Brave Moms on the Front Line
BY JEANETTE PRATHER
It is no doubt that moms are busy. They juggle schedules, work, families, commutes, bills… the list goes on and on. Now, during a COVID-19 outbreak and global pandemic, moms are called upon to wear more hats than ever before, especially those moms who are currently serving our communities out there on the front lines.
“I feel anxious leaving for work in the morning,” said Jillian Castro, a single mother and a local grocery store clerk, who asked not to name her store because management handles interviews. “[My son’s] dad refuses to see his son due to me being exposed. We have split custody, so with him not seeing his dad at all it is a strain for childcare. I feel I have a duty to keep showing up for my team at work.”
Grocery stores and pharmacies have risen to the demands of essential services during these times, joining the ranks of first responders, healthcare workers and law enforcement.
“This is what I signed up for,” said Misty Navarro, an emergency physician at Salinas Valley Healthcare System in Salinas, the Vice Director of Emergency Medicine Group, as well as the mother of two school-aged boys who live in Santa Cruz. “It would be painful for me to be on the sidelines while something like this is going on.”
By mid-April, Salinas Valley Healthcare System had tested between 600 – 700 people with an outcome of 50 – 60 positive cases and four admitted to the hospital, according to Navarro. “We have the most cases,” she said, “which I actually think is a function of testing.”
Despite this and believing the rise in cases being a considerable possibility, Navarro’s anxiety levels are low. “There’s a little bit of anxiety but for the most part I need to disassociate from that otherwise it prevents me from doing what I need to do,” she said. “I’m taking the necessary protocols before coming home and upon entry into my house. I’m doing what I can to keep the anxiety at bay and in perspective.”
Navarro and her husband both work at the same hospital and as a result, are exposed to the same things, she said. They maintain their protocols for remaining safe and healthy, because she says that if she didn’t get “all of those hugs and kisses from my kids once I’ve decontaminated, I definitely wouldn’t be holding it all together as well as I have.”
Carol Mikols, a local security guard and grandmother to twin toddlers, attributes remaining calm and sitting in gratitude as her remedy to combat anxiety. “I feel really good leaving to work. I work 7 pm until 3 am,” said Mikols. “My attitude in life has always been to practice gratitude. My kids are more worried about me, but they’re grown.”
Mikols, whose decontamination practices resemble Navarro’s, admits that there is definitely a risk to COVID-19 exposure, but she chooses to remain positive. “To be practical, yes, there is a risk of exposure. We’ve had people test positive where I am working and one fatality due to COVID,” said Mikols. “There is a risk of exposure, but I don’t look at it in that way. Some people I work with are very freaked out about it, but I’m choosing not to approach it in that way. I try to have a positive outlook.”
Regardless of perspective, all these mothers are rallying and continuing their service for their families. “My kids are proud of me and they now know a lot about the coronavirus,” said Navarro. “I don’t think they have concerns because they mirror us and we’re calm about it, so they’re remaining calm.”
“My kids are very supportive,” said Mikols. “They are constantly wanting me to be cautious, of course.” Mikols’ son-in-law manages a large chain of popular grocery stores, which she believes helps shed light on her own continuation to work. “He has a place in the garage where he disrobes, decontaminates, and really takes precaution before entering the house,” said Mikols.
“My son doesn’t want me to leave for work in the morning,” said Castro, “but overall, my family is reacting okay.”
Castro, like Navarro and Mikols, remains concerned about infection to her family. “My fears concerning my family are that I will expose them, and they will either get sick or have to be on strict lockdown,” said Castro.
“My specific concerns regarding my family really aren’t to do with their physical health, it’s more about their mental health,” said Navarro. “From about March 15 they really haven’t left the house unless we’re walking the dog.”
“My first concern would be to pass on the virus to my family, but also I don’t want them to be worried about me,” said Mikols. “I just don’t want to be a cause of concern for my family.”
Whether a grocery store clerk, a nurse or a security guard, these brave women continue to show up for duty day in and day out. To all you mothers and grandmothers out there still on the front line during this crisis, thank you tremendously for your service and please remain safe.