Maine Voices: We are parents during COVID. We are tired. And we are the lucky ones

The parents are not well.

I am writing this on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, working from home full time with my children, ages 2 and 4, climbing over me as daycare is closed for the holidays. Entering calendar year 3 of the pandemic, this configuration is now more the norm than the exception.

The parents are not well.

I love our daycare. We struck gold finding one as big as ours. But even they are not immune to COVID quarantines and shutdowns. Three times this fall, our children were home for 10 days at a time due to a positive COVID case at daycare. And that only counts COVID closures. It used to be that parents could keep their sick child at home and send the rest to daycare, one sick child now means they all have to quarantine at home. I agree with the public health reasons behind this. I have my COVID vaccine and my boosters and I still mask in public. My wife and I work in healthcare, so you don’t have to convince us to take the right precautions. All I’m saying is that what was already hard work with limited support – being a parent and working full time – is now even harder.

And the parents are not well.

I am 39 years old. The last time inflation was this high was the year I was born. Since the start of the pandemic, our cost of food has tripled – and that includes me growing a lot of our own. We just paid over $900 for oil. Daycare for two children, at a reduced rate for two of them registered, costs $402 per week. The mortgage, the car payments and the crippling financial impact of student loans – I don’t see how any of this is sustainable.

The parents are not well.

Especially those of us who have a chronic illness. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 6 years old in 1988. Insulin, insulin pump supplies, test strips, and medication for the complications that have been with this disease for so long. Add to that a type of autism that was once called Asperger’s, plus parenting during the pandemic and working to keep our children housed and clothed, and our burnout is burnout.

The parents are not well.

And my wife and I are extremely lucky. We have two incomes and good jobs. I might not be able to get food until payday sometimes, but our fridge and cupboards are never empty – they just don’t always have exactly what my kids want right now. We pay our bills, although we sometimes had to take out personal loans to make ends meet. We have a home and a safe place for our children. They are loved and well cared for. Having grandparents from the Great Depression generation, my wife and I know how much worse it could be.

But we are so, so tired. Tired of worrying that our children, who are too young to be vaccinated, are getting the social experiences they need without putting their health at risk. Tired of navigating health insurance for us and our children through a ridiculous system of hoops, when our cousins ​​abroad just go to see a doctor when they need it without fearing it will mean ruin financial. We’re tired of working, parenting, and homeschooling all at the same time, holding a crying baby in a Zoom meeting, while a preschooler yells “I’m peeing! ” in a world of work that still expects parents and all employees to work as if they had no personal life. And my current boss is fantastic about me parenting while working from home. I can’t say that for all the previous bosses. And, hey, at least I don’t have to take a pay cut when I’m home with my kids due to COVID, illness, or vacation. Many do, and I don’t know how they do it.

The parents are not well. And my family is one of the very, very lucky ones.

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