lev-Ram
michal.levram@fortune.com
@mlevram

Today’s Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Prizewinning reporting. Ida B. Wells won a long-overdue Pulitzer yesterday. The groundbreaking journalist who reported on violence against African-Americans was awarded a posthumous special citation. Other 2020 Pulitzer winners include Nikole Hannah-Jones, who oversaw the New York Times' 1619 Project, and author Anne Boyer. Poynter

- Post-lockdown life. Our Fortune colleagues in Hong Kong documented what re-opening a country looks like. Seven people from seven different Chinese cities, including Chengdu coding education company founder Jasmine Yang, Shanghai consultant Vicky Zhao, and Beijing communications professional Cathy Fu, adjust to the new normal. Fortune

- NBC makes news. Andy Lack is out as NBC News chairman after facing criticism for his handling of the sexual assault allegations against Matt Lauer and for allegedly quashing reporting about Harvey Weinstein. On-air talent including Rachel Maddow had questioned his leadership. Fortune

- Tune in. Our colleague Ellen McGirt, author of Broadsheet sister newsletter raceAhead (subscribe!), will appear on Salesforce's Leading for Change series to discuss the intersection of COVID-19 and race in America today. Watch at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET here

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- District devastation. The Bronx and Queens congressional district represented by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is now an epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. Ocasio-Cortez feels that the disconnect with other lawmakers who haven't experienced the personal toll—everyone in her district knows someone who has died, she says—is yet another way she has had a Congressional experience far different from those of than her peers. New York Times

- No deal. L Brands' deal to sell its Victoria's Secret brand to Sycamore Partners is off after the coronavirus crisis complicated matters. L Brands says it still plans to split itself in two and see longtime CEO Les Wexner exit after scrutiny of his ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and reports of a toxic culture at the lingerie brand. Wall Street Journal 

- Shed a tear. During the coronavirus pandemic, more leaders are crying in public—but who's allowed to shed those public tears? It's still mostly men who are praised for displaying emotion, but leadership traits associated with women, like empathy and vulnerability, are more valued than ever. New York Times

- Financial star. After steering Peru's coronavirus economic recovery package, finance minister Maria Antonieta Alva is suddenly a national celebrity. The 35-year-old gets stopped for selfies by people who've noted the plan's support of small businesses and ordinary citizens. Bloomberg

ON MY RADAR

What do we know about the woman who invented leavened bread? Slate

How CBS legal drama All Rise made its virtual coronavirus episode Fortune

How to celebrate Mother's Day from a distance MEL Magazine

PARTING WORDS

"Sometimes, for me, it’s almost like a therapy session. ... You realize that, the problems you’re having—you’re not facing it alone."

-Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on U.S. Conference of Mayors conference calls