“To say its been an unproductive shit show is probably pretty accurate.”

Parenting (and working?) during a pandemic.
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The new normal? Probably. // Photo by April Fleming

I haven’t talked to a parent in the last week and a half that is not – at a minimum – halfway freaked out. It’s of course due to, you know, pandemic and potential economic collapse, but in almost equal measure none of us know what the fuck we are going to do without daycare or school. Without family or trips to friends’ houses. Without restaurants. Without playgrounds. Without trips to the zoo or library, and without regular trips to the store. Many suddenly without work or in fear of furlough.

Emily Farris, a writer and mom of two, doesn’t feel she can take her newborn to the pediatrician for wellness visits, and vaccines that she wants. She also feels like she has to distance from her in-laws, who provide childcare for her four-year-old. “It’s sad and it’s hard,” she says. “They’re our people and our support system. Their house is a second home to my son. And he’s their greatest joy. This sucks for everyone.”

Another parent of two (who opted to remain anonymous) that is expected to work regular full-time hours has a spouse who is an overnight EMS worker. They wrote, “To say its been an unproductive shit show is probably pretty accurate. I have pretty much just given in to a ton of screen time because I have no idea what else to do to keep [my 14-month-old] from crying. He has also been sick, so that doesn’t help! Ugh. I’m very grateful my paycheck is still there unlike so many others….but I’m not sure my sanity will be soon.” Perhaps their biggest concern: should the EMS spouse be exposed or get sick, they will be a single parent for two weeks, both juggling children and work.

“Another part of what is so difficult is having this [spread out over an] indeterminate amount of time],” says Rebekah Tolley, an adjunct art professor at SUNY in upstate New York, who is now managing two children at home with her husband, also an academic. Both are teaching their classes remotely, with kids in the background. “I have no idea what will happen next fall. It’s possible classes will remain online, and that I will lose mine because the course I teach isn’t really possible to do online. [We don’t know] how long things will be this way and it’s certainly scarier as things change and become more restricted day by day.”

I have another friend who works full time, is pregnant with a young daughter and has chronic leukemia. The drugs Trump is currently (erroneously) touting as a possible treatment are the drugs she takes in her regular course of medicine. Another mom I spoke with suddenly has three children at home and isn’t able to get anything done. She is convinced she will lose her job if this goes on for more than a few weeks. None of us know how we’re going to manage this as it goes on.

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Photo by April Fleming

My husband and I have a two-year-old daughter. She’s smart and funny and cute and we love spending our days with her. We pulled her out of school last week (March 16th), though the daycare isn’t planning to close unless the church it operates under closes its schools, the state closes all daycares, or a parent, child, or teacher is diagnosed with the thing.

I completely recognize the school’s dilemma – people need childcare so they can continue to support themselves, kids function best with consistency, kids love being around other kids, and these teachers need to keep their jobs as much as anyone else does (likely more! Oh my god, I miss them so much already). Daycare teachers generally are also criminally underpaid, and many of them have their own families to support. But, but, but… especially if you’re waiting for confirmed diagnosis, the reality is such that this is too late. Diagnosis = exposure, possibly for several days. It would also mean for us personally that we might not be able to see my 76-year-old dad (who happens to have COPD and other persistent health issues) for a length of time I actively choose not to think about right now, on top of not wanting to inadvertently hurt someone here, or wind up in a hospital ourselves.

So, here we are, only one (one!) week in. We’ve never even really had to grapple with this set of circumstances – we’ve essentially lost our childcare for an unforeseeable amount of time, we’re physically avoiding our families and friends, our favorite restaurants and bars are closed or barely making it and industry friends who work in those places are seemingly fucked. Concerts are off, and venues now struggle too. And then there’s the risk of even just touching the wrong thing when we go out and undoing what sacrifices we have made.

And we know (and remind ourselves) that we are the fortunate ones. That said, I don’t think you need me to tell you that work and toddlers do not mix. Currently my husband and I are basically just taking turns parenting, and we’re exhausting ourselves. Right now I go in to my office for about 3 hours a day, usually in the morning. I work in a large 3-story building in the Crossroads, and right now I am only one of two or three people in the whole 40,000-or-so-square-foot place – it’s weird and eerie but I feel safe as long as it is empty like this, and it gives me some sense of normalcy. After not even a half of a typical work day I come home and immediately jump into mom-ing so my husband can take his turn to work. Two days this week we got a good midday nap and we all had a moment to catch up, three days not so much.

We are trying to be outside in our yard or walking around our neighborhood or doing art-ish projects every day for exercise and to just not look at phones or news or screens. We’re letting our kiddo watch 2ish (whatever, or more) hours of Sesame Street or Daniel Tiger throughout the day just for some quiet time – this is a big change for us and maybe I would feel guilty if I had any energy to. Once we get her fed, bathed, and to bed, I rest with her for maybe 20 minutes. Then my husband and I eat, and we go back to working for another 2-3 hours – now with wine, everyone I know seems to be drinking more (weird). This time of day is not good for me and I don’t think well at night, but that’s the time we have.

I’m not sleeping well, despite being extremely tired. It’s not even been a week.

Categories: Culture