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childcare crisis coronavirus

With more than a dozen states reopening their economies this week, schools closed until the fall, half of the country's daycares closed (and the childcare facilities that are still open on financial life support) and literally zero plan in place for workers who need childcare in order to get back to their jobs, parents in the United States are facing an unprecedented childcare crisis. (And that's saying something, considering we already have one of the worst parental leave policies in the world.)

Moms are famous for making a way out of no way, but this is… what's the word I'm looking for? Oh, right: Gobsmackinglyridiculoushorrifying.

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Motherly recently asked parents how they were juggling childcare with other priorities. Here's what they said—proving that America's working parents need—and deserve—a childcare solution, fast.


Little kids' needs have to come first

1. "Doing lots of juggling between working full time at home and spending time and taking care of my 18 month old. My husband also is working from home full time. The struggle is real. Every day is a stressful mess but we are trying our best and she comes first. Work is just going to have to deal with that!" — Ashley

2. "Survival mode. As a newly single mom of an almost 2-year-old who is also working full time with zero help or support, some days I barely get anything done for work. Some days I work from 6am until midnight with breaks to care for my son. I am running on fumes." — Christie

The burden is falling heavily on moms

3. "I'm home. Working two jobs. Dealing with three kids and their homeschooling and a 3-year-old who has decided to unpotty train right now. My husband is in healthcare and is currently working 10-12 hour days. Plus a dog who barks every time I sit down. I get NO TIME and do ALL childcare." — Amy

4. "There is no childcare. I am the childcare. I am working 40+ hours a week from home, teaching fifth grade online, while caring for a 4-year-old and an 18-month-old. My husband is an essential worker and still has to go in three days a week, so I am on my own most days." — Elaine

Women are leaving the workforce to care for their children, because they have no other choice

5. "I had to leave my job temporarily to stay with my daughter. It's not easy, but not a lot of choices!" — Rachel

You know things are messed up when layoffs are the only good news

6. "My husband was (unfortunately) laid off last month. So it kind of worked out to our advantage. He is able to take care of our daughter (thankfully too young for school right now) while I'm working from home. He even bought her some workbooks to do with her. They've also been baking together, coloring, playing and enjoying Disney movies." — Erin

7. "My husband and I were both furloughed, so child care hasn't been an issue. 🤦🏻 Nine months pregnant though, so my mother-in-law will be helping while we are at the hospital." —Mandy

8. "Both my husband and I have been furloughed this past month, so we are both home with our 2-year-old and 9-month-old having the best quality time with them both! This situation is not ideal, but we are enjoying every minute with them without worrying about juggling work too!" — Ana

The pandemic is bringing new meaning to "take your child to work day"

9. "I work at an office and my office is closed to the public but I'm still working and taking my 5-month-old to work with me, and my husband is working from home with our 3-year-old. It is what works best for us but it's a struggle 😂 I do enjoy bringing my little one to work with me but keeping him calm to work is not always easy." — Leah

Even when both parents can work from home, it's still chaos

10. "Both my husband and I are working from home, he's a high school teacher and I work for a utility company. We have 2- and 4-year-old boys, to say crazy and chaotic, is an understatement. Especially when he's teaching class in one room and I'm in a meeting in the other. However, even though we are somewhat getting tired of each other (24/7 for six weeks) it has been nice to see all the changes in the boys and spend some more time with my husband." — Sara

Desperate times mean grandparents are picking up childcare—at a risk

11. "We've had to rely heavily on family preventing us from being able to distance from them because we both work out of the house full time. I wish I could be able to care for my 1-year-old daughter while daycare is closed. She's getting lots of grandma-grandpa time in, though." — Amanda

12. "I'm a teacher so I'm mainly working from home, with a day or two at school. I'm blessed that we are still able to see my mom and dad, and with my husband deployed they have been heaven sent with watching my son when I need to focus on work." — Hannah

13. "Both my husband and I are considered essential workers so we both are still having to go to our day jobs M-F. Our daycare is closed and we have a 4-year-old and a 10-month-old. Thankfully they have been able to go to my parents during the week but I'm not sure how much longer they will be able to do that every day. Hoping this all ends soon! 😓" — Megan

Parents are organizing shifts for work + childcare

14. "My husband is self employed and [business is] slower than usual. He changed his hours to go in later so I can work from home. This way there is only about 1.5 hours I have them on my own while working. We have a 2.5-year-old and a 4-month-old. It's working pretty well considering 😃" — Erin M.

15. "I normally work from home but it's a job that still requires childcare as I'm on the phone a lot. My husband's hours are cut back to 3 days a week so he watches them those days and then my mom comes over on the other three to watch them for a few hours until he gets home." — Debi

Parents are working incredibly long hours

16. "Working evenings, weekends, and on business days splitting with my hubs. Trying to work 2 full-time jobs with no childcare!!" — Dayna

17. "My husband and I are still working. He is actually busier than ever with his cleaning business. Just thankful he can be flexible with his hours. He leaves for work right after I get home." — Claudia

One thing is clear: This is not sustainable, either for parents or for the children who need our care. We need a nationwide plan for childcare during the coronavirus outbreak that includes small business loans for daycares and preschools, federal safety guidelines for childcare providers and nationwide, government-supported childcare for first responders and essential workers.

And that would be a start.

In This Article

    You will always be their safe space, mama

    You are their haven. Their harbor. Their sanctuary, their peace. You are comfort. Deep breaths. Hugs and back rubs. You're a resting place, a nightmare chaser, a healer. You are the calm within their storm. You are their mother.

    To your child, you are safety. You are security. You are where (out of anyone or any place), they can come undone. Where they can let it all out, let it all go. Where they meltdown, break down, scream, cry, push.

    Where they can say—"I AM NOT OKAY!"

    Where they can totally lose it. Without judgment or fear or shame.

    Because they know you'll listen. They know you'll hear them. That you will help piece the mess back together.

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    Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

    With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

    Minimize smoke exposure.

    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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