When the country, Louisiana, and subsequently Acadiana shut down over a year ago, all non-essential workers were asked to stay home to decrease the spread of COVID-19. My husband and I are both “essential” workers and worked during the shutdown/stay-at-home orders. Our daughter was not quite a year old at the start of the shut down – she is cared for by our amazing, phenomenal, loving, and magical in-home sitter. Our sitter has been the sole reason we are able to continue to work. To say that we are grateful is a huge understatement – words cannot fully express our sincere gratitude and love for her.
Once I watched the news and talked to other parents about their childcare struggles/issues, I realized just how difficult this time was for working parents – specifically working mothers. This still remains a true issue today. Several daycares shut down as their schedules mirror the local school schedule. When LPSS shut down schools, several MDO programs closed, private schools closed, and so did a good number of daycares. The wild part is that for some (many) work did not stop. If anything, work was busier and/or employers needed their employees to show up. When these schools closed, so did extracurricular activities which sometimes allow parents the opportunity to work until the end of their shifts. When schools closed, so did the aftercare provided to parents/students.
Where would all of these kids go if their parents were essential employees?
At one point during the pandemic, 70% of daycares were closed in Louisiana. That is 7 out of 10. How could parents continue to work? Why was no one screaming this from the rooftops? I have a pretty good idea, but that will be for another article. Out of curiosity, various times during the pandemic I called childcare centers to determine if I could enroll my daughter or change her childcare provider. Nope. I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I’ll add I likely didn’t call EVERY provider, but I called several. Childcare providers are more expensive the younger the child is – children require more care the younger they are. I was met with these responses – we don’t have any openings due to lack of staff (childcare workers with childcare issues), we are hoping to have more information soon as we are waiting for workers to return, or we just don’t have the staff and we probably won’t any time soon.
One full year later there is no way for some working moms to return to work as their jobs are no longer available.
Schools are open full time and it as if life has returned to normal for many. Some economists are saying that some parents who are unable to return to work or have no work to return to due to the childcare crisis “will be on a lower earnings trajectory for the rest of your life”. How dismal this outlook is for so many. How discouraging. This crisis has overwhelmingly affected working moms (3x more than dads). Some reports are saying that this crisis will set women back an entire generation. This may not be meaningful to some but think about this – what if you enjoyed working and what if you were one of the unfortunate people faced with this issue? What will this look like for our children – specifically our daughters?
The additional federal unemployment provided during the shutdown didn’t address this issue. The PPP loans didn’t fix the crisis or aid in providing a solution to this problem. The three stimulus payments to some Americans didn’t address the crisis. Honestly, I am a full-time working mother and without my sitter (who saved us from being in this crisis) I have no idea what I would have done to obtain childcare. Even with the ability to pay for a sitter, there were none readily available. When you couple people who are not making livable wages with a lack of affordable childcare options, what did folks think would happen? I do want to add that there are several amazing nonprofits, local leaders, and our world-class public library who stepped up big to fill this gap during this time – most notably – Boys and Girls Club of Acadiana and The Family Tree to name a couple (again this list is not a full list because we absolutely do live in the best place). The public library has a system to check out a portable wifi device for those students in need – way to pivot, library!
Why is no one talking about this?
Why are working mothers/fathers bearing the burden of this alone? Wouldn’t this affect all employers and the local community – better employee pool, better employee sanity, less stress and anxiety, more diverse candidates, better candidates to run for school board and city council, the list continues and is nowhere near fully inclusive. What can be done on a local level to address this? What can be done with the federal money provided to the state and local municipalities in the last federal stimulus package to address this crisis? Does our local community care about children who are in need of childcare? Mamas, I see you. I hear you. I stand with you. I’ll email my councilman and may state rep – will you join me? Any thoughts on how to combat this problem?