Published: April 21, 2022 12:57 PM PT

Toppel is the chief operating officer at Jewish Family Service of San Diego and the founder of MAKE WORK WORK FOR MOMS. She lives in Del Cerro.

“COVID-19 showed us that the structure of motherhood is breaking, if not broken, and we have to reimagine motherhood once and for all, because America doesn’t work without its moms.” — Reshma Saujani

Women are the center of our economy, care systems and essential work — but they aren’t at the center of our policies, programs and pandemic recovery plans.

Over the last two years, millions of women have been driven out of the workforce as lockdowns, homeschooling and domestic duties such as caregiving for children and older adult parents took over. The World Economic Forum reported that the pandemic pushed gender parity back a generation — setting our progress back 30-plus years.

There are policy changes and programs that could be implemented to mitigate this impact yet there isn’t the political will or private sector leadership commitment to get us there.

And as we acknowledge women and moms are at the center, we must ask: Why is this so hard to get done?

Reshma Saujaniis outlining clear recommendations around how we invest in women as we move toward recovery after the last two years, in Marshall Plan for Moms and her latest book, “Pay Up: The Future of Women and Work (and Why It’s Different Than You Think). Included among her clear and impactful recommendations are paying caregivers a monthly, income-qualified cash payment, aka guaranteed income, for their uncompensated work of caregiving — and advancing policies that support affordable and accessible childcare, parental leave and pay equity.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Californians struggled to cover basic expenses, secure quality childcare, access paid leave and maintain stable housing. And Californians aren’t alone.

During the pandemic various responses were implemented including COVID-19 supplemental sick leave, child tax credits that put extra dollars in parents’ pockets and eviction moratoriums that took away the worry (temporarily) that one would lose their housing.

Now as the pandemic may be winding down, the recovery is just beginning, and it will be a long one without significant investments in women.

Policymakers must make the experiences that working moms are having in their policy, program and budget plans front and center.

I spoke with Saujani last month and asked her to share three things we can do now to show up for working moms. One is raise awareness about the challenges facing women who are caregivers, and organize. Women are the predominant caregivers for their children and older parents and are also most workers in the care economy. Another is for workplaces to shift from programs like mentoring, to policies like paid leave, dependent care benefits, predictably flexible work schedules and paid day care.

It’s important to approach this with an equity lens, including being mindful of supporting non-birth parents’ paid leave, encouraging it be taken and creating predictably flexible schedules that still support employees’ ability to be seen, heard and valued.

We know working moms have said, “Give me predictability and flexibility, and around 80 percent of us will go back to work.”

We need moms to come back. The longer someone stays out of the workforce, the harder it is to get back. We also know if it works for moms, it will work for most.

So, America, this is the moment.

While we wait and advocate for America to show up, start showing up for moms. As you know in your roles as leaders, parents, organizers and humans, moms always show up for us.