On this day two years ago, I remember gripping my younger daughter’s hand especially tight on the way to her preschool. We were almost at the front door when I felt my phone buzz with an email from the school: A parent in the community had been exposed to the coronavirus, and “out of an abundance of caution we recommend that you keep your child home if possible.”
My stomach dropped, and in retrospect, I recognize that as the moment — for me — when everything changed. Over the next several days, my kids’ schools closed their doors for the rest of the semester, my septuagenarian parents both got Covid and, like millions of parents across the country, my husband and I were trying to hold down our full-time jobs while also home-schooling and caring for our two children, who were then 3 and 7. The spring of 2020 was miserable — and we had it relatively easy. We weren’t struggling to afford basics such as diapers, we had a safe home to live in and our jobs were adaptable to remote work.
Since then, I’ve spoken to hundreds of parents across the country about their pandemic parenting experiences. In 2021, my colleague Jessica Bennett and I captured your primal screams and cataloged the ways that moms in particular felt betrayed by society, as Dr. Pooja Lakshmin wrote for The Times.
Even though Covid case levels are at a low right now, things aren’t back to normal for most American parents. Child care availability is still laughable, and it’s affecting parents’ ability to do their jobs. A new report from Pew Research Center shows that 48 percent of people who left jobs in 2021 said they did so in part because of child care issues. I don’t know about you, but my brain still feels pretty broken.
While I have spent a lot of time talking about the problems parents face (because there are just so many of them), as we enter pandemic year three, The Times also wants to hear from you about solutions.
What would help you right now? Would it be a refresh of government policy on tax credits or paid leave? A culture that did more to show that it valued parents? Consistent child care? Massage therapy? A trip to the beach? A different job? Moving closer to family? Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your family’s circumstances, along with what would help you, in the form below.
I did leave my kid at preschool on March 12, 2020, because I looked down at her cherubic little face and knew it was going to be her last day in school for a very long time — I didn’t want to take that away from her. Both of my children have loved the schools they’ve attended, and if the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s the astounding importance of experienced teachers and the daily structure, knowledge and care they provide. If there is one overall policy change that would help me — and other parents — the most, I think it would be finding a way to pay teachers more, especially at the preschool level. (I could also use a spa weekend, with friends and sans kids, but that can be my runner-up request.)
Parenting can be a grind. Let’s celebrate the tiny victories.
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