As a mother of young children, I've been bombarded on all fronts by swine flu facts and fiction. I have my own top 10 lists of things to do (and not to do) and along with many in my community, we're circling the wagons at the office and in the schoolyard about what precautions to take (purell, purell, purell), how to talk about it with the kids (yes you can still eat bacon), and if it makes sense to don masks and hit up our doctors for extra antibiotics. We're also keeping the media hype in check -- listening for voices of reason to tell us if this is all just that -- media hype and scare tactics -- a 1976 swine flu redux when ultimately the pig was crying wolf.
But I've recently discovered that there's another conversation going on among mothers in hushed whispers, on message boards and on online confessional sites. Here, without worry of judgment, criticism or worse -- being stigmatized -- moms are telling us what they are REALLY thinking but have been afraid to say out loud. These discussions aren't being shared in the media -- at least not with the attention-grabbing-graphics beamed out from news stations -- but are worthy of our attention.
1) Cynicism is a close second to fear when it comes to the swine flu. Yes, many mothers are scared and using more caution than usual. But just as many seem to share a new sense of cynicism around the severity of the crisis. The media hype is out of hand and they are fed up with Fox brand sensationalism. They are not buying into the latest, "Is this the new black death?"
2) Those who are afraid, are really afraid. So frightened that even with schools and communal gathering places still open, they are keeping their kids home under lock and key. Absences are up everywhere and this is why. They are also practicing extreme caution themselves -- no longer shaking hands or giving hugs or kisses to friends and family.
3) Working moms with kids being forced to stay home due to school closures are really worried about their jobs. Without the family leave act firmly in place, many of these women -- especially those who work at small companies -- don't have guaranteed paid or unpaid leave. Some schools will remain closed for weeks and this is a threat to their job security.
4) Kids at home under quarantine are also a threat to a mom's sanity as well as her job security. Many are panicking about what to do -- especially under house arrest and have different coping mechanisms. Some are sneaking out with their kids just to run errands but as one mom confessed, " I feel like I'm a Pariah being on the streets right now." Another mom confessed to hosting a baseball game - admitting that she couldn't take another day with her son bouncing off the wall without being with his friends. Other moms, like Stephanie Elliot of Manic Mommy in Chicago said that while she hopes she doesn't have to deal with a school closing, she would be likely to take her kids out of the house. "I'd be cautious -- I brought my own Purell to the zoo yesterday on a field trip, but I couldn't keep them under lock down if it came to that.
No doubt, the Swine flu will continue to be the top news story for days, even weeks, to come. And most likely, I will stock up on antibiotics if I can. I'm sure the ones I had from the last pandemic scare, those sitting next to the earthquake kit and emergency stock of canned food, have expired by now. But what's going to really get me through and stay on course as the Chief household officer keeping my family safe and calm is the Greek chorus of women who are talking truthfully online without worry about who's listening. Here, I can get my own set of subtitles to temper the media hype and at the very least, new and inventive ways to get my kids to wash their hands -- again and again and again.
For more insight into what women are really thinking about the swine flu and anything else affecting their lives, visit truuconfessions.com.