3 SWFL moms find strength, support in each other during pandemic struggles

Reporter: Lindsey Sablan Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

Women lost a staggering $800 billion in income in just the last year. While business bounces back, ladies are still struggling to return to work, and there are two reasons many believe the pandemic has hurt women so much more than men.

Consider three women with very different backgrounds: Teshawna Barton, Krystal Hartman, and Megan Rose.

“I am a single mom right now, of three babies, three—toddlers, all of them,” Teshawna said.

Krystal says her son is “two-and-a-half years old, and he’s one smart cookie.”

“I’m a mom with three kids under five,” Megan said.

Motherhood is the one thing they all share. For Megan, work was the only stable thing in her life last year. Her non-profit, Better Together, got busier. She finds children a place to stay out of foster care while their parents get help. But as worked picked up, her children’s daycare shut down. She and her husband had to split their workdays.

“We’re worried about our kids, we’re worried about health, we’re worried about schooling,” Megan said. “The pandemic has made everything so much harder.”

Teshawna met Megan through Better Together. The single mother had just moved into a shelter and was trying to get back on her feet when the pandemic hit.

“I’ve been homeless for, like, five years,” Teshwna said. “I went from working five days a week to maybe four days, to one day, to no days.”

Krystal also lost work.

“I got a job at Home Depot, but that was only seasonal, temporary.”

Women were harder hit because they make up the hardest-hit job sectors, including leisure and hospitality, as well as education.

Krystal, who moved down to Florida right before the pandemic, remembers those early days.

“Everything costs money, and trying to be able to save every little bit we could,” Krystal said. “It’s very difficult.”

Across the country, childcare centers cut 35% of their staff in the first two months of the pandemic. In June 2020, workers started to return as those centers reopened, but we have a long way to go.

“When the pandemic happened, we just assumed that our mothers would fill the gap,” said Dr. Alise Bartley, a clinical assistant professor at Florida Gulf Coast University. “This gap has been in regards to our children’s education. This has been so challenging for our poor mothers. They’re so overwhelmed; they’re not teachers.”

Bartley is concerned all the juggling is having a devastating toll on mothers’ mental health. She says to moms: Take a step back, ask for help—even from your children, assigning them more chores if needed—then figure out what you need.

“First and the most important thing is to acknowledge ‘I’m overwhelmed,'” Bartley said. “This is more than just taking a hot bubble bath, this is really about ‘What do I need to feel good?'”

Bartley recommends you commit to starting a behavior today that gives you a mental break: walk, call a friend, do simple breathing exercises and reach out to other moms, just like these three did.

“Moms don’t have to do it alone,” Megan said. “Dads don’t have to do it alone. We, as parents, don’t have to do it alone.”

If your sleep pattern or diet has changed drastically, Bartley says those are signs of depression and you should reach out for help. She also says more mothers are turning to excessive drinking, something else that worries her.

Below are mental health resources available to Southwest Floridians at the national and local level:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

David Lawrence Center  (Collier County)

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Collier County

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry Counties

The National Alliance for Caregiving offers a free handbook
Circle of Care: A Guidebook for Mental Health Caregivers

Collier County Mental Health Court

Lee County Mental Health Court

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Local Support Groups: Anxiety and Depression Association of America

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help)

Local veterans resource: Home Base SWFL

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