Moms Are Back to Work, But Child Care Resources Are ‘Laughable’
According to data from the Rapid-EC project, an ongoing, national survey about the well-being of parents and children during the pandemic, parents’ levels of emotional distress shot up at the beginning of the pandemic. Save for a brief respite in the spring of 2021, before the Delta variant surge, levels have remained elevated by 10 to 15 percentage points compared to prepandemic measurements. “Emotional distress” levels are calculated by asking parents a variety of questions about depression, anxiety, loneliness and stress, said Philip Fisher, the director of the University of Oregon Center for Translational Neuroscience and the lead investigator on the Rapid-EC project.
Though parents of all backgrounds and income levels are much more distressed than they were before the pandemic, single parents, parents living in poverty and parents of children with disabilities are particularly emotionally taxed, Dr. Fisher said. “Uncertainty is the toxic ingredient” on top of everything else right now for parents, he said. They’re worried about the state of the world, their ability to do their jobs and the virus that still looms. “Child care is one piece of that,” Dr. Fisher said — parents know it can disappear at any moment and upend their fragile balance.
Jacqueline Sievert, 36, thought she had finally solved her day care problems when she found a spot for her 14-month-old child after being on waiting lists for months in Hamburg, N.Y., just outside of Buffalo. A few days before her son was supposed to start at the center, she got a message telling her that the day care was closed immediately and indefinitely. Ms. Sievert looked up the center on the website for New York State’s Office of Children and Family Services and found that its license had been suspended indefinitely for multiple serious violations, including children left without “competent supervision.”
This week, Ms. Sievert’s mother is watching her son, but that’s not a workable solution for her and her husband. “I’m not sure what we’ll do next week now; we’re piecing it together. Neither of us have careers where we can easily watch an active 1-year-old for the entire day,” she said. Ms. Sievert manages a team at a commercial bank and her husband is an operations lead at a large company.
About three hundred miles east in Albany, Ms. Stenta said that she and her husband are “exhausted.” She doesn’t know what the fix might be to secure day care services for her sons in the near term. They don’t live near extended family, and making child care arrangements has always been more of a hardship for parents of children with disabilities, even in nonpandemic times.
“There’s certainly no social structures in place for this,” Ms. Stenta said.