By Eileen Ogintz

Tribune Content Agency

I’ll admit it.

Sometimes, when my kids were small, work was a welcome respite from the never-ending chaos at home — and I had a pretty stressful job as a reporter for a big city newspaper.

One of my now adult kids reminded me the other day of all the times she would interrupt me when I was trying to make phone calls from home. “And you never told me to stop,” she said.

That was, of course, before Zoom made every home interaction instantly visible to work colleagues and at a time “face time” meant you were at your desk in an office where bosses could see you. Bosses never believed you were really “working from home.”

Now, of course, most of us not only have to work from home — if we still have jobs — but the pandemic has required working parents take over day care and home-schooling without help or without a break. Except for first responders and healthcare workers who literally put their lives on the line when they go to work, afraid they will get sick as so many have from treating COVID-19 patients.

Happy Mother’s Day! If there ever was a time to thank moms for all they do (dad you’ll get your turn in June) it’s this year, as we celebrate the strangest Mother’s Day ever — no fancy brunches, multigenerational gatherings, last-minute gifts or surprise visits from grown kids.

Mother’s Day, incidentally, was first promoted as a way for women to promote global unity after the horrors of the U.S. Civil War and Europe’s Franco-Prussian War. The holiday didn’t really gain traction until the early years of the 20th century when a woman named Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother, a peace activist who had cared for Civil War soldiers from both sides, and began a campaign for a holiday to honor all mothers. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson designated the second Sunday in May as the official Mother’s Day.

Jarvis later bemoaned how commercial Mother’s Day had become. Last year, the Los Angeles Times reported, that commercialism added up to some $26 billion being spent. Likely that won’t be the case this year with so much of the economy shut down.

American Red Cross disaster services vehicle and logo
American Red Cross disaster services vehicle and logo

This year, consider a different way to honor the moms, grandmas and other mother figures in your life, whatever your budget. Encourage the children who love you (whatever their ages) to make a donation in mom’s name to the American Red Cross or another cause that can help those so impacted by the financial fallout from the pandemic. A number of highly rated charities have created funds to support communities around the world affected by the outbreak, according to Charity Navigator. Every donation counts.

The travel and hospitality industry has been especially hard hit with the potential loss of 4.6 million travel-related jobs, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Ordering takeout for mom from her favorite restaurant will be a welcome gift — and will help those trying to keep restaurants afloat.

Consider all of the people — the hotel housekeepers, the restaurant servers, the chefs, bartenders the kids’ club staffs and cruise ship stewards, the destination wedding planners, those who work at theme parks, airport workers — who work so hard to make your hard-earned vacations happy. Think of all the people you have met who depend on your tourist dollars to raise their families in Orlando and Cape Cod, Colorado, California and Alaska. No one knows how long they will be out of work — or if there will even be jobs when this is over.

The hospitality industry is helping with everything from free flights and rooms for health care workers to meals for children who had relied on free school lunches, but it’s not enough. That’s where your Mother’s Day gift can make a difference. Match your gift with a vacation memory.

Volunteers collecting food donations in warehouse
Volunteers collecting food donations in warehouse

Remember congratulating your mom for finding that amazing local pizza place on your last vacation? Pizza vs Pandemic is feeding frontline workers and helping independent pizzerias by coordinating large orders with independent pizzerias.

How about the hotel housekeepers who would always leave extra towels and soap? Another Round Another Rally provides emergency aid for hospitality workers.

Remember the time you had to rush to an urgent care center or an ER on vacation? Donate PPE is a fund designed to provide personal protective equipment in hospitals where the surge in cases has depleted supplies for healthcare workers

That super-nice waitress who kept joking with the kids? The bartender who created bespoke cocktails for your 20-somethings? The One Fair Wage Emergency Fund targets restaurant workers, gig workers and other hourly workers who are facing sudden and unprecedented hardship; the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation distributes funds to workers and restaurants.

If there is a specific destination that means a lot to your family, donate to their local food pantry (they are facing unprecedented demand). Check with the local chamber of commerce to see where a donation might me most needed.

The moms in your life are guaranteed to be delighted. And you get a pat on the back too.

Besides, there’s always time for that fancy brunch — when this is over.

Virtual hugs all around!