February 2021

by suki wessling

Suki Wessling is a local writer and the mother of two adult children. You can read more at SukiWessling.com

Welcome to a New Monthly Feature!

Every study of gender roles in life-as-normal illustrates what most families know to be true: When it comes to childrearing, moms tend to do the bulk of the work. Moms spend more time driving children, miss more work because of children, and do the bulk of the housework, even when they are the primary breadwinner.
What happens when you put a pandemic on top of what was already an inequitable situation? For a lot of moms, Covid has meant crisis. Lacking childcare, private space in their homes for work, and time to help with distance schooling, moms have borne the brunt of this pandemic.

But what’s the old saying? When you need to get something done, find a mom to do it. Moms are not only taking care of our children; we’re also out there taking care of others.

This monthly series from Growing Up will highlight some of the moms in our community who are out there making things happen while also caring for kids at home. We’ll feature teachers, healthcare workers, business owners, coaches, and more. If you know of a mom who has made a difference, please email [email protected].

February's Mom

Lisa Mendez

Lisa has faced the test of her career. At home with her own son, who celebrated his fifth birthday recently with a drive-by party, Lisa had to restructure the program.

“I met her when our sons were young, as they’re only several months apart,” says Heidi Olson. “I’m a career nanny, and cared for her son alongside mine, off and on for the past five years. I’m constantly impressed by Lisa’s work at Simcha. Between the fires, a plumbing catastrophe, and now Covid, she has stayed a strong director, taking it all in stride.”

Since March, when preschools in the county were forced to shut down, Lisa has faced the test of her career. At home with her own son, who celebrated his fifth birthday recently with a drive-by party, Lisa had to restructure the program. The restructuring was physical—creating more outside spaces and systems for teachers. And it was also financial—knowing that families most in need of care might be the most strapped for cash.

“The blessing of time was a thankful gift,” Lisa says of the initial shutdown, when she was home with her son. “My son and I started a thriving organic garden to include potatoes, carrots, corn, beans, and one pumpkin (before the gophers decimated the patch).  I taught him how to ride a two-wheel pedal bike after his years on a balance bike.”

But she knew that Simcha had to reopen, and she threw herself into the planning. 
“After about four months of trying to get Simcha Preschool back up and running while being mommy Monday through Friday, I decided to say a literal prayer for his health and safety and send my five-year-old to an outdoor camp with an amazing Black mama owned program, Santa Cruz Learning Center,” Lisa says. Sending her son to camp gave her the time to restructure her program so that she could give other parents the time they needed.

Lisa has learned much in these nine months. For one, she says, “Accepting and receiving support, community, and assistance feels vulnerable, is necessary, and a form of self-care and love.”

She says that she was also deeply affected by the anti-racism and Black liberation movement, and has worked to incorporate those values and ideals into her program in an age-appropriate way. She’s also thrilled that the preschool includes more outside time now, to help children connect with nature. 

Heidi Olsen says that her appreciation for Lisa deepened when she herself needed support and Lisa found a grant to help her get care for her own son.
“As a community member, Lisa is quick to offer help and support,” Heidi says. “She is often fundraising to help a fellow mama, or finding them resources. Together we admin a Facebook group for local mamas, and I’m grateful to have her aboard.”

Words of wisdom from Lisa:
Children’s joy and laughter makes everything better
The pandemic stretches our capacities to grow and be creative
Trusting intuition and gut instincts and speaking them aloud even if it may ruffle feathers or cause waves is crucial in making positive change happen

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