Going Back to Work - What do we do with our kids?

They flipped the switch. With many states still showing rising or steady infection and death rates, the federal and state governments, against the guidelines set by our top public health experts, have sent the country back to work.  One of the many problems this raises for working parents is that of childcare. “Child care is the issue that has gotten the least attention in discussions about employees returning to work. As states begin to slowly reopen and return employees to work, working parents are left wondering who will care for their children if schools, day cares and camps are closed.”

One Think Tank Member writes:

I'm a mother of four children and when we went on this shutdown both the kids’ school and my job was shutdown. So I was home with them 24/7. Getting ready to go on three weeks ago, I was notified that we had to return to work. Now, it was stated to us that if we weren't comfortable coming back yet, we could make that decision, but it would be with no pay. Well obviously as a single parent, with a single income, with bills to pay and mouths to feed, that is not an option. In this meeting as we are getting information about coming back someone asked, "Will there be daycare provided at work with all the daycares closed?" The reply was, "I'm going to be in the same boat, and if you know any in home nannies please let me know." Definitely not in the same boat if you ask me cause I couldn't afford a nanny! No solution there!

In fact when school is in session I use the childcare assistance from JFS to help lower my childcare cost because I am a single income household not making much from a job I chose only because of the hours which allow me to be home shortly after they get out of school and attend most activities they have. Right now it's all working because my 18 year old is home. But she moves out of state in a week. 

Okay, so...

Daycares are starting to open back up. But word is they have cut total attendance back with frontline workers having priority. So of the children that were attending, if they are the child that is a number after the max allowed in the room is filled, then childcare here is not available anymore. No solution here either!  I talked with someone that goes into these facilities for their job. She stated that she knows some facilities that will adhere to the new guidelines, but they know not all facilities will stay on top of all the new rules. What??? As a parent that is not a front line worker, that is on assistance that they could discriminate against with that, not established in a daycare already, does that mean I'm on a waiting list? And will I have to settle for mediocre care? How do I know I picked the one that will stay on top of all the new regulations the very best they can? 

All in all, they want us to open everything back up and all go back to work! So my question is where are all the solutions to making opening everything back up happen without all the stress and grief this is going to cause people like myself that just can’t afford to hire a personal nanny?

While some of the legislated relief efforts offer child care subsidies to parents, the loopholes leave many, many parents unsupported. “What’s more, with almost half of the nation’s childcare facilities closed during the pandemic, parents cannot find open positions for their children even if they have the money. While some legislators publicly worry that generous unemployment checks will discourage people from going back to work, many U.S. workers are coping with a more quotidian barrier: a lack of child care. As the novel Coronavirus blazes through the country, most schooling has moved online and thousands of day-care facilities have shut down, either by decree or because demand has cratered.”

The Wall Street Journal reports, “Now, as some governors loosen restrictions and companies call employees back to work, parents are scrambling to find care. As of early April, nearly half of child-care facilities nationwide had closed completely, and 17% remained open only for the children of essential workers, according to a survey of 5,000 child-care providers conducted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Schools in 40 states have been ordered to stay shut through the end of the school year.” 

But let’s face it. Schools are our largest childcare facility, and politicians are pushing to open those. The CDC has issued guidelines that try to limit the danger of infection.  States like Ohio are contemplating split shifts at school, which land the working parents right back in the problem – childcare.

Every economic system has to reckon with the family unit, the basic element of society. For years, the cultural norm was for the father to earn wages while the mother worked, unpaid, to maintain the family unit, saving all the father’s labor power for the employer, who basically got two employees for the price of one.  This is part of the cultural basis for the lower status of women that still plagues us today, with women statistically still making only a fraction of what men make for the same work  Of course, this was not true for poor and immigrant women who worked alongside their eight year old children in mines, mills, and agriculture. And it is not true now, when both parents are required to be employed in order to bring home a living wage. 

The material conditions of our lives determine our consciousness. If you have not worked a dead end job at poverty wages, struggled to pay the rent to avoid eviction, foregone health insurance to put food on the table, you can’t understand the needs of working people. 40% of America is one $400 emergency from disaster.  The President is a billionaire. The overwhelming majority of the Senate and many Congressmen are millionaires. Those who make our laws are often divorced from the reality of most of working America. They create training programs for jobs that don’t exist. They give housing vouchers for affordable housing that can’t be found. And now they offer halfway “solutions” to childcare, offering subsidies to some when there are not enough openings to use the subsidies. While pushing America back to work, some of our elected officials publicly worry about “coddling” working people with benefits that will make them “unwilling to go back to work.”

We need to tell them our reality. Loudly and soon.



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