Tired of hearing about the zombie apocalypse known as Covid19, but also feel like you should probably read more about it? Join the club. Working parents face a very particular stress over Coronavirus.
I’m not going to touch the medical side, but there are many great resources out there to stay up to date (WHO & CDC). However, looking at China, Japan, South Korea and Italy we see a glimpse of what’s coming and it’s not pretty, especially for those of us who are nurturing a career while raising tiny humans.
From playgrounds to drop-offs and group texts, the question on everyone’s mind is: “if my childcare closes, how am I supposed to work full time and take care of my kids?” The implications and unintended consequences of closures on American families would be massive. More than 60% of households in the US are two parent dual earners and about 25% of children live with one parent. Most parents have few, if any, options for one-off emergency childcare, let alone a plan in place for a prolonged period of time.
So what are working parents thinking about when it comes to Coronavirus? I’ve asked a lot of them. In general, there is more stress about logistics than the actual illness. And for good reason. As anyone who has tried working from home with no childcare knows, it’s a bit like watching a baby learn to feed themselves; something might end up in their mouth, but it’s messy and inefficient. It’s definitely not a long term solution (but if you do end up working from home, here are some tips).
There are a lot of questions swirling around: What backup childcare do you have? How long would a school closing last? Is public transportation safe? What if a caretaker has a sick family member? How do I prepare without necessarily alarming my kids? How much Disney+ can I stomach?
Many of these questions depend on the age of your kid(s), your financial position, and just how bad of an outbreak we’re talking about. The top concerns for working parents are:
Underlying these questions is a stark economic divide that cannot be ignored. The lack of sick pay in this country makes the situation even more stressful and challenging for hourly workers. What happens to working parents in the service industry for whom working from home is simply not feasible? Julie Kashen said it best, “This is just going to exacerbate the problems that already exist but also make stark economic inequalities.”
So what can we do? I’d tell you to buy hand sanitizer but it’s all sold out and hand washing is better anyway. Absent that, here are a few steps you can take now:
I’ve read several accounts of people quarantined with their kids. Most end with charming anecdotes about the imposed quality time spent with their kid. While I do appreciate that benefit, the complicated realities of trying to work from home during this period are stress inducing to say the least. Luckily, as a working parent, you’re well used to things not going as planned and staying flexible. This is like that, but more.