Working Mom vs COVID-19


So this is happening. And everything keeps changing. The plans for work and school and every other place that existed last week for COVID-19 or the Coronavirus, have changed. Whatever I write here could be different in the next week. We’ve got plenty of food in the freezer, apple juice in the basement, Netflix & Hulu, and an emergency fund, so we’ll be okay.

The response to COVID-19 keeps changing, which makes planning very difficult. Schools are officially closed starting on unlucky Friday the 13th. Until April 1st? Maybe. Maybe longer?

Toddlers Don’t Telework

When the local universities started shutting down for COVID-19, I suspected the local Pre-K to 12 school districts would follow. And I was right. The universities planned to move classrooms on-line. The local school districts started saying they were going to do the same. I can see how this can work for high school and middle school kids but what about the Pre-K kids? I spoke with one mom and her preschooler brought home a packet. Mom is now her daughter’s teacher.

For working parents, schools provide other services beyond education. Schools provide breakfast and lunch and childcare. Plenty of places, including my workplace, have not shut down in response to COVID-19, which means I have to work. And I can’t work if there is no childcare. Thankfully, I’m eligible to telework, but there is no way I can work at home with my son at home too. He’s 2.5 years old and very demanding. On days when the whole family was stuck in the house and I had to telework, Junior was just a baby and my husband would take care of things. Now that can’t happen, Junior has only gotten more mobile and louder.

Other Telework Challenges

My husband can telework too, but we can’t really telework at the same time. Our house is only set up for one adult teleworking, not two. I feel for households with kids trying to use the family computer for distance learning while one or both parents need it, or the home office space for working from home. Even if the kids aren’t on-line for school, they may be hogging bandwidth for entertainment during this time.

Since I’m only an ad hoc teleworker, there is a small amount of mission-critical work I can do from home. Usually, when I telework, there is a specific project and it is only for a day or two. The Coronavirus could keep us all home for two weeks or more, and I nor my husband has two weeks of work we can do from home.

When I Have to Come In

I am thankful I have a telework option. But not everyone does, and for most days I’ll probably be expected to come in. Not every employer has made the decision to close shop to reduce infection of the Coronavirus and send everyone home. Mine, Uncle Sam, as of now, has decided to leave work arrangements up to the individual agencies. My agency expects me to show up. I can’t show up if my daycare closes and if my husband isn’t available for childcare. And if I don’t have childcare, I can’t telework either.

Despite COVID-19 being a pandemic, a medical crisis that has closed the schools, I cannot use sick leave to stay home. I would be expected to use my annual, award and or credit time leave or take leave without pay. Hopefully, this might change and it is treated like a snow day. My husband has to juggle the same options of telework vs using leave, but it depends on our childcare provider.

Ever-changing plans

My husband and I already negotiated with each other who will stay home, who will telework, and who will look after Junior, if our childcare falls through. This might change if either our workplaces or the daycare changes plans. The key is to roll with it.

The libraries and rec centers are closed. Our churches will not have services this weekend. Junior’s swim classes and other kid activities have been canceled.

Unfortunately, because of how dangerous COVID-19 is for older populations, we cannot lean on our older relatives for help with childcare. Junior, like many toddlers, is a cute little germ factory.

At some point, things will return to normal. I have to believe that.