Mothering during the pandemic

“The truth is, I don’t know how to read. I don’t know how to write.” - Fátima, 21, asylum seeker & mother of two from Honduras

An asylum seeker from Cameroon cooking whole fish & plantains over an open fire at a migrant shelter in Reynosa, Mexico. When families migrate, women often take care of most or all of the needs of their children and partner.

In August 2020, I flew to Reynosa, Mexico to report on motherhood among asylum seekers trapped at the US-Mexico border. I published “Motherhood on the Line” this week. Reporting during the pandemic is at once challenging and terrifying. Everyone you meet is experiencing some level of trauma, and humans during this time are more unpredictable.

The mothers I met in Reynosa were dealing with their own trauma, the trauma of their children, and daily tasks like finding food and cooking over an open fire.

A child from Honduras showed me how to properly wash hands during the pandemic. He was living with his mother, who got pregnant at age 13 & never learned to read or write, in a tent.

A woman & girl washing clothes at the Path of Life migrant shelter in Reynosa. When I was at the shelter, the men were sitting in chairs in the shade napping and chatting.

One issue I always discuss with women and girls is reproductive choice. Women and girls want to plan their families. Women and girls often do not want children. As a society, we are failing our women and girls and even, despite the cultural veneration of mothers, failing our mothers. The pandemic has only exacerbated existing equalities and increased domestic violence. We must do better.