Childcare: What does it look like during a pandemic?
Childcare is a fundamental support structure that families rely on in order to function and thrive. There is a high probability that pre-pandemic, you had some sort of childcare in place. Once the pandemic hit, however, this situation likely changed, and you were among the millions of other families scrambling to adjust to these new circumstances. Whether you are from a two-income household, a one-income household, or have a partner that stays home, there is a high likelihood that your childcare situation today looks different than it did last January.
As COVID-19 swept the nation and lockdown became a required step to navigating the early stages of the pandemic, working families were managing the insane task of keeping their career alive while performing another full-time job of childcare. The unique scenario has been especially detrimental to women. It broke down the major foundation needed for mothers specifically to pursue careers as the impossible was asked of women with virtually no means of support. The repercussions of childcare being inaccessible for months and schools, either 100% virtual or in a hybrid model, left a gaping hole that is vital for parents to operate in for daily support while employed. Data provided more visibility to the impact of these unsustainable scenarios, with 865,000 women leaving the workforce in the month of September.
So, what does childcare even look like right now? As a parent exploring these options, it can feel incredibly daunting and challenging to navigate. The excellent news is childcare providers are eager to earn your trust and build an environment that meets required safety guidelines. Now it is a matter of navigating and assessing what type of provider is the best solution for your family.
A great place to start navigating the right fit considering COVID-19 being a part of these decisions is a questionnaire developed by the Mavin Clinic. You can also find resources through the CDC.
Once you have identified the best solution for your family, let's review the options.
In-Home Group Childcare – This is a much more intimate setting, and many are opting into this experience as it provides the peace of mind of a smaller group -- similar to the pandemic “pod” trend that is springing up among school aged children. A fantastic resource to get you started is Winnie. Winne provides parents with a database of open childcare facilities in your area.
Daycare/Preschool – A couple of things to expect here. You will most likely not be able to tour the facility. Instead, I would recommend asking for a virtual tour with full disclosure on policy and procedures of navigating compliance to state and federal guidelines related to COVID-19. Your comfort level is crucial here. This experience will be the first taste of the type of communication you could expect from your provider. For more support on selecting a daycare or preschool, visit healthychildren.org.
Nanny – This is an incredibly personal experience as you are inviting someone into your home and during COVID-19 it requires a detailed agreement related to your child’s health and safety. It is important to be very clear on what you are comfortable with regarding your potential nanny. Ongoing communication will be incredibly crucial to ensure you receive the level of experience and care you are looking for from your nanny. Things to keep in mind. Do you require COVID-19 testing before starting with a nanny? Are you going to require ongoing testing, and how frequently? What will be the terms you are comfortable with when your nanny or you need to quarantine or call out sick? What expectations do you have related to social distancing practices outside of the home? For more support to reference through this discussion, visit care.com. Other options include The Nanny League and Sittercity.
Whatever childcare provider you move forward with, I would recommend having a supported backup plan. I would ask your employer about this as you may find resources within your employee benefits regarding additional backup childcare options. Alternatively, your employer may now have extended leave options for families that need them should someone get sick. Either way, having a second and third option for childcare above and beyond your selected first choice is crucial. As we have experienced thus far, change is very much a part of our daily lives. With the pandemic's unpredictability, having trustworthy backup solutions to your primary caregiving needs is an absolute necessity.
Most importantly, don’t be discouraged. These are challenging times for all parents across this country and across this world. While childcare solutions can seem daunting right now, you are one step closer to finding the right solution for you. The rewards of selecting your provider will have incredible value and be a great extension to the village we all need during these times.
And for expecting mothers, there is support for you too. I encourage you to visit learning-motherhood.com for additional resources including a curated weekly newsletter.
Author Kimberly Didrikson has three small children aged 6, 4, and 2. Kimberly worked in corporate America for over 15 years before founding Learning Motherhood, an organization that helps women returning back to work after having a baby. Learning Motherhood creates customized programs to assist organizations in building a work environment that embraces families to strengthen company values, sustain and retain employees while attracting strong talent to their organizations. For daily support for working parents follow @learningmotherhood.