Pandemic Parenting: The childcare struggle continues
today at 6:16 pm
My almost two-year-old and I have been taking a lot of walks. Last week I logged 8 miles in one day, and coming from someone who never jumped on the 10k-steps-a-day bandwagon, well…that’s a lot.
Anyway, I’ve found that around 10 a.m. in my neighborhood, there is what I like to call the stroller parade. On sunny days, the sidewalks are jammed with moms and caregivers pushing their Uppababy strollers (is there any other stroller?) down the tree-lined streets of Chicago.
I am lucky enough to join this daily parade because my normal 9-5 office job has been temporarily condensed into a part-time, couple-hours-a-day job until we have childcare set up this summer. Which means I am effectively a stay-at-home-mom most of the day. This new setup has allowed me to spend hours upon hours with my spunky little toddler. But, it’s also confirmed one crucial thing: I love to work.
And so with that, I’m very excited to be returning to work full-time in a couple of weeks! But that means things are about to get complicated.
My husband and I have been waffling over our childcare options since daycare closed in mid-March. Every option seems flawed and none are without risk. Over the past couple of months, I’ve surveyed friends and colleagues to see what they were doing – some had kept their nannies this whole time or had grandparents close by that insisted on helping out, while others, like us, were trying to make it work without any help.
When most daycares reopened a couple weeks ago, we had a decision to make. But before I share more about that, I think it’s important to explain that we, as a family, have been on the strict end of the spectrum since mid-March. We’ve essentially seen no one and done nothing.
In early June, I started to see people on the street wearing clothes with purpose – like they were going to go to a restaurant patio to have a spicy margarita. I saw a woman in a dress and cute sandals and I stared at her, with envy, for way too long.
Despite Chicago opening up, we’ve continued to hold off on venturing out for a few reasons, one being that we want to go see our parents, and we don’t want to put them at any greater risk. Another, less concrete reason is, well, we’ve done it for THIS long and we’re still in a pandemic, so why would we change our behavior just because Lori Lightfoot says we can eat in the street! (Even though I am dying for that spicy marg).
Because we’ve felt so strongly about quarantining ourselves this whole time, we really struggled with making a childcare decision. I know many, many others who were (and are) dealing with this struggle too. (There is literally a new discussion thread on this topic in my pandemic parenting Facebook group almost every other day.)
One of the things I’ve found to be most challenging about the pandemic is figuring out how to make decisions about…everything. Everyone you talk to has different points of view based on so many factors: Their own health and their family’s (is anyone high-risk?), the status of their loved ones (are they near or far?), where do they live (in an area with widespread cases?), and ultimately, their personal tolerance for risk.
When I tried to do some research around how to make this decision about childcare, the information I found was impossible to break down into usable advice. The resources I would normally turn to for decisions about my child or my family were lacking in any concrete advice that I could turn into confident action. And of no fault of their own – there are just so many unknowns right now that even the experts aren’t really experts.
And so I came to the realization that you can go round and round in circles and read every social media comment on this topic that exists, but at the end of the day, you have to combine the knowledge that you do have with your gut, making sure that in addition to the health and safety of you and your loved ones, you include your own sanity in the mix too. As economist and ParentData blogger Emily Oster smartly put it:
“In the end, you’ll need to make all of these decisions knowing there is no way to be sure they are right, or wrong. That is the uncertainty that we need to accept to move forward.”
With that mindset, we made a decision. It involves a combination of options to get us through the summer and fall, and while I’ve got about a dozen fears and concerns about our plan, the real win here is that a decision was made.
Living in this weird pandemic bubble can feel so permanent, even when we know it’s not. As parents, impermanence is our bread and butter. We are used to uncertainty and constant change. We’ll watch our kids go from bottles and diapers to crayons and superheroes to cars and dating. And with that change builds resiliency, strength and patience – putting us in the perfect position to weather life’s challenges and make hard choices, like the ones we’re facing now.
I hope that making the tough decisions now will make our daily lives feel that much lighter when we’re not living in a pandemic. Hopefully a year from now, when I’m craving a spicy margarita, the decision to go to a Mexican restaurant will be less painstakingly difficult.
*Just a note that my heart goes out to all the working moms and dads who’ve either had less freedom of choice, or who lost their jobs due to the pandemic, or were pushed out of the workforce because they had to stay home with their kids. While the U.S. economy is on the rebound, there are still many people who are sick, many who have lost loved ones, and many who are out of work. Let’s continue to keep things in perspective.
Completely spam free, opt out any time.
Latest on ChicagoNow
Chicago violent crime surging? Watch Judge O’Brien, R Cand. for CC State’s Attorney, dissect State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s performance, Cable & Webfrom Public Affairs with Jeff Berkowitz by Jeff Berkowitz
posted today at 7:54 pm
from One Cause At A Time by Gordon Dymowski
posted today at 6:57 pm
from Aspiring Dance Mom by Natalie Matthews
posted today at 6:16 pm
from Drive, She Said by Jill Ciminillo
posted today at 4:55 pm
from Girls Go Racing by vettegal
posted today at 4:21 pm
Posts from related blogs
Most recent post: Lincoln Park Zoo announces dates for reopening
Most recent post: Happy Father’s Day in heaven Richard John Collins
Most recent post: Chicago book events come to you: Monday, June 15-Saturday, June 20, 2020
More from Entertainment: Art & Culture
Read these ChicagoNow blogs
Chicago Cubs news and comprehensive blog, featuring old school baseball writing combined with the latest statistical trends
Pets available for adoption in the Chicago area
Show Me Chicago previews, reviews and expresses opinions on what’s happening in Chicago from Blockbuster Theater, to what’s new in dining, arts, and the neighborhoods.
Read these ChicagoNow Bloggers