I look at my one year old daughter standing in front of the TV while I’m on mute. It’s 7 AM and I’m on a call for work. Hours pass and the calls keep coming and my daughter is still there, in front of the TV, walking around, not a care in the world.
She’s happy. But I’m worried.
Our plan was to send her to the same little daycare school our son attends but then the pandemic hit. Everything shut down in Chicago and the surrounding areas, like many cities across the country, and so we stumbled on with two kids at home during the summer.
We were finally able to send our son back to preschool late in the summer of 2020 but we decided to keep our daughter home. Could we manage it? Did we even have a choice?
The answers were barely and no.
My husband ended up losing his job due to the pandemic early on, right after the first major shutdown. A blow for him personally and to us financially – like so many others, you’re left feeling helpless. And as many parents have experienced, childcare costs are outrageous. For two of our kids in full-time care, it’s nearly $50k a year, and that’s not an exaggeration.
So we stumbled forward, like a slow crawl in quicksand, and did our best. My husband would take on much of the child care while trying to job search throughout the day. We were never equipped with how to manage it all. Should we have been?
Days were so long. And not in a good way. I often thought of that saying, “The days are long but the years are short.”
The days were long.
I would hear people make comments like, “but it’s more time with your kids when they’re little.” “It’s time you’ll never get back, they grow up so fast.” “You’ll look back and be grateful for that extra time spent.”
But it’s not quality time spent. I wasn’t spending time with my kids – I was hacking it while trying to do a full-time job.
I’m still hacking it. The days are still long. We’re going on a year of this and it’s not working.
The mental health crisis for moms is not new. It was alive and well prior to the pandemic, but this thing has wreaked havoc on us even more.
Childcare is raging on at the same unaffordability as before (at the expense of exhausted, underpaid teachers), work still demands as much of your time and effort (with additional anxiety around not losing your job during a global pandemic), and the little life you have left is frayed by never having a break (we’re all craving our friends and family but most of us are Zoomed out by happy hour).
Hours have gone by, and on my next call my daughter makes an appearance. She’s cute, laughing at herself in the Zoom frame. Coworkers laugh too.
But I’m not laughing. I can hardly pay attention because she’s pulling my hair or screaming or knocking something over. My husband has been able to find a new job in 2021, so we take turns with this routine all day long.
The guilt is heavy. I can’t help but feel like I’m letting my daughter down during such an important developmental phase. What gives?
I’m eager to see how the workforce changes post-pandemic. If it does for the better. What I’m seeing now is a lot of talk but not as much action. The calls still come around the clock and I worry that this new normal of juggling it all will take shape and stay put.
Not being shamed for having kids around during work is good…but it’s not sustainable on the other end. Not commuting has been a great gift of time back, but it gets booked with meetings.
There is a new way of working out there – most of the big corporations haven’t figured it out just yet. I believe it looks more like the inner workings of a gig economy and less like the “9-5s.”
Let’s begin doing something about it. Let’s follow the talk up with a plan.
We need help, desperately.