your coworkers with kids are not OK

With children under 5 still not able to be vaccinated and day cares frequently closing for COVID exposures, parents of young kids are struggling. Without reliable child care, they’re regularly forced to take time off work—often unpaid if they’ve already used all their PTO—or to try to work from home while caring for kids so young they require constant supervision.

At Slate today, I wrote about what working parents of little kids have shared here — and why many of them are at their breaking point. You can read it here.

{ 426 comments… read them below }

  1. Rolly*

    My kid is above that age – vaxxed. But still the lack of reliable child care when school is closed is a drain. Not as terrifying as for the unvaxxed littles, but I am so drained. This is not new to the pandemic, but something fundamentally wrong with the US society. And way worse for mothers. I’m a dude with a moderately flexible job, and it’s crushing me. I can only imagine what it’s like for parents, especially mothers, with kids who cannot be vaccinated.

    1. Parent in Hell*

      It’s horrible, just horrible. There is something so wrong with this country that I am finding it hard to teach my (unvaccinated) 3-year-old to believe in human goodness at all.

      1. KaciHall*

        I had to take my vaxxed kiddo out yesterday. He kept asking why other people weren’t wearing masks but we were.

        It was SO hard to answer politely because I wanted to answer him with expletives describing the other people.

        1. birb*

          I’ve hit the point in my life where if someone else breaks the social code, I’M going to break the social code. I WISH I had a small, incredibly inquisitive child to follow me around asking why other people are being selfish so I can explain out loud. What a great little wingman.

          Do you rent yours out by the hour, or…?

        2. LP*

          This is where I struggle too – my four-year old has been wearing a mask since his daycare reopened in Summer 2020. It’s so normal for him that he asks for his mask every time we get out of the car to go grocery shopping, errands, etc. I don’t understand how adults can’t be as easygoing as kids in that scenario.

          (My kid can be a terror in other ways – but the mask wearing is a victory!)

    2. Justme, The OG*

      Agree. I’m a single parent of a junior high kid. And it’s hard. But the littles? Super hard on parents of kids that age. I’ve been so close to losing it many times since March 2020. I don’t know how they’re holding on with sanity intact.

      1. Birdie*

        We’re not. The stretch in 2020 when everything shut down was awful. My spouse’s job demanded 8 am to 6 pm, no flexibility, and god forbid someone hear your child. So I was trying to balance my (much more understanding a flexible) job with watching our small child on top of generally keeping our house running in the middle of food and supply shortages and lockdown orders. What that meant is I got up at 6 am, tried to work until 8, spent the next 9+ hours trying to keep a 3 year old occupied while still being responsive to work, started dinner at 5, put kid to bed at 7, and then finished up my work day at 10 or 11. (Yes, I seriously considered divorce.) I threw in the towel after 6 months and sent the kid to daycare because I just couldn’t do it any more.

        I’m lucky now, our daycare doesn’t shut down, ever. It serves largely lower income families, families who can’t afford to not work, and it’s very clear that the director is doing everything in her power to keep the doors open for those families. I know kids have tested positive for Covid, but my child’s classroom has never been closed (the infant room has twice, but I believe that was a staffing issue). But every time one of us gets the sniffles or spikes a fever, there’s deep dread. I caught Covid in late February 2020, and while somehow the rest of my family was spared and I (barely) avoided being hospitalized, we are very aware of what this virus can do to you. We’re super careful, and we still had to isolate for 2 weeks last month because of an exposure. And those 2 weeks stuck at home juggling everything again S-U-C-K-E-D. But I have co-workers who are dealing with almost constant daycare shutdowns. One said in the last 12 weeks, her kids have gone to daycare for a grand total of 2.5 weeks, with the longest consecutive stretch being 3 days. It’s awful.

        There’s so much we can’t do with our child. We only do limited playdates, and only outside. No indoor activities, so gymnastics class, no hockey games, no birthday parties, no eating inside restaurants. Even the decision to go back to daycare was one we lost sleep over, wondering if it was the right choice and if we were basically sentencing our child to getting Covid. The whole Covid experience has been incredibly isolating and exhausting.

        Kid turns 5 this month and it will be a huge relief to have them vaccinated. It won’t solve every problem, but the peace of mind alone will do me wonders. I’ve basically been white-knuckling my way through Omicron, waiting for the day they can be vaccinated.

        Staring down Year 3 of Covid, I’m not just lacking sanity and utterly exhausted, I’m so bitter. Bitter about what has been taken from my child, bitter my spouse’s job made zero effort to be flexible, bitter at the anti-vaxers, bitter that my life has essentially been put on indefinite hold with no end in sight.

        1. Classy_sassy_smart@ssy*

          I just want to hug you and give you some time to just… not deal with the bs that is today’s world.

        2. new*

          Biden should have given us all free therapy instead of free tests, of which I only got two not the four we were promised. The psychological toll of the pandemic on those who are not science deniers has been real.

            1. new*

              Thanks, each box is the same size as the single tests I bought at the drugstore, so it didn’t register that it says two tests are in each box.

    3. CookieCrumbs*

      Just want to chime in that it is the same here in Canada (Ontario) and we have been way more closed down than the US, have protected leaves, have lower rate of spread and per capita rate etc. Just want to say that the outcome is the same. Out of paid time off, out of paid sick leave, there are protected leaves but they are unpaid and it’s just if you are caring for someone really sick but the idea of never being caught up because you are in and out of work due to the closures of schools/daycares is the same.

      Perhaps the answer is that these schools/daycares need to stop shutting down. Because at the end of the day it seems like everyone is going to get this thing. I was a little surprised by the person in the letter who said they quit their job because they dont want to expose their kid to long COVID – I am not sure if they are just hermetically sealing themselves off completely then because this thing isn’t going away and it’s very contagious – so whether they catch it this month or next, they probably will. Not saying that we should let it rip and let hospitals be flooded, I understand the reason to slow it down, but you are fooling yourself if you think you will outrun it completely…

      1. teacherwhoissickofit*

        when did we expect teachers to become baby sitters? Teachers already do so much and are in the same position as office workers without the protections.

        1. HoHumDrum*

          Like when the conversation around reopening schools was centered entirely around whether kids will get seriously sick or not, with hardly a thought for the many, many adults who work at the schools, adults who may be elderly or immunocompromised or just plain not willing to risk their lives for the job. It’s always a very revealing conversation.

          1. not a doctor*

            Hell, I have a friend whose child’s private school closed PERMANENTLY last week because between people getting sick and people getting burned out and quitting, they simply no longer have enough healthy, available staff left to run the place.

          2. Totally anonymous for this comment*

            Yeah, my spouse was forced to take an early retirement in Sept. 2020 because the school where they taught didn’t think Covid was a big deal and that “everybody will catch it anyway.” My spouse has lung disease that’s been treated for 35 years. Their doctor said they could not work around unmasked people, period. District is in super red county, super red state and no way was going to let the govt tell them what to do. We were devastated. I know it’s inconvenient for parents to have to find alternate “child care” when their school shuts down, but dead (or even those out sick or quarantined) teachers can’t provide that child care, either.

          3. Coast East*

            +100. My sister works at the school her children attend. And several times she’s been stuck between “kids are sick/their class has received isolate at home orders” and “school can’t afford to lose any more staff for a day and everyone’s out of PTO/sick leave.” The childcare issue requires *everyone* to be considered

          4. Tired social worker*

            This is a pet peeve of mine with the school discourse. If teachers are mentioned at all, it’s either a breezy “what a shame that some of you will die” or a straight-out accusation that they want to be treated as more “special” than other essential workers. (To be clear, I 100% believe that those essential workers were – and continue to be – both exploited for profit by those at the top AND used as a rhetorical cudgel against anyone else who demands safer conditions, but I don’t want to derail.)

            1. Dark Macadamia*

              I always knew teachers were underappreciated but the past two years have made me realize a lot of people flat out HATE us.

              1. Rolly*

                On the plus side, it’s not just you they hate. They hate anything done for the public good that does not involve violence. Their end game is destroying public health systems, libraries, schools, workplace safety, public transport, cultural institutions, consumer safety and more.

                1. Dragon*

                  Somebody commented on the Washington Post website that the haters’ real issue was mask and vax mandates took away their freedom to be selfish.

              2. J.B.*

                I’m so so sorry. I wish that opening schools *safely* had been a priority-I have kids with disabilities and lack of structure is baaaad-but everyone was just supposed to figure it out one by one and let people go back to bars.

              3. Anonymous4*

                I’m so sorry — it has been so awful for so many people, and I am so sorry. I wish I could fix it.


              4. Selina Luna*

                That was disheartening to me too. Like, I knew that many people think that I’m a know-nothing loser who only teaches because I “don’t know how to do anything else.” (I can think of at least 8 higher-paying jobs I’m qualified to do, plus one job that is extremely unstable, but is something I always wanted to do). This year, I found out that the people who were elected onto the school board in my hometown (where I live, not where I work) are actively trying to dismantle the local public school system and install a parochial school system in its place. I further found out that they do, in fact, hate teachers and non-religious education. Those five people have done more to destroy my continued love of teaching than anyone before them.

                1. Tired social worker*

                  That is HORRIFYING. Is that legal?? I thought states had an obligation to ensure that every child has the opportunity to attend public school. Obviously there are plenty of places where that access is under threat, but I didn’t think school boards could blatantly take steps shut down the local public school system altogether.

                2. Selina Luna*

                  I can’t reply to your comment directly, Tired Social Worker, but here’s the answer anyway: No, this is not legal. That I know of, there are 4 reports currently making their way through the proper channels regarding this school board. But those things take time (a lot of time) and the harm that can be done now is immense. They are also costing a very underfunded school district a huge amount of money currently and through future fines. Their attitude is “burn what you can now and then get out”.

              5. Reluctant Mezzo*

                If you live in Florida, wait till they put cameras in to make sure you’re not teaching the wrong thing (and you’ll find out what that is when the lawsuit arrives).

            2. done*

              Higher ed we have thousands of barely-out-of-teens ‘invincible’ students who submit fake vax cards, refuse to mask, party like spring break, then whine about missing out on face-to-face classes because disposable front line staff are in short supply and instructors with tenure/seniority can choose to teach remotely.
              Lost count of how many of my coworkers have been sick thanks to selfish entitled privileged dirtbags, on top of missing work for family’s illness/quarantines.

          1. Birdie*

            It’s not even dying for the kids, not really. It’s dying so kids can be in schools so people can go to work all so the people at the very top can further increase profits.

            1. Tired social worker*

              Exactly this. The last two years have thrown into sharp relief the failures and inequities that were baked into the “old normal”. If we really cared about making things right “for the kids,” we’d have started from the bottom up – food insecurity, housing insecurity, internet access, wage inequity, unsafe working conditions, exploitation of immigrants…I could go on. At the very least, we could have invested in ventilating school buildings properly during the first year that things were closed down. Instead, it’s like we collectively decided that all of those things are fine, actually, and teachers are entitled for daring to draw a line in the sand. It’s infuriating.

          2. HoHumDrum*

            I mean, US teachers have been aware they may need to die for their kids since Sandy Hook made it clear that the US will never do anything about gun control regardless of how many children will die. Bit Birdie is right, it’s not even about sacrificing your life to protect kids, it’s about sacrificing your life to protect someone’s bottom line.

            1. done*

              No kids required for that. Every one of us that has to work in shitty conditions, from covid exposure to warehouse-flattening tornados. We are all risking death for money-hoarding sociopaths.

          3. Selina Luna*

            I’ve been a teacher for over a decade, and I’ve been explicitly told that I am expected to take a bullet for my students. And I totally would, don’t get me wrong. But COVID is not the first time I’ve been asked to die for other parents’ children.

        2. MCR*

          This comment irks me. I am very sensitive and empathetic about conversations around risk balancing and absolutely should think teachers’ health should be taken into account in those decisions. But this argument – teachers aren’t babysitters – never made any sense to me. Part of teachers’ jobs is to supervise children – I have never known anyone who thought otherwise, even pre-pandemic. What exactly do you think parents are supposed to do if teachers aren’t there to supervise (or as you put it, “babysit”) kids? Do you think all parents should have one parent stay at home? Or be able to afford a nanny? Like I said, I don’t think the answer is “teachers must teach at all costs,” but there is something really wrong here if teachers think that they are not responsible for supervising kids in addition to teaching them.

          1. Ali + Nino*

            I agree. A big part of the rhetoric around childcare here in the US is that for some reason publicly mandated education begins at 5 yrs old, but for kids younger than that, you’re on your own. WHY? To pretend school isn’t childcare for kids too young to be left to fend for themselves seems to be a matter of semantics.
            I also haven’t seen anyone here mention the massively critical social skills and interactions that young children have missed out on throughout this pandemic. Yes, physical health is very important, but let’s not pretend that kids aren’t being affected by this in other serious ways too – and no one knows the long-term impacts.

          2. Llama Tickling Manager*

            Yes, same here. Of course one of the roles of school is to “babysit”— if by “babysit” you mean to keep children safe and engaged, and hopefully happy. There seems to be this idea that that’s somehow degrading or low/status work— we’re not ~babysitters~, we’re ~professionals~. It’s such a dismal view of what it means to be involved in the care and raising of children, their induction into society: something that every society expends a huge amount of resources. Why is it an insult to teachers to recognise that that’s (normally) part of the role of school?

            1. Reluctant Mezzo*

              You have understand that childcare/teaching is a woman’s job, and therefore not worth any actual money.

          3. Tired social worker*

            I don’t think anyone would argue that a certain degree of supervision isn’t an intrinsic part of a teacher’s job. The issue is how we have made that part of their job more central to our schooling system than it should be, because we’re building education around parents’ work schedules rather than finding a solution that maximizes kids’ health (they really shouldn’t be waking up as early as they do) AND parents’ ability to earn. I’m cautiously optimistic that the ongoing conversation about UBI, unions, remote work, and shortening the work day/week will open up our imaginations about what is and isn’t possible. So much of the current situation is based on the fundamental assumption that certain aspects of our lives (length of the work week, etc) must be set in stone.

            1. Anonymous4*

              The fundamental assumptions started a couple of centuries ago during the Industrial Revolution and have been adjusted one way and the other ever since. Used to be, the work week was 6 days a week, 12+ hours a day.

              These days, there are an awful lot of moving parts that have to mesh tightly together when it comes to the “normal workday” + school — hours of daylight, transportation options, costs, work hours, business needs, utility demands, and so many other details I can’t even think to list.

              Of course there are things that can be improved — but with those changes, what other parts of that complex, interdependent process is going to get thrown out of whack? For instance, teenagers do well if they can sleep later, so the thought is, let them go to school later.

              Who’s going to get them to school? Does there have to be a later bus run for them? How much more will that cost? Will that interfere with the bus drivers’ second jobs? Is a parent going to have to be there to supervise the teenager(s) out the door? How is leaving the house that much later that going to affect the parents’ jobs? And so on.

              I’m not saying that changes cannot, or should not, be made. I’m saying, it’s not going to be either quick or easy, and there will be a lot of secondary and tertiary issues that will be serious problems to resolve.

              1. Tired social worker*

                No disagreement from me there! Things absolutely need to change, but the problems are so tightly interlocked that it’s going to take massive coordination to effectively address them. Meanwhile, those very problems keep us too exhausted and burnt out to muster that level of coordination. I do think it’s more likely that it all just comes crashing down and we cobble together whatever is left with duct tape and inspirational posters, by which point the rich will have completely isolated themselves from the fallout while they waste money trying to repeat the same mistakes on another planet. That thought is super demotivating, so I try to find whatever hope I can. But I definitely don’t think our current conditions are sustainable.

          4. Dark Macadamia*

            I think the point is that the lengths required to “just keep schools open” would essentially eliminate the learning part. Having an an adult in the room with your child so you can go to work is a BENEFIT of school, but it’s not the PURPOSE.

          5. Some dude*

            Distance learning meant that myself or my wife was teaching our child. The teacher might give a brief lesson, but it was us who was explaining concepts to her, making sure she did her work, helping her turn it in, etc. etc. I do not have any training in child education. I stunk at it. It was the worst. I didn’t want a babysitter, I wanted a professional to teach my child, and our district put off in-person learning long after it was clear that it could be done safely and without putting the teachers or students or their families at risk.

            1. birb*

              Did they, though? Because our district is actively lying to parents and the community about EVERY safety policy in place for Covid. We don’t even have hot water in the bathrooms. There’s no cleaning. There are no masks for us to hand out, no sanitizer, there is no social distancing, kids are crammed 50 to a classroom if a teacher is out, or 5+ classes in an auditorium with 1-2 adults. There are no consequences for maskless students, no enforcement of closed campus policies. So much of our current staff is subs that don’t know student names that there are no consequences and there’s certainly not any work happening in those rooms. Our covid trackers are not accurate and never have been, and they actively tell parents that there are tests for staff and students on campus. There are none with no plan of getting more. They halved our covid leave to 5 days even if we are symptomatic. teachers are being charged for having covid and can’t make ends meet. Teachers are having sobbing fits on campus, teachers are quitting. Teachers, support staff, and students have died in our district. Others are now unable to work with long-covid effects. Our district is being celebrated for staying open and handling the pandemic well.

              If you struggled with distance learning because your child needs a “professional” to work with her instead of just watching a lesson and working independently, then you should absolutely be advocating for schools to take care of teachers at all costs during the pandemic. Opening schools unsafely and without support for teachers / at their expense means losing “professionals” to death or burnout. Surveys show 3/4 of teachers seriously considering not returning next year. Students ask me every day if I’m coming back because they’ve lost everyone else that they were familiar with. It is taking a huge emotional toll on my high schoolers, but I’m sure is harder on younger kids.

              I get that it is hard, but the answer to needing childcare isn’t having teachers (who are financially penalized STILL during the pandemic for poor student performance) forced to work in unsafe conditions or lose their certificate… while also raising the professional standards because “learning loss” and financially penalizing teachers for not doing EVEN BETTER this year by cutting pay for “poor performance” or freezing merit pay during a pandemic. A bad rating from an evaluation (which have gotten MORE strict during covid despite the freeze on raises) can significantly reduce a teacher’s salary for YEARS.

              It is frustrating listening to people advocating blindly for schools to be open just to give their kids a place to be without considering the impact on teachers and advocating for fair pay, reasonable expectations of student performance, accommodations, and protections for teachers during the pandemic.

          6. Anononononon*

            Agree. When schools went virtual in spring of 2020, my kid’s first grade teacher did 1 hour of instruction on Tuesdays and 1 hour on Thursdays for the remainder of the school year, sending home pages of worksheets to make up the rest. She said she couldn’t do any more online teaching than that because she had her own kids at home and had to help them with their school work. (Don’t know what she thought her students’ parents were doing while working from home and helping with all the worksheets she printed. I certainly couldn’t limit all my work meetings to 2 hours a week…). The following year, for virtual second grade, it was 2 hours of online instruction/small group work a day and half an hour of science a week, with the rest being asynchronous worksheets and learning apps until school reopened in late April. So if that’s all the direct instruction the kids get in early elementary with virtual school, either virtual school doesn’t cut it and the kids aren’t getting their full education or the other ~60% of a normal school day are “babysitting”. (The reality of course is a combination of both – the second grade teacher admitted a lot of the kids were behind grade level in writing/spelling at the end of the year due to less instruction online compared to what it would have been in person). But obviously a significant portion of early elementary teaching is childcare and facilitating social interaction.

          7. heismanpat*

            Standing ovation! Teachers aren’t paid enough money for what they do, but I’m absolutely sick and tired of stupid rhetoric suggesting parents are selfish for needing the public education system to supervise their kids from 8-3. What’s most bizarre is this stupid “babysitter” talking point often comes from people who would have no problem with other social programs (universal healthcare, expanded unemployment benefits, free college tuition, etc). For some reason, they think parents are the enemy for wanting to use the most successful social program in our country’s history – public education.

            Teachers are mad at the wrong people. Parents aren’t the boogeyman. Most of us are in the same boat as you and just want the best for ourselves and our kids.

            1. MissBaudelaire*


              No, the teachers aren’t baby sitters. I know that. But school is also a form of childcare, and I don’t have twenty seven back up plans. My three year olds preschool program just closed for two weeks due to staffing issues. “We’ll do Zoom meetings!” By which you mean an adult has to sit right next to her and coax her into following along.

              Well, guess what? Her dad and I work at those times of day. Like most people. The very small pool of people I do have to watch her all day are not in the position to do those Zoom meetings with her. So she’ll be marked absent. Her teacher is not happy about this. And you know, neither am I. I don’t have a better solution, though.

              1. Cera*

                I laughed when my 3 year olds preschool teacher gave me a packet of stuff to assist with virtual days in case the classroom closed last year. I then apologized and advised her that I would be working and unfortunately virtual preschool wouldn’t be a priority; surviving and keeping an income would be the priority. I appreciated the time and effort they had put into it but it just didn’t align with out situation.

                Apparently, I wasn’t the only one with that reaction. When they had their 1st closure last fall (now in 4k) neither the 3k or 4k did any virtual learning.

            2. Tired social worker*

              I agree that anyone who blames parents as a group is absolutely wrong – it’s unproductive and extremely harmful to pit teachers against parents this way. But as others (including myself) have explained, most teachers went into their profession viewing the supervision of children as a natural *byproduct* of the actual education and expertise they offer, rather than its central purpose, and that’s not a bad thing. Yes, the school day as it currently exists happens to mostly (but not completely) overlap with the most common (or at least most acknowledged) white-collar schedule. Somehow we have translated that fact into an *obligation* on the part of teachers (and, increasingly, other school staff) to be present in physically unsafe conditions so the rest of us can keep the capitalist machine grinding. And when people blame teachers for refusing, rather than blaming the states who have neglected school ventilation and the employers/governments who have abandoned those who depend on in-person income, I do see that as a level of entitlement.

              Childcare (or “babysitting”) is absolutely a vital and valuable skillset deserving of respect, and I absolutely do not think teachers as a whole are trying to belittle those who do that work, or the parents who rely on it. But ultimately, the job they’re currently being called to do is not the one they signed up to do, and while there are certainly much better ways of phrasing their frustration, the frustration is absolutely valid.

              1. MCR*

                “So the rest of us can keep the capitalist machine grinding”?

                Let’s live in a pretend universe where the government had unlimited funds and could spend liberally on robust social programs to keep everyone alive and well during the pandemic and there was unlimited caregiving leave. Even in that fictional universe, people would still need food, household goods, medical care, repair services, clothing, devices to do all of their online education and work, and infrastructure and transportation to support all of the above. Many, many, many jobs (most jobs?) in the US can’t be done remotely. Are only childless people supposed to have those jobs while parents take care of their kids? Or is the government paying for tons and tons of babysitters to risk their health to provide individualized childcare while others go to work?

                Even in this completely fictional best-case scenario, we would still need group care and education for kids. Teachers are essential workers. (And yes they should be paid more because of it, absolutely!) If there are teachers that don’t want to be essential workers and don’t like this fact, I get it. But don’t pretend like we live in a universe where if we just treated teachers fairly society could avoid teachers needing to be in-person, essential workers.

                1. Tired social worker*

                  I think in that ideal world, all of those essential services you mentioned would not be staffed so sparsely that they would fall apart if some of their employees had to stay home with their children. And if any of them could be performed even partially remotely, even if it was highly imperfect (as remote teaching and telemedicine have been), I hope they would take advantage of that. The “capitalist machine” I refer to mainly involves all of the non-essential industries that have been forcing parents back into the office, putting them (and teachers) in an impossible situation.

                  Even then, I don’t necessarily think keeping schools 100% closed was the answer – my original comment was in response to the idea that teachers who see their supervisory role as secondary to (even contingent on) their academic role are arguing in bad faith, unsuited to K-12 education, or even insulting child care workers. For what it’s worth, I think something closer to what the U.K did (keeping schools open for children with disabilities and children of essential workers) might have been a better option, especially with generous hazard pay, frequent testing, professional-grade masks, and adequate ventilation. My personal pie-in-the-sky ideal scenario would also have teachers opt-in to teach the in-person contingent, though that may not always be feasible for all subjects.

                2. Tired social worker*

                  Ugh, sorry, since we can’t edit comments – by “stay home with their children” in the first paragraph, I mean for a temporary quarantine, not for the full duration of the pandemic.

                3. Clare*

                  @Tired Social Worker I would have much preferred a UK-style response that kept childcare + schools open for essential workers, plus paired it with paid caregiving leave. No one would be free of stress – caregivers in non-essential jobs would be at home (which is no easy feat with small children); teachers would still be doing some in person work, albeit safer; employees without caregiving responsibilities would probably be picking up more work. But it would distribute the burden more fairly rather than each group trying to dump on the other to stay afloat.

            3. This is a name, I guess*

              I think of it more as class warfare. I see the professionalization of the teaching profession partially as a way to increase their wages and justify their higher pay compared to daycare and preschool teachers. I don’t blame teachers at all! But, I’ve seen stratification like this emerge in blue collar industries as a means of justifying higher pay within subgroups, especially when a third party (the government, health insurance companies) artificially control wages…teachers vs daycare, nurses vs CNAs, day laborers vs skilled construction, etc. Essentially, teachers have to throw their daycare counterparts under the bus to get better wages in the zero-sum game of capitalism/small government.

          8. Leaving Teaching*

            This is why I’ve left teaching.

            When I started teaching 20 years ago, I saw myself as entering an academic profession. I genuinely believed my job was to provide academic instruction within a group setting. And for a while, it really worked. I was really good at inspiring children to think, to question, to read and to engage with the world around them. My kids got great exam results at all levels, including young people who had never been academically successful before. I was able to work with them on overcoming barriers to education, on helping them navigate school structures and become successful, on building strong relationships and supporting them to really engage with the world around them. I felt this work had value and mattered to my kids and to wider society.

            But I never thought of myself as childcare. That’s respectable work, but it’s not work I want to do. Making teachers into childcare takes time away from teaching and learning, it gets in the way of academic instruction, it doesn’t fit with what I believe to be the best ways to promote learning. And now that I realise how much teaching is just childcare, how little the academic aspects of the job are vauled by society, I don’t want to do it any more.

            I do worry though – what happens to children’s education when teachers whose primary motivation is academic instruction leave the profession?

            1. MCR*

              It sounds like you made a good decision for your goals. Good for you! But as you learned, modern day teaching at the (P)K-12 level does require skills in child care. If you want a purely academic position, you’re probably better suited to postsecondary education.

              1. Unicorn Parade*

                You are all over these comments being massively disrespectful. If you don’t like teaching, find another job, really? Did you even read the entire comment? You should be hoping and praying that teachers like the one you responded to remain passionate and dedicated to teaching first, with childcare being a side effect. Your attitude is so entitled and gross, I physically had to step away from my screen. Honestly disgusting that no one else is calling you on this nonsense.

          9. This Old House*

            I agree. I remember being in school, and teachers would occasionally step out for a couple minutes – to run to the bathroom, or discuss something with a teacher or student in the hall. But if my second grader’s teacher set all the kids up with assignments in the classroom (so learning was theoretically happening), walked out the door, and didn’t return for several hours, wouldn’t she lose her job? Or be subject to some kind of disciplinary consequences (whatever the process is, with tenure, unions, etc)? Whether it was 2019 or 2022, that wouldn’t fly, because supervising children is an essential part of being a teacher. It’s not the only part. It’s not WHY I send my kids to school. But for teachers to act like being asked to supervise children is some out-of-left-field, unreasonable new addition to their jobs is just bizarre to me. No one’s saying you’re “just a babysitter.” But, yeah, supervising children is part of what you do. It’s a fairly basic requirement of the job.

            I’m all for opening schools safely. I think some of the closures were warranted, and I’m not convinced they couldn’t be again in the future. I’d be in favor of vaccine mandates for both students and teachers. I’m not ready to stop masking, in schools or out of them. I’m in favor of accommodations for high-risk teachers and students, as well as other adults in schools.

            But I 100% expect that a teacher doing their job appropriately is providing adequate supervision, and I don’t know how that somehow became unreasonable.

        3. meagain*

          Yea and at a friend’s school, some parents were just sending their kids in sick. I’m sure they felt like they had no alternate plan since they had to work, but it was such little regard for other kids and the teachers, staff, bus drivers. It was just kind of this “Oh well” shrug. Or child would be home sick with Covid and the parents would still send the siblings into school and say, “Well they don’t have symptoms, the CDC says you don’t have to quarantine.” Except the kid home with Covid wasn’t quarantining at home! So sure enough the siblings would end up testing positive a few days later, after they had already exposed all their classmates and teachers. A bus driver at her school died. I don’t know the right answers, but having teachers be care givers is not the answer either.

        4. Not a Blossom*

          Literally every teacher friend I have is currently looking for a new job because of what a mess this has all been.

        5. CookieCrumbs*

          I think my comment has been taken as saying that I think others should sacrifice their lives or be reduced to ‘baby sitting’. Absolutely not. I believe schools are intended for learning and should be safe – ventilation, children who are ill should stay home for a few days, masks in high frequent areas to reduce amount of spread while community rates are high (such as on school buses), teachers and students should receive a vaccine to lower the likelihood of severe illness.

          But there are many that are not understanding the nature of this beast and believe that if we just try harder, if we just lock down more it will go away. It won’t. We live in a globalized world and this is a global virus. We can lock down to our heart’s content – but we need 7+ billion others to do so as well. There is no expiration date on this virus and as a society we need to adjust to that unfortunate reality and find ways to lessen the impact. My point was that even in areas where lockdowns were more frequent, it is not going away. Australia and New Zealand could not contain it. China with its zero tolerance policy is testing people by the millions every week and locking them in apartment buildings and it is still not successful.

          Therefore it does not make sense for whole schools and day cares to close when there is a case. Children need to attend school and daycare. they need to learn in environments with other children from qualified professionals. People need to work. We have seen the alternative when that is taken away, even for only a few months, many people, particularly women, leaving the workforce because they need to teach their children at home. This is not a long term solution to what is clearly going to be a long term virus. This virus mutates and there will be more mutations. Even vaccination does not guarantee you don’t catch or spread it, it lowers the severity.
          This means that a high contact job, such as teacher, doctor, nurse, social worker, transit operator etc., are inherently more likely to lead to catching COVID. Do I think it’s “right” that these people are more likely to catch COVID and more frequently. No, but I think it’s the reality. And therefore, no, I do not believe that the opening and closing of schools will make one difference to the impact of this virus but it will certainly impact the workforce, women and children. These were intended to be short term solutions to what was originally believed to be a virus that could be contained.

          I would like to stay in my job – it brings me professional fulfilment and a significant amount of income for my family. But it is very hard with a child under 5 and it is clear that I am not performing to what I could be because of unexpected closures etc. I do not want my son ill before he has protection of a vaccine, but as a child on the autism spectrum, the disruption to his routine is severely felt by him.

          1. Ismonie*

            When the teachers are too sick to teach, the schools can’t stay open. If you don’t quarantine the students, more teachers will get sick. And more teachers will leave education. I wouldn’t stay in my job if unvaccinated (or vaccinated!) sick people were allowed or instructed to be there. I don’t expect any different from teachers.

      2. VintageLydia*

        My best friend is a director at a daycare and her facility has been closed as often for teacher exposures and being sick and not being able to maintain ratios as they are for children. Saying “don’t close” isn’t really a solution when you don’t have enough adults healthy and able to come to work to keep the facility open.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Immunity from catching the disease is for 3+ months, not life. So “just catch it already” doesn’t work–it swings back around.

        1. evens*

          Then we FOR SURE shouldn’t close down for exposure. We can’t live like this forever. Thank goodness I live in a state that is more open than some others.

          1. VintageLydia*

            Can you please walk me through how those who cannot get vaccinated or at high risk of long term illness or death even when vaccinated should navigate life when there are little to no mitigation measures? Or are we going to forget about them (and their caregivers who need to stay almost equally careful) as they stay locked up at home.

            1. Jam*

              Exactly the same way that people at high risk of the flu and other contagious illnesses lived before the pandemic.

              Being immunocompromised sucks. Absolutely. But people at high risk of COVID, for whom vaccines do not reduce risk, are at high risk of pretty much *all* the major communicable diseases. We can’t lock down all of society at home and wear masks forever–the costs greatly outweigh the risks. Not to mention that if you’re at high enough risk, no level of societal precautions will be enough to keep you 100% safe.

              So, essentially, yes, if you need to live in a bubble to avoid serious illness, then you should live in a bubble. But don’t make everyone else do that.

              1. Steph*

                “We can’t…wear masks forever”

                Why not, though? Why can’t wearing masks when around other people/in public become part of social courtesy, like wearing trousers and shoes and following local waste-disposal ordinances?

                Yes, it’s less convenient, yes it’s “different” than before; it still strikes me as an extremely minor accommodation to make to be part of a community and maximize public health.

                1. androidfan*

                  Because facial expressions are part of human communication? Because I want to be able to smile at fellow humans out in the world? Because I want my children to have normal social development?

                  For the record I raced out to get myself and my children to get vaccinated as soon as eligible. We wear masks everywhere in public. But no I’m not going to accept masks being an everyday part of our lives forever.

                2. Zennish*

                  The fact that the above response used “I”, “me” or “myself” six times in six sentences kind of illustrates why we can’t make extremely minor accommodations for the good of the community.

                3. Calliope*

                  Zennish, it actually doesn’t because androidfan said they were wearing masks everywhere. So they are making the accommodation. But it is not minor to everyone and just blithely tossing out that it’s no big deal to make it permanent and then telling everyone who disagrees that they don’t care about the community is pretty terrible. Maybe people who don’t find masking a minor sacrifice but are doing it anyway should get your respect not your derision.

                4. Nancy*

                  Because it is not normal to never see other human faces. Some of us live alone. Some of us have other health reasons that make it difficult. Just because it is minor for you doesn’t make it minor for everyone. And those that find it difficult are not selfish or uncaring.

                  Of course nothing is stopping anyone from wearing a N95 themselves.

                5. Jam*

                  Because reading facial expressions is vital to human communication. Not to mention how important reading lips is to folks who are Deaf & hard of hearing, and children learning to speak.

                  I think, going forward, people should wear masks if they have a symptomatic illness or know that they’re contagious somehow, but otherwise not worry about it.

                6. MonkeyPrincess*

                  Because it’s important for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, and on the Autism spectrum to be able to see facial expressions to be able to make our way in the world.

                  Because it’s important for little children learning to speak and read to be able to see mouths moving. This is a huge issue in reading instruction circles right now.

                7. FridayFriyay*

                  >Of course nothing is stopping anyone from wearing a N95 themselves.

                  My child’s age is stopping them from being able to protect themself through either vaccination OR masking.

                8. Zennish*

                  I meant to make a larger point about how focusing on the comfort of the individual often blinds one to the good of the community, and trying to do that by quickly responding to one specific post was flippant and disrespectful. I apologize.

                  More generally though, while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, mine is that collectively we sometimes have a problem accepting that our personal views and comforts are not objective reality. When the choice is “I wear a mask or I increase someone’s chance of serious illness/death”, that is objectively a minor sacrifice for me, comparatively. That’s not to say that some people don’t struggle with it, and I sympathize, but that still doesn’t justify endangering others. Similarly, there is no such thing as “normal” communication. Communication evolves and adapts constantly, and while some have a harder time with it, that also doesn’t warrant endangering others. There are legitimate issues, such as communication for the deaf and issues for small children, but I simply don’t see “I have a harder time with it” as in that category. YMMV.

                1. Critical Rolls*

                  Yes, I would love to hear why mask wearing, especially when ill, is such a burden that vulnerable populations should have to stay home forever so others don’t have to do it.

                2. Calliope*

                  “Especially when ill” is a BIG caveat. I don’t think we all need to be wearing masks in public for the rest of our lives at all but I’m all for normalizing mask wearing if you have to go out when ill.

                  And citation needed on vulnerable populations needing to stay home forever if masking isn’t made permanent.

                3. Some dude*

                  There are political costs. California is lifting their mask mandate tomorrow, even though omicron is still here, because politically Newsom can’t do it for much longer. I would not be surprised if part of the drubbing the democrats are likely to get in the midterms is driven by voters mad at them over covid restrictions. Because apparently letting hundreds of thousands of people die because you were too incompetent to deal with the pandemic is a smaller sin than making people wear masks or show proof of vaccination.

                  It’s also not totally clear that mask mandates have been really successful in stopping the spread of COVID- I’m in california that had really strict measures and really high covid rates, in part because people were gathering in private and spreading it that way, or because in parts of the state that were anti-mask, no one was going to enforce it. one thing I have learned through this is, besides how broken and dysfunctional we are as a country, is that there is a big difference between a public health measure on paper and in practice. Vaccine mandates sound great on paper, but in practice maybe helped make this whole stupid thing more political and thus got people to dig their heels in more. Or maybe that would have happened regardless because we live in such a stupid time. Locally the people most at risk of COVID seemed to be the least likely to be vaccinated, because they heard from a friend of a friend of a friend that the vaccine had microchips or whatever.

              2. Rolly*

                “We can’t lock down all of society at home”
                Where is this happening that all of society is locked down at home?

                I don’t know of any such place in the US

                ” We can’t….wear masks forever”

                I don’t understand why we can’t wear masks forever in crowded indoor spaces, or at least when infection rates are high. It’s so easy. There is an environmental cost i guess, but it’s so easy.

                1. sb51*

                  Yeah, why can’t we normalize wearing them in places where there’s not that much interaction (and most of the interaction there is unwanted) like subways etc. If things were mostly under control people wearing masks most of the time and removing them when it was a big detriment (eating, chatting and wanting to see someone’s face) etc would probably keep things under control.

                  I know I plan to mask once I’m back to commuting by public transit because I don’t miss having about one awful cold per month — but I do expect that even in a very blue city I’ll have to put up with a lot more street harassment just because I hate my sinuses and they hate me.

              3. Calliope*

                I kind of hate this idea that wearing a mask is so easy and only anti-maskers would dislike it. No, sorry, it is terrible. I will do it when recommended by public health authorities to protect vulnerable people and I will do it if a friend or colleague asks me to in their presence to be respectful and to protect them. But I’m not going to say it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of things because it does and it is a cost.

                Also, like many people, I enjoy sharing meals with other people in public places like restaurants.

                1. HoHumDrum*

                  I mean I don’t enjoy wearing a mask, and I hate getting shots, but because I live in an area with vaccine and mask mandates I *have* been going to restaurants and meeting up with friends. Case numbers in my area have stayed low because of masks and vaccines, and so I’m willing to make the sacrifice to be able to enjoy more of my life.

                2. Calliope*

                  But we’re not talking about doing it now to keep case numbers low. We’re talking about doing it forever in this thread.

                3. Anon for This*

                  Wearing pants is miserable. They’re so uncomfortable, they definitely affect my enjoyment of things, if I sit on them wrong and stand up the pain of sitting on a wrinkle is so great. It affects my enjoyment of things and is a cost.

                4. Calliope*

                  Ok, so if you don’t want to wear pants for the rest of your life, that can be your campaign. I don’t really care one way or the other.

                5. Calliope*

                  I do wear a mask! This is the problem in these conversations. Everyone assumes that there are only two positions on opposite extremes. I have zero desire to get rid of mask mandates right now. That doesn’t mean I think they should be permanent. Two entirely different conversations.

                6. MonkeyPrincess*

                  Agree. I wear a face mask out, and at my job, but it’s awful. I hate it every second of it.

                7. rolly*

                  ” it is terrible. ”

                  OK, maybe I should not have said it is “so easy” for everyone – but it’s pretty easy for most people in the scheme of things and very easy for some. I watch the kids in my son’s class and they’ve totally got it – they just wear them like it’s not big deal. But just like “so easy” was over-the-top, terrible is a strong word.

                  Also, what Anon for This wrote about pants.

              4. SofiaDeo*

                Before vaccines, communicable infectious diseases routinely wiped out large segments of populations, immune compromised or not. Those not killed outright often suffered side effects from these diseases.

                Many of us older (60+) immune compromised folk aren’t “high risk” for “all” the communicable diseases because people vaccinated against them! There wasn’t all this anti vaccine sentiment, or unwillingness to follow public health recommendations. You didn’t go to a public school, or work a public or health sector job, without getting vaccinated. Few made a huge stink, they homeschooled or got a different job. And the death/morbidity rates are so high from all those older communicable diseases, people were glad to risk being one of the small percentage having severe side effects. Read some history about how “communicable diseases” wiped out/ravaged large populations until vaccines were discovered, and how the subsequent high vaccination rates drastically curtailed the effects of these diseases.

                We wouldn’t be up to “omicron” mutation if people would have masked and all who could, gotten vaccinated ASAP. This virus keeps mutating & we haven’t reached endemic stage as quickly as hoped, mainly because of this. Part of this misunderstanding/confusion is political: telling people early on “masks won’t be effective” against an airborne transmitted infection, horrified those of us with an infectious disease background. With an unknown airborne infectious agent, S.O.P. should be mask/proceed cautiously. Other coronavirus infections were prevented/mitigated by masking, we should have done so until there was evidence that masking wouldn’t help.

                You don’t have to live in a bubble, just, wear a mask.

                1. This is a name, I guess*

                  So, this isn’t exactly true, and trust me, I’ve felt similarly to you in the past.

                  A few countries had considerable success with Covid-zero protocols, but those countries had very draconian measures that limited freedoms for a long time, had rigid immigration policies so there isn’t a large of a need for the populous to travel internationally, had easy-to-secure borders (islands), and/or had authoritarian governments (eg., China). However, we need to be really careful about how we judge China’s Covid policy because their success has come at the expense of a genocide, of an increasingly worse surveillance state, and increasingly worse censorship. You cannot laud China’s Covid policy without tacitly condoning the treatment of its people.

                  Countries that have had the best Covid outcomes 2 years on were counties with populations who have high trust in government. Obviously, the US isn’t one of those counties. But, people have still died in those counties with better outcomes, schooling has been disrupted, and the economies are suffering. We thought – erroneously – that we could control Covid at the beginning, but we cannot.

                  Additionally, early on, the lack of vaccine uptake was partially driven by unequal to vaccines in poorer countries at first, but that was only for a few months. In countries without high vaccine uptake, they’ve found that it’s a combination of: 1) supply chain issues (having enough syringes and cotton balls, for example); 2) ability to refrigerate vaccines (even the ones that don’t require a deep freeze); 3) social infrastructure for mass vaccinations; and of course, 4) vaccine resistance.

                  Another weird myth is herd immunity. With the Omicron variant, herd immunity is likely impossible – not just because of vaccine hesitancy (which is what people erroneously believe) but because increased transmissibility increases the threshold for herd immunity – we need something like 90% vaccination rates (which is impossible given just the number of people who don’t produce immune responses to the viruses plus children). Herd immunity was going to be very very hard for a respiratory virus. What vaccines do is protect us from severe illness. I think Covid is likely going to look a little like chicken pox: most kids will get protection from severe illness through vaccination/childhood illness. Then, we might get a mild Covid infection every few years (a little like shingles, which I got at 33.) We might have older adults and people who are immunocompromised get boosters to protect them (many vaccines are targeted toward older adults…like shingles).

                  Finally, you might have noticed that a lot of variants are coming out of South Africa. This is for a reason. More than 20% of South Africans live with HIV, and before the pandemic, many, many weren’t taking medication. As soon as Covid arrived, South African officials started these huge public health campaigns to ensure people with HIV had access to and were taking their medications. This is because some immunocompromised people – like those with untreated HIV – can host a Covid infections for months and the virus will mutate within that host. IIRC, Omicron is either original Covid or a very early variant that incubated in a person with HIV for almost a year.

                  I bring this up because there are a lot of complex public health factors involved in Covid…like HIV infection rates and HIV policy in counties. Hell, you can probably blame fricken big pharma and Martin Shkreli for this problem, since they made it difficult for people to afford HIV drugs. (That was meant to be cheeky.)

                  It’s not just individual choices playing out on a grand scale. There are large systemic issues at play across the world that we could not have controlled if we had just “flattened the curve” in May 2020. That line of thinking – which has been propagated ad infinitum especially by the left and by the Biden administration’s never-ending use of the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” rhetoric – gives too much power to individual actors. It’s like blaming climate change on individuals eating meat and driving cars while ignoring corporate and governmental pollution.

                2. Jam*

                  So, first of all, I’m not anti-vax. I’m extremely pro vaccine, and got vaxxed and boosted the first chance I got. (I think this reply was to me, but might be misunderstanding the threading here.)

                  “This is a name, I guess” has explained what I was trying to get across much better than I could, so I won’t say anything more.

              5. Critical Rolls*

                If I never see reasonable precautions described as “living in a bubble” again, it will be too soon. Covid is much worse then the flu in terms of both immediate illness and long term effects, so there’s that. There is so much daylight between “lock down all of society” and “wear masks”: the first is something that no one is doing, and the latter is so easy I don’t understand what the objection is.

                And, once again, you’ve written this solely about the immunocompromised, forgetting the entire population of under-5s exist, despite that being the whole point of the article. Aaaargh.

                1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                  Yes. I don’t have kids and never will but I am really peeved at people throwing kids into the ‘oh well just let them catch the virus or stay isolated for the rest of their lives’ camp.

                  If we don’t protect the most vulnerable among us and support those who ARE protecting them then we’ve forgotten what a ‘society’ is supposed to be.

                  HELP each other.

                  (And I need a cup of tea and am going to put the kettle on for anyone who wants to join me. For all of you burning out: you DO matter. Don’t listen to those who say you or your loved ones are expendable or, worse, drains on society. You’re not)

                2. Anon for This*

                  The equivalency comes from the fact that reasonable precautions are more effective in not spreading the virus, than they are in protecting one from being infected. If I’m the only person wearing a mask in a room full of maskless people, I’m really not protected much. So saying we’re going to return to normal, no masks for anyone, immune compromised individuals will just have to manage is forcing them into a bubble. Other severe illnesses are only contagious with symptoms, so it’s easy enough to just avoid the person coughing up a lung. But with Covid, anyone could be contagious since asymptomatic people can spread it. That really reduces anyone’s ability to go out in public, anywhere, and avoid it.

                3. orchidsandtea*

                  Keymaster of Gozer, thank you. Just, thank you. I needed that tea, and that reminder.

                  Sincerely, a pregnant mom of two under-5s.

                4. Jam*

                  Also, under 5s are not at serious risk of COVID or complications therefrom. The numbers speak for themselves.

                5. Critical Rolls*

                  @ Jam, I get it, you think parents should have to accept the level of risk *you* are comfortable with, and mitigation is just too much to ask from anyone else. We are constantly learning more about the long-term effects of even mild cases of covid, so “not dead” isn’t the same as “totally fine.” AND kids can pass it on to higher-risk people, AND the more covid circulates the more dangerous and vaccine-evading mutations we can expect. Everyone should know this by now!

                6. Jam*

                  @Critical Rolls:

                  No, I think children are at near-zero risk themselves, so people shouldn’t worry about the kids unless they fall into the immunocompromised category. People worried about their healthy children dying from COVID are being unreasonable. Their kid is more likely to die in a car crash, but people still drive. Itsy all about cost–benefit analysis.

                  We should all worry about and protect the immunocompromised, but simply wearing masks and distancing forever is neither sufficient to do that nor acceptable for society, so the immunocompromised will have to take extra steps to protect themselves. We don’t ban the manufacture of peanut butter because some people have a deathly allergy. Likewise, we can’t lock society down forever to protect a minority from respiratory illnesses.

                  COVID isn’t going away, but it’s much less dangerous now than it was in March 2020. Just see how hospitalizations and deaths have become uncoupled from case counts–case counts absolutely soared last month, but deaths and hospitalizations just bumped up a bit. It was not proportional.

              6. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                I would like to remind people that perfect health does not protect one from dying of Covid.

                I wouldn’t have attended 4 funerals over zoom if it did.

                (And the ‘well it’s just like the flu’ bit is wrong. Covid is the flu on steroids. It’s absolutely the horror that we hoped never to see when I was a virologist.

                Get vaccinated. Wear masks and for the love of god stop and consider others)

                1. Researchalatorlady*

                  Thank you, Keymaster, for this, your previous, and your following comments.

                  My heart breaks for everyone struggling. You’re not alone. We’re alone together.

              7. JSPA*

                While it is true that even plain-jane coronaviruses have had me hours away from going to the hospital before the steroids cut in…other colds and flus and bacterial infections have not done so.

                Genes involved in immunity make up a significant portion of your genome. Genes and life history that affects lung function (or kidney function or circulatory function) are likewise multiple and highly variable. Being immunocompromised or otherwise high(er) risk isn’t all-or-none.

                If I don’t get Covid, I have an excellent chance of living another 30+ years in what would pass to any casual observer, as good health.

                If I do get Covid, I have a better than even chance of triggering a cascade of events that lead to death in 1 to 5 years. I may be rare in knowing my genetic risk factors, and in having experienced a particularly fierce coronavirus about 8 years ago, and had it diagnosed as such, and received a warning to avoid more of same.

                I’m not rare, statistically, in having those risk factors, nor that exposure history.

              8. Ismonie*

                Look at the hospitalization and death numbers for Omicron. We can’t NOT mask and NOT limit activities when we are in a surge, and not just for the immunocompromised. Given the fact that COVID is *novel* it is more of a risk than the flu, and will continue to be so until we get more people vaccinated and cut off transmission. Say, by masking.

              9. done*

                Except for the part where maskholes are also often vaxholes and are maliciously endangering everyone else, not to mention upping the likelihood of more/worse variants festering in them.

                I expect everyone to wear seatbelts too, and not smoke in public.

              10. new*

                Nobody is expecting to be made 100% safe, please stop with the hyperbole. I am high-risk and intend to wear masks the rest of my life because people have shown how little they care about others. Ugh.

                1. Tired social worker*

                  I’m so sorry. The fact that so many people see the exclusion of high-risk people from public life as an acceptable sacrifice at the altar of convenience is sickening.

          2. JSPA*

            Thanks to being in an open state, I can’t do 99% of the things that I could do, if the vast majority of people were vaccinated and N95 masked. My money and my multiple degrees are looking at moving to a place that won’t be suffering from

            a) the economic cost of a dramatic increase in kidney failure, long-term respiratory damage, strokes, heart damage, circulatory damage and soaring rates of diabetes that too often follow even “mild” covid infections.

            b) the mistakes and lost efficiency caused by people working with “covid brain”–which is just as real as chemo brain.

            c) the lasting shame and guilt of people who brought the virus home to a family member who died or was permanently disabled from Covid

            d) the survivor guilt and PTSD of those who survived

            d) the knowledge that a surprisingly non-negligible number of people apparently feel no guilt for bringing home a largely preventable disease to their susceptible family members, as well as jamming up the hospitals so that others died from lack of access.

          3. Critical Rolls*

            This impatience is exactly what’s making parents with kids under 5 feel like they’re on their own. “Natural immunity doesn’t last that long, guess we should stop trying!” The more people who refuse to do their part, the longer this drags on. Parents are not less tired of this than other people, they’re just trying to keep their families safe (and not get fired!).

        2. FridayFriyay*

          Not to mention the long-term impacts of covid, both known, and not yet known. Hard pass for me. It may be inevitable that we all catch some form of this, eventually, but I’d rather do what I can to keep my child from being a lab rat in that experiment before he can even be vaccinated.

          1. HigherEdAdminista*

            Seriously! I hope there is no long-term syndrome associated with COVID (aside from Long COVID, which has already appeared), but I wonder how many of these people who are so cavalier about reducing protections realize that we have actually no idea what will happen to people who have had COVID in ten years. The chicken pox causes shingles and they are only just now confirming that EB contributes to MS. It is a nightmare scenario to imagine hundreds of thousands or even more people down the road coming down with some long-term consequences that we can’t know because COVID is too new.

            1. Calliope*

              While this is possible and obviously scary, I am not willing to be locked down – or to lock down my child – for the next 10-20 years to make sure. I have a child to young to be vaccinated. I am taking precautions and I will be first in line banging down the door to get her vaccinated. And I will do what it takes not to contribute to over straining the health care system during surges. And of course continue to get boosters like I get a flu shot. But I think that’s the most we can realistically do. We are all going to get it unless we avoid all human contact or are very, very lucky. The question is if we can prime our immune systems via vaccine first and also end the pandemic phase that puts us in healthcare triage conditions.

              1. Not a cat*

                I’m high-risk, super careful, vaxxed, and boosted and I caught Omnicron. Was very lucky that it presented as a fever/cold for a little over a week. Lost my sense of smell too, but I got it back. To your point, “everyone is going to get it.” Yes, they will.

              2. FridayFriyay*

                Actually, the question is whether we can wait for a vaccine with at least some reasonable protection for little kids or a mutation that isn’t spiking pediatric hospitalizations. Accepting we will all likely eventually get covid-19 is not the same as acting cavalier about getting this strain of covid, now. You can feel free to make your own risk calculations for yourself and your family but please don’t act like the rest of us are being unreasonable for making different ones.

                1. Calliope*

                  That’s not what I’m saying though. I am taking precautions now. I also have a child too young to be vaccinated. I want her immune system to be primed before she gets it. But when we’re talking about long term effects that may not show up for ten or twenty years? Not much we can do about that.

                2. FridayFriyay*

                  We can do what is possible to limit exposure and try to avoid getting covid for as long as possible, or at least fewer times than otherwise. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it’s better than the original comment folks are responding to here essentially saying to give up bc it is inevitable. Lots of people, including me, don’t think that is necessarily the case – at least not yet. For what it’s worth my child does go to daycare when it’s open. We aren’t completely locked down. But I’m dismayed that the remaining few larger public health tools at our disposal are being preemptively ended when the youngest kids still have no defense mechanism.

                3. Calliope*

                  Yeah I’m just not willing to go there. Maybe I will if more evidence comes out. But I’m taking precautions now while my child is unvaccinated and there’s a ton of cases straining our healthcare system. We’ll get all recommended boosters and follow health guidance. But I’m not going to shape our lives around avoiding an endemic airborne virus for which a very effective vaccine exists because something might come up later.

                4. FridayFriyay*

                  Neither will we once my child is fully vaccinated. It is likely to be another 6+ months at least before that happens and yet policymakers have decided to move on.

            2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              EB was my specialty when I was a virologist. I’m still fascinated by that family (chicken pox belongs to it too, as does herpes simplex. Amazingly tricky they are).

              One can study a virus for decades and still not know exactly what it does.

              1. Ismonie*

                Epstein-Barr is also potentially implicated in the cancerous transformation of an inverted papilloma in the sinus cavity, which is “benign” to malignant squamous cell carcinoma. Interesting beastie.

                1. RowanUK*

                  As someone who got CFS/ME (and the hospital subsequently found that I’d recently had EB – it was pretty much asymptomatic glandular fever) this talk for what EB can do in the future is eye-opening.

                  (I’m going to continue doing everything possible to avoid getting covid for as long as I can. Long-covid sounds like turbocharged ME, no thanks!)

                  And on that note, I’m going to make a cup of tea!

            3. JSPA*

              we already know there are, and I had a long post to that effect that may be caught in moderation. Same links, but without what could be read as polemics:

              …dramatic increase in kidney failure, long-term respiratory damage, strokes, heart damage, circulatory damage and soaring rates of diabetes that too often follow even “mild” covid infections:





              and, “covid brain”

            4. Anonyone*

              Fun fact about chickenpox causing shingles; they can then cause something called a myelitis. And that is something I *really* don’t want to try mixing with Covid.

              1. NotRealAnonForThis*

                Another fun fact about chickenpox/shingles.

                For background, I had such a mild case of CP that the doc numbered my spots to make sure we got to 50. I do not know why 50 was so important but we needed to make sure I had at least 50. (Early 1980s)

                I had shingles three times between 19 and 27. These were not suspected cases. They were diagnosed by my (very confused because I was NOT old enough to have shingles) doctor. Other than having had chicken pox as a preschooler, I had no other risk factors. I do not have any condition that causes an impaired immunity.

                And I’m STILL not old enough for the shingles vaccine. There’s been a “hands thrown in the air IDK” as to whether I can make it to 50 before I wind up with another bout. I still have a few years.

                I’m thankful my littles are old enough to be vaccinated and will give no grief any parent of a youngster too young who is trying like hell to keep their children safe. Kindness should be the default.

                1. Anonyone*

                  That is incredibly rough. I had one bout of chicken pox and one bout of shingles when I was about 10 and that came back to haunt me in my late 20’s.

                  I just don’t think people really understand/comprehend what the long term effects of so many common illnesses can be.

                  I hope you’re able to get that jab before you hit 50 because I know shingles can be even less fun after that point.

      4. Danish*

        There are actually many, many people who have not caught covid and are still doing their very best to keep sealed away on the daily, yes. I know it must feel like “everyone” has given up and moved on, but they haven’t.

        I don’t know what the solution for parents is, but throwing up your hands and going “everyone will get Covid” can’t be it.

        1. Totally anonymous for this comment*

          This right here! I have to be careful not to get it because of my health compromised spouse. I also don’t want to have to worry about what will spring up in all these Covid patients in the future. Science just doesn’t know. It’s better just to not get it, in my opinion.

        2. DrownRat*

          Many many of us are still living in as much of a bubble as we possibly can… and we’re about to break.

          I had a baby in Nov 2019. He was born with respiratory issues that forced us to be very careful about our contacts for the first 3 months of his life. Just as we were coming out of that, bam! Covid sent us right back into isolation.

          My husband quit his “essential service” job in April 2020 to take care of the kiddo full time (in large part because he was so terrified of bringing it home from work.) He hasn’t had a day off child care since. I work from home and can take breaks to help out throughout the day, but for the most part, he’s it for nearly 9 hours a day. And then 50/50 evenings and weekends. My job itself is stressful, so we both need a break to recharge, but how?

          I had two medical emergencies at the end of 2021. Guess who was suddenly a single parent for 3 weeks?

          Add to all of that the fact that we’re all extreme extroverts, and we’re drowning.

          We’re fighting over stupid shit. He’s thrown out a couple of times now that while he loves me and our little family, maybe we should separate for the sake of his mental health. I’m not sure where that leaves me with my mental health? We’re not ready to get a nanny (we could afford one part time, but not full time). So, what do we do? What do I do if he _does_ leave one day? Then I’ll have to put my kiddo in day care. And… then what? The past 2 1/2 years of isolation and a marriage down the drain because the kid gets it on day one? It’s terrifying.

          All of that to say: Yeah, we’re not ok. Even those of us who have a partner at home to take care of the kid(s). Not even close.

          1. Kaiko*

            Wow, I just wanted to say I see you and I hear you. I did not want this comment to sit alone and unanswered. I don’t have answers, but you are not alone.

      5. lolly pop*

        Vaccination generally means not getting long covid, so keeping littles safe until vaccines are available seems like a good idea. Unless you really want to saddle parents/fellow citizens with long term care for affected children.

        1. birb*

          Has the vaccine been officially tied to significant reductions in long covid symptoms? I thought it was just more mild symptoms overall / less likely to require hospitalization.

          Every woman I know who has had covid was vaccinated and is now having long covid symptoms despite having “mild” covid. I don’t know anyone who escaped unscathed. We’re all having the same weird symptoms that mimic auto-immune issues. The men I know have been pretty much fine after the fact, but at least in my experience, the vaccine isn’t preventing long covid, just making symptoms more mild.

          1. Calliope*

            There’s been some pretty good evidence coming out recently that the rates of long Covid-type symptoms in people who contract Covid post-vaccination are not higher than the rates of long Covid-type symptoms in the population of people who have never had Covid.

            1. birb*

              That’s wonderful, but I hope that study included women. They very often don’t, and to huge detriment because covid / the vaccine has some side effects that are specific to people who menstruate that they didn’t check for and are JUST NOW “finding out” despite women talking about it anecdotally this whole time.

              1. Calliope*

                They definitely included women. You can look for it. And I’ve been reading about those side effects regarding menstruation and research into them for at least a year now so I don’t think it’s accurate to say they just found out, though it’s possible they didn’t uncover them during the clinical trials. But the clinical trials ALSO included women.

              2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                The vaccines, plural, have had probably the biggest studies of any vaccine ever created. And there’s no long term side effects from them.

                The immune system itself is what effects the menstrual cycle.

                1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                  (Covid is a really nasty systemic virus. It’s going to take years to find out how many bodily systems it knackers. We already know it can affect reproductive systems)

          2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            The vaccine has also shown to reduce transmission and infection as well as symptoms.

            It’s not 100%. Sadly no vaccine is :(

        2. Rolly*

          “Unless you really want to saddle parents/fellow citizens with long term care for affected children.”

          A vocal and possibly substantial minority of Americans does not care in the least about this. That’s what this is about – they just don’t care about public welfare if it inconveniences them in the slightest. Or even if it demonstrates that government can do good deeds – that undermines the argument to cut taxes and cut government. They want failure.

      6. Leela*

        “Perhaps the answer is that these schools/daycares need to stop shutting down. Because at the end of the day it seems like everyone is going to get this thing.”

        I have cancer, not a treat to read this at all. People *need* to consider that disabled people are allowed to stay alive despite you being inconvenienced, we are literally dying en masse because they don’t.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          The last two years have taught me that a disturbing amount of people regard us disabled as ‘disposable’ along with anyone else too old/too young/with underlying problems.

          We’re not going to ‘go ahead and catch this’ to keep others happy. Children shouldn’t be exposed to this virus (anyone who says it’s not dangerous to kids knows NOTHING about virology) either and I really hope they get a young child vaccine through soon.

          Nobody is disposable.

          1. birb*

            “Oh, but she had underlying conditions? That’s ok then.”

            I have lost all faith in humanity after this year.

            1. NotRealAnonForThis*

              I had little faith in it, pre-pandemic, when I was told at least annually that either I should home school my child or I should let nature take its course with regard to my child instead of contributing to a impure gene pool (!!!). All because my child’s early elementary classroom was nut-free and peanut-free (Classroom. Where it would be hard to contain an allergen with 30 < 8 year olds. Not the lunchroom, classroom.).

              People suck.

              I see folks putting on kettles for tea. I have a deluxe coffee bar going in my office and am willing to share. I see everyone who is struggling, and for all that's right in the world, you are indeed worthwhile.

          2. J.B.*

            I’m so sorry. And I wish that public health measures had prioritized opening schools *safely* earlier and that we require masks in schools forever, but no.

          3. RowanUK*

            I have a coworker who has been following guidelines etc, but as a very outgoing extrovert, she’s coming to the end of her tolerance. She’s at the stage now where she says that everyone she knows who’s had covid says it was milder than the mildest cold.

            What she’s not considering is that none of the people she knows who’s had it is particularly vulnerable (and most are in the fitness community). So she’s now acting like everything’s great, we’re all vaxed so we’ll all be fine.

            As someone who’s more vulnerable to it, and got the vax early, it’s annoying to have to keep reminding her that vulnerable people exist and that it will likely be much worse for them. It’s just not something she seems to be able to retain at all. Sometimes I think disabled people are ‘out of sight, out of mind’ (or some people want them to be…).

        2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          I’m not particularly vulnerable, but it has been disappointing how much people have been discounting the humanity of vulnerable people, old people when they talk about how fortunate it is that they’re the main ones dying.

          1. birb*

            What’s frustrating is that EVERY SINGLE PERSON who has said this to me has an underlying condition that puts them at high risk. I point it out every single time and the answer is like “oh but I’m not THAT high risk, it’s just -high risk medical condition-”

            My whole family has multiple auto-immune issues and heart conditions and they’re almost all overweight with upper respiratory / sinus issues / asthma. But “only people who are old and compromised are dying, it’s just a flu now!”

            1. Calliope*

              It’s not the flu but it’s true that overweight people with asthma who are vaccinated/boosted are not at high risk for serious complications. I would really encourage you not to define other people’s risk tolerances for them especially when it’s based on things like weight.

              1. birb*

                The people who have said this to me are not vaccinated and certainly aren’t boosted. Most will not wear masks. I am not making assumptions, I am talking about people I interact with regularly.

                The specific example I gave about my family is the only one where I listed conditions, but I feel confidently that having high blood pressure that is unresponsive to medication, hypothyroidism, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and recurring bronchitis and pneumonia that is not responsive to antibiotics makes you high risk. My family is incredibly unhealthy and also incredibly insistent that only people with pre-existing conditions are at risk so they don’t have to take even basic precautions.

                I am not making judgements about the physical health of strangers, but I am commenting on a pattern among my peers at work and my immediate and extended family. Every single person I know who has said this to me has been a person in a high risk category or with a high risk medical condition.

                1. different seudonym*

                  Belated, but for what it’s worth I’ve seen one instance of the same behavior. Denial is amazing.

                2. allathian*

                  I expect that a non-zero number of these people are going to die, or have seriously life-altering consequences of Covid… I’m sorry.

      7. Dark Macadamia*

        Absolutely not. Keep in mind the closures aren’t necessarily just for Covid cases. Some places just don’t have the staff to cover everything right now – how do you keep the school open in that case? Let kids run around the building unsupervised? Pull the janitors, nurses, receptionists to teach classes? Deny teachers sick leave?

      8. Properlike*

        Perhaps the answer is that employers need to start hiring a rotating staff of in-home emergency childcare providers who’ve already had Covid or are vaccinated so that their workers can work?

        Then the teachers and school staff can go to work too. Or allow schools/kids to do remote teaching/learning when a teacher has to quarantine for their kids.

        Or, you know, require EVERYONE to get the vaccine, no matter what, or they don’t get to work at all?

        “Open the schools/daycare because we’re all going to get it” is a great soundbite, but you might have already noticed that the teachers are burnt out. Summer schools and camps near us are having a hard time finding staff to work because of it.

        If you personally are not in a school as a teacher or staff member, and if you have chosen not to be because of money/quality of life/etc., then what makes you think those professionals aren’t dealing with the exact same issues that you are?

        1. Rolly*

          Covid-19 has shown that many parts of our society and economy run too lean – too few staff, not enough inventory, cutting things too close – all to keep costs down.

          This is true in schools and healthcare. But it’s also true in supply chains, and is one part of price increase – for businesses around the world have cut inventory to cut costs and guess what – the system can’t cope with stress.

          1. Salymander*

            This is very true. Saying that we should just have everyone stop masking and see what happens means that a great many essential services shut down. Schools are only one area that is just not going to function without some kind of regulated safety protocol for the whole country and a whole lot more support and assistance for teachers, kids and parents. Police, fire departments, hospitals, the people who provide us all with food and electricity and water and everything else we need to function have to be able to have protection from covid lest everything just fall apart.

            Police are very over burdened by coronavirus right now. I know some officers don’t want to mask/vax, but many more are exposed to the virus at work. I reported a sexual assault, and the whole process of reporting, investigating and prosecution is slowed down to a crawl by covid. Many of the support services are limited by coronavirus. Everyone is trying to help, but the system is overburdened to the point where it barely functions at all. Another woman I have spoken to reported a sexual assault and was not able to talk with an officer for weeks. I wasn’t interviewed by a detective for months. They weren’t being deliberately terrible, they just didn’t have the staff. And so there are at least two more sexual predators roaming around my town than there might otherwise be. To be fair, the stats on sexual assault tell me that it is unlikely that either of these men will serve any jail time, but it is still bad and made worse by covid slowdowns.

            My husband works at a wastewater treatment plant. They have to keep 50% of their workforce on paid leave at home right now so that there are people to cover when workers are sick or there is an exposure. They are normally rather understaffed, but covid has put way too much pressure on an already inadequate system. Right now, they are keeping things running with a skeleton crew. This is a job that is very dangerous and complex, and can have terrible public health and environmental consequences if things go wrong. The city they work for is a liberal city in a liberal state, and yet they are very lax about their covid safety measures so there are many problems. It isn’t just vaccine and mask resistant staff that cause the problems, either. They contract with a janitorial company to have the offices cleaned, and the workers there are not given paid sick leave. They routinely come to work sick. One of the first major waves of covid to hit the plant was started by a cleaner who came to work sick because she didn’t have sick leave and her boss bullied her into working while she had covid. Dozens of people got sick, and their families had to quarantine. Many of them passed covid on to others. Being chronically understaffed and having inadequate support for sick people is a huge problem for everyone in that city because if the plant shuts down their whole wastewater system is gone. But the toilets don’t stop flushing.

            It seems like in the US we try to get by with the minimum of staff, minimum safety measures, minimum effort. That is barely enough when everything goes perfectly. In a time of huge crisis like we are in now, it really comes back to bite us.

              1. Salymander*

                Thanks, Orchidsandtea, I’m hanging in there. I hope you are doing well. Or as well as possible.

                I just get frustrated when people who should be natural allies start getting upset with each other rather than the folks who are really causing a lot of the problems. Politics, big money, and such make an already bleak situation worse, and they reap a huge profit while we all suffer and make sacrifices or in many cases just fight. And if course some of us just behave selfishly and don’t bother to look at the big picture. I think we are all frustrated and exhausted. I definitely am. Seeing parents (including me!) at the end of their ability to cope, and seeing teachers who are risking so much and are given so little respect is hard for all of us I think. At least more people are standing up to employers and demanding better treatment and better pay. I hope it brings lasting positive change. I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t, but it is nice to think about. I know that none of this is news to anyone. I suppose it is just good to have something to focus my mind right now. :)

        2. Mellie Bellie*

          “ Or, you know, require EVERYONE to get the vaccine, no matter what, or they don’t get to work at all?”

          We tried this. Then our state’s governor passed a law prohibiting it. (With predictable results.) This country is such a mess.

      9. Rara Avis*

        My K-12 school in a very blue state started testing every student 3 weeks ago. Our positivity rate has been 0.45%. Our community is highly vaccinated, our school is even more highly vaccinated, and we all wear masks consistently. We also benefit from living in an area where lunch can be outside year-round. Following medical and scientific advice has allowed us to keep the school open and keep students and employees healthy. It gets much harder if there isn’t community-wide buy-in. But there’s a long history asking schools to shoulder the burdens of society’s bad decisions.

        1. VintageLydia*

          Exactly this! The ironic thing is the political sector railing against mitigation is just making it harder for them. I rather a mask over my kids’ faces and everyone eligible being vaccinated and let them have as full experience at school as possible vs having to close often because both kids and adults at the school are sick too often to stay open. The math ain’t mathing for those who want to open everything up like a pandemic isn’t happening.

          1. HigherEdAdminista*

            Absolutely true! We could have things be a lot safer if we were willing to put in layered protection methods. This would help keep things open and get more people to participate, and things would start to seem a lot more comfortable and normal, but some people only want to accept time-machine normal where they don’t have to change or deal with anything anymore, and life doesn’t work that way.

      10. birb*

        If parents are cool with their kids just being tossed in a gym with five other classes and staying that way from attendance to the final bell, then sure, but that’s not SCHOOL, and doesn’t require teachers. Understand what that means for LEARNING and don’t further penalize teachers and cut pay when test scores are down later. Teachers are not babysitters. Teachers are being held to HIGHER standards the last two years, not lower.

        Teachers / School Staff are quitting (and dying, and taking medical leave) in record numbers right now. My district’s already shady corrupt incentive pay system has been paused for over two years with teachers receiving no new ratings, and a flat 1% raise instead of our typical merit based raises. This is my third year teaching and I am the head of my department. My evaluation scores are excellent…. but I am still on the payscale of a first year teacher.

        Meanwhile I have 3X the assigned extra duties, we can’t enforce masks (and don’t have enough to go around) and kids are “socially distanced” in desks that are less than a food away from each other. Our district has stopped accurately reporting and no longer has tests on campus despite assuring parents that we do. I am currently creating assignments for two vacant teaching positions in my department, which means 300 extra students to grade on top of my own. If a teacher can’t find a PCR test, no quarantine is entirely unpaid, even if you are actively symptomatic and have a confirmed rapid test. We regularly have 40+ teachers out due to covid, bereavement, or FMLA and also have a sub shortage, AND a staff shortage after resignations. That means that the majority of our classes have extra “split” students, or a long term sub and no real assignments, or they’re sent to an auditorium with 5 other classes and no access to outlets or wifi to work with 1-2 adults monitoring.

        We’ve lost campus personnel to burnout, mental illness, and death. Leave for covid was cut to 5 days after the holidays when everyone was sick with omicron, even if you are symptomatic, which means people have to come back unwell or be financially penalized. Many of the teachers who have returned are exhibiting symptoms of long covid, which is no joke. It feels like my body is ruined. I’ve needed an emergency inhaler every day since I came back. I get winded just standing and talking. I am in my 30s and was otherwise healthy.

        I’m sorry you’re having a hard time but asking others to risk their lives and their long term health so your kid can have somewhere to be while you’re at work is an absurd level of entitlement. If our school had closed for the first week after the holidays then the majority of us would not have gotten sick. When people talk about keeping schools open I’m curious as to who they think actually TEACHES their kids? Do they understand that teachers are human persons who also get ill? Do they understand what happens when all of the teachers are forced to choose between their life and their livelihood? Do they understand the mental impact of their children’s teachers just… disappearing regularly with no communication? Having breakdowns, being out sick constantly, leaving for schools with better covid practices, or DYING?

        1. smirkette*

          All of this. As with medical personnel leaving the field in droves, who do they think will replace these highly skilled workers? Getting a teaching credential takes both time and money—about a year and ~$20k in CA. An emergency credential’s good for a year, but need to get it the full credential cleared in that time. And considering that a light week teaching pre-Covid was 50–60 hrs back when I was in the classroom, I can’t imagine teaching AND doing coursework while juggling reactionary Covid measures taken by the district and school.

          But then, the far right’s been trying to destroy public ed in this country since desegregation, and after decades of unfunded mandates and severe austerity, Covid might just do it for them.

          1. birb*

            They WANT teachers to leave public schools. The goal is to defund and destroy public schools to make the voucher system more popular and seem “necessary” so they can defund public schools and shuffle that money to private religious schools and charter schools. Those schools aren’t beholden to the anti-teacher laws being passed that are driving teachers out of public schools, so they get extra money for any kid that is pulled from public school and enrolled in their school, and they’ve got a big pool of potential teachers who can no longer reasonably work in state schools, but need to make a living somehow. Then all those pesky teacher protections and unions don’t matter! And hey, no state mandated course content standards! Or separation of church and state!

            The anti-education agenda currently focuses heavily on policing teachers and making their jobs impossible so they leave. Look at Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, or Texas pulling books from libraries and adding insane restrictions to social studies content, or the many states trying to make it so that teachers have to upload all content for the year by the first day, or states pushing for “Parent Bill of Rights” for schools. The pushback on critical race theory is a political strategy to demonize public school teachers and spread distrust of the public school system in general.

        2. Kelly*

          It’s so hard, and I hear you. I think some parents maybe are truly not thinking about teachers the way they should. A lot of us, though, are being put in an impossible position where our jobs are requiring us to be at work but our kids have nowhere to go. It isn’t that I want my kids in school so they’re out of my hair – I can’t bring them with me to my job that pays our bills. I wish my job would be flexible enough that I could manage virtual school and stay employed. I wish government would step up in my red state and mandate masks and vaccines. Capitalism is the bad guy here. We aren’t “cool” with anything that’s happening. We’re desperate.

          1. birb*

            Yes, but the answer to this question was more social safety nets, more funds sent directly to families, more systemic supports… Not insisting that your children’s teachers be willing to die for your paycheck. You do mention capitalism being the bad guy, but knowing that… why is the knee-jerk solution punching down at teachers, a historically under-paid and over-worked career, instead of punching up at politicians who have mismanaged this mess and left us to fight it out with each other?

            It is possible to advocate for yourself and your needs without sacrificing the humanity of others who are in the same boat.

            1. Kelly*

              Yes, I’m pointing out that you’re using parents as a straw man here, in response to an article about how hard this crisis is on parents. It sounds like you’re really angry at your employer and at the system writ large. I get it, I am too. Accusing individual parents of “insisting that your children’s teachers be willing to die for your paycheck” is hyperbolic, inaccurate, and hurtful. Similarly, it’s notable that you think parents struggling with the current crisis are “punching down” by acknowledging/experiencing difficulty in a difficult situation. I sincerely hope that you find employment where you feel appropriately cared for and valued.

              1. Ismonie*

                This is in response to a thread in which someone said we should just stop closing schools. So you are taking this way out of context.

              2. CorruptedbyCoffee*

                I have heard from a lot of teachers that will be leaving the profession because they do feel like they are being sacrificed. I can only hope that after they follow your advice we have some left to teach. I suspect we will have major staff shortages in this field for years to come, and I doubt that will help anyone keep their kids in school.

            2. This Old House*

              How do those social safety nets work, in practice? How are they working in other countries which have always had better safety nets than the US? Maybe I just can’t imagine it because I’m so deep in the system I’m in. If a kid gets sent home to quarantine, SOMEONE has to watch that kid, who is at risk of having and spreading COVID. If that kid’s parent has great paid leave but an essential job, does that job go undone? Or does someone else, anyone else – so long as they’re not a teacher – risk the exposure, because the parent who has received govt funds can afford to pay a babysitter? (I don’t think kids who have been exposed should be in school, fwiw. I don’t see how “stop closing schools” is feasible right now. But I don’t know how the social safety net can really help in this situation, anyway.)

              (It is striking to me how much “teachers aren’t babysitters” sounds like “it’s cool to leave all of the risk burden on the shoulders of babysitters even though (because?) they are lower-paid, less likely to have health insurance, and more likely to be POC than teachers.”)

              1. Tired social worker*

                You’re right that a stronger social safety net wouldn’t be enough, though it would be a good start. We’re also limited by the way our economy has normalized staffing as few people as possible in the “essential” professions to maximize profit. If it were the norm to always staff enough people to *comfortably* allow for the absence of a few coworkers, that would be one step (though not enough) toward allowing parents who are essential workers to be with their kids as they quarantine. With that in place, we would have had to drastically change the way those services were offered – grocery delivery and curbside pickup *only*, for example, with significant hazard pay for the people working in those roles. Additional out-of-the box accommodations for other essential workers, hazard pay wherever those accommodations still leave too much danger (nursing), etc. But those solutions would require expanded internet and phone access, and a certain degree of grace and patience among a population accustomed to instant gratification and convenience.

                I’m not saying it’s easy, or simple, or honestly even possible given current political and economic realities. But I personally am not convinced we had to throw parents, sanitation workers, nurses, teachers, grocery store workers, social workers, and, yes, babysitters, under the bus because “that’s just how those jobs are.” All of this is a long way of saying that I really don’t think most teachers have been okay with the unacceptable burdens placed on child care workers, which seems to be what you suggest at the end of your comment. Neither teachers nor babysitters should be in the situation they are currently in, but avoiding that would have required a level of investment that many were not willing to make.

                1. This Old House*

                  I mean, in Summer 2020 when the debate was about opening in-person schools at all, I heard a lot of teachers saying, “If you need childcare, get a babysitter” and “If you want daycare, send your kids to daycare.” The actual options that were available to parents working in-person tended to be “learning pods” operated out of daycare centers where a roomful of students exposed each other and daycare workers, but, you know, not licensed teachers with health insurance, so it was somehow safer than in-person school, despite being exactly as risky, just for different people.

                  I don’t think most teachers have thought through the implications of “we’re not babysitters,” but the implication is definitely that exposure is an acceptable occupational hazard for babysitters, but not for teachers.

                2. Tired social worker*

                  @This Old House: That’s super disappointing. I hope it was just a loud minority of teachers making those types of comments, but I guess it’s hard to say. I feel like so much of the last two years has been characterized by various types of “essential” (read: vulnerable) workers, including parents, being pitted against each other for scraps.

          2. done*

            Maybe you should advocate for bringing your children to work when schools are closed, instead of piling on the teacher/educator plaguewagon. It’s disappointing and disgusting to realize how many seemingly decent people are still demanding so much suffering and sacrifice from others who are already suffering and sacrificing. And then having the nerve to neg people for calling it out.

            1. Clare*

              Um, no, a lot of closures are for quarantines due to exposure – please do not bring quarantining kids to work! That’s why we should have expansive sick and caregiving leave.

              1. Salymander*

                Plus a lot of jobs are dangerous for kids. My husband can’t bring our kid to work. It is a wastewater treatment plant, one of the most dangerous places you can work. I still think that the answer isn’t to force teachers to risk their long term health and even their lives so that the economy can keep chugging along. Some things are just wrong.

                To be clear, I think teachers are being put in an impossible situation. As are parents. And I think a lot of folks with an agenda want to have teachers and parents at odds rather than teachers and parents banding together to fight back against the politicians and super wealthy business folks who are benefiting financially and politically from covid and who want to weaken our public education system. Teachers are pushed past the limit of what is reasonable or healthy. So are parents. Who benefits from that? I sure as hell don’t, and I doubt anyone else commenting her does either. The gulf between rich and poor is widening. The middle class is shrinking. These are terrible times, and yet so many people are beginning to say no to ridiculous employer demands, low wages, unhealthy work situations and unfair practices.This is our moment to stop fighting each other and work together to make things better for everyone.

                1. Tired social worker*

                  Yes!! I hope we can keep up the momentum and push for more – shorter workdays/work weeks, safer working conditions, more of a safety net for those who for whatever reason are not working. There is really no reason for parents’ needs to conflict with teachers’ needs if the underlying forces are addressed.

            2. Anoni-Mouse*

              I don’t think you want my 5 year old coming to work with me in the manufacturing facility where your Covid PCR test reagents are made. Especially if the reason his school/after-school childcare is closed is for Covid exposure…

        3. Not A Babysitter*

          Thank you. I’m a teacher and seeing this post from Alison and all its comments really has solidified my decision to quit.

      11. Ismonie*

        If I can hold it off until my kid gets vaccinated, the chances of long COVID decrease substantially. So far, so good in that regard.

      12. Some dude*

        We still have several thousand people dying a day from this disease. I am eager to get to a point where we don’t have to do quarantines, but we ain’t there yet.

      13. Beth*

        I see what you’re getting at here, but I also see my hometown, which basically did decide to keep schools open no matter what, and still ended up with closures. They simply ran out of teachers and school staff to watch kids. Once covid started spreading in the school system, too many school workers were out sick at once to even watch the kids, much less teach them anything. Others, especially elderly teachers close to retirement, quit rather than expose themselves. The schools couldn’t get enough substitutes to even try to fill the gaps, so they had no choice but to go through periodic shutdowns whenever teacher case numbers got too high. (Of course, lots of kids got sick too, but that had been planned for and the decision had been made not to close for that. It was the inability to staff that shut things down again.)

        There are no easy answers here. If we keep schools closed, parents can’t work and can’t support their families. If we decide to keep schools open no matter what, lots of people get sick, and we might still end up closing them because there logistically isn’t enough support for schools to actually guarantee they’ll be staffed under these circumstances. If we go for a hybrid mode, opening and closing schools based on local case numbers or some other metric, everyone gets caught in an in-between mode that it’s impossible to settle into, always having to adjust on the fly to each day’s circumstances. Unless you have enough money to hire a private nanny/tutor, all of the options suck right now.

        1. Anoni-Mouse*

          This. It’s a rock and a hard place for both parents and teachers. We need better support systems in place like parental leave, better sick leave, companies not trying to run on a skeleton crew all the time to save costs so everything doesn’t come to a screeching halt whenever someone needs to be out.

      14. Never Boring*

        Some of us are hoping that if it’s inevitable that we will get COVID, we know that we have crappy lungs and so we are trying to prolong that moment as long as possible for better treatments to be available. Three of my great-grandparents died in the 1918-19 flu pandemic, and I don’t want to press my luck.

    4. Rachel in NYC*

      My mom recently commented that she’s always been a little on the fence about the private school that my sister sends my 6 yr old nieces to.

      But it’s been worth it’s weight in gold the past two years because of how little it’s closed. There have been some exposures here and there but a lot better than the local public schools.

    5. Sloan Kittering*

      I’m sad that, looking at the Slate comments, their takeaway is that daycares need to stop testing / stop closing down when they find exposures. I feel like that can’t be the solution while we still don’t have vaccines for our youngest members of society :(

      1. Clare*

        It’s just one more example of how parents of young children (and childcare workers) are being thrown to the wolves – lots of people just want to move on and let the little kids get Covid before they can be vaccinated, even though it’s actually more dangerous to kids <5 than older kids.

        1. birb*

          We’ve hit the point where the US really just does not have the safety nets or infrastructure to support families who are middle class. It has been going on for a long time, and obviously was made significantly worse by the pandemic. We made it a long time on women’s unpaid labor and the unpaid labor of elderly parents… but now women have to work to make ends meet, and lots of families lost elderly caregivers. Unfortunately going forward affording to have and house and raise children here is going to be a “luxury” that most of the middle class can not afford. The birth rate was already dropping because millennials and gen z KNOW they likely won’t be able to afford to have and raise healthy kids, so they’re not having them if they can help it. I’m sure watching the lack of family support during covid is going to have a huge impact on young people’s family planning.

          1. done*

            I *hope* it has an effect on family planning. We have enough heavy-lifting as it is. Climate woes are going to keep piling on, and gods know what variants will come popping out of the woodwork. Like trying to have kids on the Titanic.

            1. Ismonie*

              I mean, if no one has kids, there won’t be doctors etc to care for us when we are old. The US, like many “WEIRD” and other industrialized nations, was already in a population slump before the pandemic. The only reason the US is at replacement rates is because of immigration.

            2. HoHumDrum*

              It’s really messed up to judge people for having kids. The problem is the massive systems of inequality and cruelty that are making the future inhospitable. The problem is not people doing what people have done since the dawn of time. Climate change is being caused by corporations and the billionaires who run them, not the families just trying to survive.

      2. Karia*

        Slate has a somewhat socially conservative commentariat. I wouldn’t take their views as being necessarily representative of the general public.

  2. S*

    I have a 4 month old and a 3 year old and both my husband and I work full time. The title of this article is so spot on it makes me want to cry. Or drink. Maybe both?

    1. Ros*

      2, 4, and 6-year-old here. I’ll raise you a glass of bitter, bitter tears, send you solidarity, and scream into the void.

      I’m seeing my Dr for burnout leave in 2 weeks. And otherwise I’m quitting. This is unsustainable, and work has been the worst part of it, and I’m done.

      (To be fair: 4 months ago I told my boss I was on the edge of burnout and needed things to change. The only change is that I’ve inherited more work. So. I’m out.)

    2. Quinalla*

      Internet hugs for you too! All my sympathy, I have older children (2 8’s and a 12) and just shudder to think if I’d been unlucky enough to have this pandemic hit when my kids were younger. I hope they get the 5 and under vaccines sorted out soon and I keep pushing at work to consider everyone’s needs but especially parents with kids under 5 and anyone who is high risk. Far too many just want to move on, but those people have to continue to be considered in decisions.

      My youngest brother has a kid under 5 and he co-owns a restaurant and his wife works FT too – I don’t know how they are doing it to be honest.

  3. Michelle Smith*

    I don’t have any children and I am burned out and constantly stressed. In fact, the only person I have to take care of at the moment is myself and even that has been so much work. I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would be right now with small children. Big hugs to everyone who is getting through it while taking care of others.

    1. CeeLee*

      I’m right there with you. My household is my boyfriend and me, and we’ve both worked at home since the pandemic started. Overall, we’re doing ok, but yet, I’m soul crushingly exhausted. I don’t remember what life felt like before it took my day’s worth of energy to get one small task done. I literally can’t imagine what it would be like to have small children on top of this! Huge hugs to parents and the entire exhausted population!

  4. Pants*

    I’m a childfree, but I want to tell you parents that I see you. I can’t fully grasp all that you’re going through but I sympathise so so so much. You have shouldered a huge amount of, well–everything in the last couple years. You deserve so much recognition and SO MUCH MORE HELP. xxoo

    1. SansaStark*

      +1000 I can’t do much besides being aware of the problem and offer the tiny bit of support/flexibility within my small sphere of influence, but you and your struggles are seen by so many of your childfree friends and coworkers. I wish there was more we could do to help.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Wear your mask, regardless of your vaccination status. Everywhere. Encourage your friends, family, and coworkers to wear their masks so they don’t pass covid to parents with children too young to be vaccinated.

        I’m coming off of two weeks with a spouse in isolation due to a positive covid test and a 4 year old out of daycare which meant I did about 6 hours of work in the last two weeks. My spouse’s school no longer requires masks, so even though HE has been wearing one he still got sick. If both parties are wearing masks, that is less likely to happen.

        1. Pants*

          I’m very vocal about masks, to the point where some people around me are irritated. Won’t shut me up–I’ll continue to yell and irritate the masses. I live in Texas, so it’s a lot of yelling going on.

          Personally, I rarely leave my house/condo complex. (See above, re: Texas) I get as much delivered as possible and tip like I’ve got Bezos money because they deserve it. I’m often told that I’m over-cautious as if it’s a bad thing. I feel like we’re never going to conquer this because of those people.

    2. Indigo a la mode*

      Same. This article was really hard to read and I feel terrible about the impossible situation parents have been left in by the failures of our society to provide for its families. I do everything I can at work – welcoming incidental kid noises/appearances in meetings, making meetings flexible if a parents needs to tap into parenting, encouraging my team to stop working at a reasonable hour so they can be with their kids (or work on off hours if that’s what they need that day), but I understand that’s not necessarily improving their sanity and self-care. There’s just no answer. All I can do is second the love, keep my mask on, and hope that we’ll be able to help you get out of the woods as soon as possible. So much love to you all, parents. <3

    1. anonymous73*

      Yes it is math. And yes there is a nationwide company issue, but if one of them has to take time off without pay and he earns more, I fail to see how that statement is BS.

          1. bluephone*

            I can think of a bunch of jobs/industries where someone would be a (much higher) wage earner than their partner but not have a lot of flexibility (if any). Law enforcement (especially with overtime), patient-facing health care, on-call IT support, delivery drivers, grocery store, etc. Some of these jobs may not be “high paying” but if you’re pulling in $30K at the grocery store (I’m just guessing) and your spouse is pulling in $15K, well who’s making more money in that scenario? Immediately jumping to “that person’s husband is a neanderthal who wants to keep Commenter barefoot and pregnant and is using their job as an excuse!” is pretty ignorant of reality.

        1. Pandemic Parenting is Miserable*

          Some jobs are not flexible. They just aren’t. If the husband were a kindergarten teacher or grocery store manager or an ER doc or RN on a COVID ward or a veterinarian (like my husband) – none of these jobs can be done on an alternate schedule or remotely and all of them became more demanding and hard to manage time off in the last two years. People need to stop jumping to bash the spouse as the first response because that is an individual response, not the systemic one that is needed.

          1. bluephone*

            You just said what I was thinking but way better :-) I’m one of the few people in my family who has a job that lends itself very well to working from home (and an employer who’s decided we’ll primarily WFH indefinitely). Not only do most of my relatives work for employers who resist working from home–the jobs themselves just aren’t conducive to it (law enforcement, patient-facing healthcare, retail, facilities management, etc).

          2. JelloStapler*

            Same here my husband is in healthcare and although can take our kids to his office if school is closed (and they are not quarantined) – it still falls mostly on me, with a job that can be done remotely. But, my kids are school age and vaxxed so even then… I could not have done this with toddlers.

          3. Rav*

            Not just some jobs. Some bosses/companies aren’t flexible. It doesn’t matter if the job can be done remotely if the higher ups don’t want to.

          4. Anon for This*

            Or they’re flexible, but only to a point. My team is currently managing by having those with no children or older children shoulder all of the weekend work so the parents of young children can take care of their kids, but we’re one manager who thinks the work should be distributed completely evenly away from that grinding to a screeching halt. And I’m starting to get exhausted from not having a weekend to myself since the pandemic started…. I’m trying to ignore it because the parents are worse off, but it’s been two years of this and that’s making me feel very frayed around the edges.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          But if they are both equally out of PTO, and they have to lose income whenever a parent stays home, then it just makes more sense for the person who earns less to stay home. That’s the conclusion my husband and I had to come to; our earning proportions are 30% me and 70% him, so it wouldn’t make financial sense for us to be working on 30% of our income.

        3. Dark Macadamia*

          “The higher earner keeps working and the lower earner takes on childcare for now” tells us zero information about how much childcare the working parent does. It’s a really weird assumption and a stretch that having a job means a working parent is COMPLETELY uninvolved in parenting.

        4. Nonnie*

          Not all higher earning jobs are middle management that lends itself to working remotely. They are making the choice they feel is best for their family. And yes, it’s a choice that many families have to make along the same gender lines. That’s a system problem. There’s no reason to make assumptions about who has how much flexibility and how they can do it differently because you dislike the systemic trend.

    2. middle name danger*

      The math is that it makes financial sense for the husband to stay employed. He earns more money. This parent’s comment has nothing to do with all of the parenting being left to the mother.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          The math is only even right temporarily. We’re all having to make short-term decisions which are going to have long-term consequences.

          Giving up work because it makes immediate financial sense can have huge ramifications down the line depending on field, seniority, etc. This is hardly a pandemic-specific problem, though – it’s just that the current situation has magnified existing inequalities and structural unfairness.

          1. Salymander*

            This is so true. I stayed home because it made financial sense. Now, finding a job is really tough. All my work experience and education was years ago, and my ND kid still needs a significant amount of help from me. And I have asthma and mobility issues, so that doesn’t help. Staying home made sense, a d really I had to do it at the time. That doesn’t mean that it was a decision free of some serious consequences.

      1. SweetTooth*

        Right, like, if I ultimately get fired for poor performance because I am taking care of my kid when daycare is closed, we will survive. If my husband got fired, we would not be able to afford our mortgage and living expenses on just my salary.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      It is not BS for people living with the companies and government we actually have to prioritize “the one who earns more” or “the one whose job pays for our family health insurance” as a practical approach more likely to keep the family out of financial ruin. It is not on that OP to change the entire system, because surely if her husband just DEMANDED… Sometimes you do not have the leverage to make demands on your employer and force them to accommodate you.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      (Ignore taxes and other withholding etc for this illustration) If parent A makes $25/hr and parent B makes $50/hr, and one of them has to take an unpaid day off, then if parent A does it, they’re out $200. If parent B does it, they’re out $400. It doesn’t make parent B any less of a parent for them both to decide they’d like to lose less money.

      1. Ambelar*

        Yes to this! I don’t think it has much to do with gender and everything to do with who has higher earning power. For us the pandemic meant my husband staying home 100% with the kids while I work 2 jobs – I have much higher earning power because of some health limitations he has. So it can work both ways, depending on who earns more. I’d love to be with my kids, but financially it works out for us much better if he spends the vast majority of the time with them.

        1. Jax*

          My husband got the worst of both worlds. He has the higher income and the 100% WFH job, which means he is stuck with kid bus stop runs, making dinner, taking care of the quarantines/sick days/half days…

          He does it all (and makes 62% of it all) and I’m feeling useless and resentful towards my job. With prices rising my pay feels laughable, I’m stuck playing butts-in-the-chair at the office 40 hours per week because WFH is no longer an option, and I’m feeling that existential “What I am doing here?!?” mid-life crisis hitting me. Hard.

          I want the flexibility to work from home and throwing a load of laundry in or being available to talk to my teens when they want to talk at 3:30 pm. So, while my spouse isn’t oppressing me, I definitely feel that Corporate America’s hard push back to 100% in-person is.

        2. Rolly*

          ” I don’t think it has much to do with gender and everything to do with who has higher earning power. ”

          Oh, it has plenty to do with gender – men know this and are not big advocates for more equal pay because it helps them have more power in the workplace and at home.

          We can’t point to an individual family doing anything wrong by making this calculation, but it’s all about gender and men that don’t fight it are complicit.

          1. Electric Sheep*

            Yeah it contributes to the gender pay gap that women are paid less so do more unpaid caring and then there’s the flow on effects on their career from that.

          2. Sloan Kittering*

            Exactly, it has everything to do with gender. It ensures and perpetuates gender inequality.

            It particularly grinds my gears because many of my female friends are doing critical, but traditionally low paid work in the service sector. Nurses, teachers, non profit workers. One works at a homeless shelter, another defends victims of domestic violence. Both their husbands are software engineers for big bucks. So if it’s crunch time, they have to quit while hubbie keeps typing. Why, as a society, are we willing to pay a software designer sitting in a home home office with a BA $300K but someone who is saves lives with an advanced degree, out in the thick of things, only $40K?

          3. Salymander*

            Yes. This is so right. An individual family might need to make certain financial decisions in order to do as well as they can within this unequal system, but the unequal system is the real problem. That is not to say that some families don’t have a messed up power structure. They frequently do, but the system itself is the root of the problem.

        3. Midwestern Scientist*

          Also super about flexibility. One of our postdocs has been responsible for 90% of her 4 year old’s quarantines/day care closures. Her husband is a teacher and while they make fairly equivalent $$$ she can work from when needed and he obviously can’t. Their childcare decisions are based on trying to have both of them keep their jobs not some sexist BS

      2. Sparkly Librarian*

        This what we’re doing in my household where we have two parents (neither male) working for the same employer. It makes more financial sense for me to work a half-shift of overtime on my weekend than for my spouse to pick up an extra full shift at lower part-time wages. Even if that means I’m spending 6 days a week at work and not having a weekend with my kid, and my spouse is being run ragged at home and could use a break.

    5. Eeyore's Missing Tail*

      I think calling that statement BS is cruel. While we don’t know this family’s finances, I can imagine that in the husband takes more unpaid days than his spouse, the family’s drop in income will be much steeper than if the spouse takes unpaid time off. And I hope that this is a decision they came to together, not the husband ordering his spouse to do so.

      My husband an I are in a similar position. He makes close to 2x my salary. If it comes down to it and we have to take unpaid time off, it will be me making the sacrifice. It would be tough to live on his salary alone, but it would be impossible for us to live on mine alone.

      1. Malarkey01*

        I agree with it being cruel. This was a woman writing at the absolute end of her rope and balancing terrible options. Calling the decision her family made BS isn’t helpful or productive. LW made themselves extremely vulnerable writing in and one way we can support moms like her (I’m one) is to be empathetic and realize the trade offs they’re making not tell them that their reality is BS.

        Scream at the system that created this but don’t attack the people just trying to survive in it right now.

    6. HoHumDrum*

      It’s not BS but it is a large scale systemic issue that contributes to why women don’t get the same opportunities/benefits in the workforce as men do. My husband is a man in a male dominated field, his earnings are much higher than me, a woman in a female dominated field. If one of us has to be home to care for kids, my salary alone can’t support us but his can. Then if I’m at home for years and go back to work my earnings potential is even more reduced because I missed out on years of work experience that he got to keep. My job, no matter how serious, will always be of lesser importance than his not because of our household but because of the way the market/society views us/our careers. Neither of us is happy about this set up, but the bigger forces at play (which jobs are considered high value, what kinds of careers and skills are given more esteem, and which people get those advantages) are bigger than the two of us. A belief in gender equality doesn’t put food on the table or pay bills. Which is why it drives me nuts when the approach to fixing sexism is put on individuals (ask for more! Hire a nanny! Don’t back down! type advice) vs recognizing that the choices individuals are able to make are dictated by the large scale systems in place.

      1. anonymath*

        ALLELLUIA. It’s a BS large scale systemic economic structure that disadvantages women and marginalized groups who disproportionately work in education, health care, child care, elder care, grocery, and other service jobs.

      2. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah but notice in the article the couple where the woman makes more – well, coincidentally, she still is the one to take over the childcare. Women can’t win.

      3. Salymander*

        Exactly. Fighting for equality within your own household is good. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fix the system. Telling my husband that he has to treat me with respect (he does!) is great, but it doesn’t make it any easier for me to get a job with decent pay. It won’t put food on the table or keep a roof over my kid’s head. The system needs to change, and we need to work together to make that happen. Sniping at individual women because they haven’t passed some kind of feminism purity test might make some folks feel superior, but it doesn’t really help anyone. In fact, that kind of sniping supports the very unequal system that keeps women from making a living wage. Knocking each other down keeps most of us down except for the special, exceptional few. You know the ones I mean, the ones that aren’t like the rest of the women
        The ones who are soooo super strong and enlightened and so they can rise above the rest of us. It must be awfully nice to feel so superior at the expense of others, but it is really, really selfish. It also makes it more difficult for women as a group to demand lasting systemic change. It is detrimental to the wellbeing of women everywhere. The world is bad enough right now. Terrible and selfish people are taking advantage of the upheaval to profit at the expense of everyone else. Terrible and selfish people are trying to strengthen the policies that make crushing inequality a fact of life. Let’s not help these horrible people by doing their job for them.

    7. Public Sector Manager*

      How is this even helpful to the readers here on Alison’s blog? Per the article, we don’t know why husband is now out of PTO. It could be many reasons–husband also has been taking time off to look after the kids; husband has a recurring medical condition and needs to save his PTO for that; husband was in a car crash and couldn’t look after anyone; husband is a jerk who uses his PTO for solo vacations and golf outings; husband is looking after his spouse’s parents who need care while spouse is looking after the kids. I could make up situations all day long!

      We don’t know. You’re speculating based on what you’ve observed. We take letter writers at their word. And there is nothing in the letter about how the writer’s husband has been falling short on their parental duties.

      This is coming from someone who does have kids. And when my son is out of school for the day with no child care, we have to do math like this to make ends meet.

    8. Ex-Teacher*

      >I call BS. He is also a parent. I have seen this way too much over the last two years.

      When you have a family that’s trying to maximize the income they receive in this situation, why is it BS that the one who makes more money is the one that works?

      Like I get the conversation about how fathers need to make sure they are contributing equitably to parenting (as a father, I make a point to try and do as much as I can in my own home), but it seems wild to push the “he’s not doing enough as a parent” when the math supports him working is foolish. Yes, this speaks to systemic pay inequity, and yes this reinforces the outdated gendered societal norms we should be trying to get past. But the truth of the matter is that this family (and any family, really) wants or needs to maximize their income, and in this situation it doesn’t make sense to keep the higher income earner home just to push equitable parenting time/duties.

    9. Nikki*

      This is….a very simplistic way to view things. There are a lot of factors that lead parents to make decisions like this! It’s usually not as easy as splitting things up 50/50 because that’s what’s “fair”. In my situation, I earn a lot more than my husband, and I’m usually the one to take days off or work from home with kids running around when daycare is shut down. He really wishes he could help, but it’s not that easy. He was laid off a few months into the pandemic and was unemployed for almost a year because he works in an industry where jobs are harder to come by. He’s only been at his new job for 9 months and it’s an intense job, requiring a lot of overtime and time in the office. It’s not easy for him to get a day off with no notice and he really doesn’t want to risk his job after he was unemployed for so long because who knows how long it would take to find another one. My job is a lot more flexible so I take one most of the child care myself and I’m happy to do it because it’s important to both of us that he keeps his job. Would it be nice if his employer were more flexible? Of course, but there’s no good way to make that happen that doesn’t risk his employment. Please don’t be so judgmental when you have no idea what people are actually going through and the reasons they’re making the decisions they are.

    10. Greg*

      Father of 3, all of whom are under 4 years old. My wife quit her job when we had the third; I make 3.5 times as much as she does and our health insurance comes through my company. Trust me when I say I would have loved to be the one to be the stay at home parent…but apparently I’m running the wrong numbers? If you could help me out here that would be incredibly helpful.

      Now, the mother who states that it was the reverse situation in the article? Yeah, that math don’t add up.

    11. Koala dreams*

      Yes, I’ve read statistics on this (from before the pandemic) and usually finances play a minimal part compared to gender roles and traditions when it comes to parental leave. In my country the state has experimented a lot with this, and it’s surprising how little financial incentives work.

      I’m sure there are parents where finances does play a key role, but on group level it’s just not that important.

      1. Salymander*

        But gender roles, traditions and systemic inequality are often what cause the financial situation in a family that makes having the woman stay home make more sense. It isn’t gender roles or finances. It is gender roles that cause the finances. Saying that finances aren’t important because you read some statistics? I don’t really know what to say about that. The gender roles, traditions and systemic inequality are the cause of the financial inequalities suffered by individuals. It is all interconnected, which is why it is so difficult to change.

        My husband wanted to stay home rather than me. I made less money, and I have a lot of health problems that make earning a living difficult, so staying home made more sense for us than either having both of us work or having me work and my husband stay home (which is work. A lot of work). We made the decision because of our finances, but our financial inequality was caused by gender inequality in regards to pay and the kinds of careers that are valued, as well as the sexism in our healthcare system that made getting useful treatment really difficult. It all works together in one big spiderweb of inequality that traps people and keeps them from being able to improve their circumstances.

  5. Burner*

    This country needs to get its priorities straight. EVERYONE is collapsing under this pressure. Parents especially, but also those forced to pick up the slack because we have terribly lacking or non-existent support structures in place.

    1. Cynical B******

      People who aren’t parents picking up slack is deeply ingrained in business culture, to the annoyance of many. It’s as if we aren’t real people to some bosses. “Oh, they have no kids, therefore they have no life.”

      1. BlueDijon*

        This, and also deeply engrained that if you point out that there are structural issues you’re being the selfish one and not allowing parents to have space, because the onus of labor logistics always fall on the employee rather than the company.

      2. The Original K.*

        It’s also frustrating when people don’t recognize that kids aren’t the only people who need care. Elderly parents, siblings, spouses … there are adults in our lives that require care, and in my experience it’s harder to get employers to see that and accommodate it.

        1. lolly pop*

          And we sure af don’t/didn’t get supplemental checks to cover all the time, labor, expenses of caring for non-children. Paying for MIL’s dentures/hearing aids/etc is wiping my household out, along with the utter exhaustion of just driving her to appointments and such.

        2. So so tired…*

          It’s one of the reasons I’m in favor of paid caregiving leave. My mom died last fall. She was in hospice for a few weeks leading up to her death. I couldn’t be with her during that time because I couldn’t afford unpaid leave especially on top of the fact I was pretty much out of leave because of daycare closures.

          I need paid leave because I gave a kid. But, I also needed paid leave because I had a dying parent. It shouldn’t matter who you are taking care of.

          1. The Original K.*

            I’m so sorry about your mom. I lost my dad and was laid off shortly (like, weeks) before it happened, and that actually made my life easier (aside from the stress) because I was able to take him to treatments and care for him. I don’t think I could have worked and done that; I’d probably have had to quit (which: fine, I didn’t care about the job as anything more than a paycheck) and do flexible gig work to get by while I cared for him.

            My living parent is disabled and mostly independent but still requires some help, and it’s a major reason that I need flexibility from an employer (I don’t and very likely won’t have kids).

        3. Momma Bear*

          This. Several of my coworkers have ill spouses or parents that they are trying to take care of. One of my coworkers is terrified of bringing home COVID to their cancer patient parent.

          Several states are trying to overturn school mask mandates from the Governor’s desk and it makes me want to scream. It’s like someone not taking all their antibiotics because they “feel better”. It’s too soon. My kid is fine in school with a mask (and I know that’s not universal) and they need to be in class because virtual school was a disaster. I’m “over” the pandemic, too, but lifting the mitigation (vaccines, masks) now will just prolong the pain for everyone.

        4. Insert Clever Name Here*

          I agree with you completely. My company has “dependent care” leave that is for anyone to use for whatever caregiving needs they have (the definition even specifically says it is not limited to family members) — we as a country need this type of thing standardized just as much as we need parental leave standardized.

      3. Coast East*

        Agreed! Parents need understanding and flexibility but everyone is feeling the strain.
        I’ve had the unfortunate job at the beginning of the pandemic that treated single, childfree employees like they have no life or responsibilities and took advantage of it. But I also know that there are parents out there who will burn themselves out just to make sure they finish their portion of work. Wish it wasn’t such a divided issue for employeers

      4. Curmudgeon in California*

        This. We all have burdens, it’s just that the burden of caring for kids is more obvious, so addressing it walks all over the other caregiving burdens our society has – elderly parents, spouses, other family.

        We’re all stretched thin, so now people are pitting parents against everyone else.

        1. All the words*

          To a very small, very powerful slice of the population COVID has been a financial windfall, and will continue to be so as long as it rages on.

          Solidarity to push for change to this heartless predatory system is exactly what TPTB don’t want to see. That tells me that’s exactly what’s necessary.

    2. Office Lobster DJ*

      Thanks, Burner, for making this point. After two years of making up the difference*, I just don’t have the gas in the tank anymore. Companies need to take a realistic look at what can actually be accomplished right now and adjust expectations as a whole.

      * I really prefer to say this over “picking up the slack.” While I know the expression isn’t meant to shame (and, I think, has to do with keeping a ship’s lines pulled taut?), I know enough parents in a fragile state right now that wouldn’t take any use of the word “slack” well.

    3. Frankie Bergstein*

      I kind of hate myself for feeling this way, but I (woman, no kids) have become resentful of filling in for my parent colleagues maternity leaves, flexing around their childcare pickup, etc. I was starting to feel this way before the pandemic.

      It’s not their fault – it’s the lack of support they have, the systems, patriarchy / sexism – but I am tired too. I’m burned out too. I need support too. And I feel like I have less of a right to it.

      It feels like this is the most taboo thing to say out loud, though.

      1. meagain*

        You do have a right to it. Your needs and stress and lack of support are completely real and valid too. I’m sorry that you feel that you don’t have a right to feeling that way. There’s just a lot of visibility and validation for the work and child care struggles of parents during the pandemic. That doesn’t mean it’s not hard to not have kids and take on more and feel like there is no work/life balance when you don’t even have the kid part. It’s all real.

      2. Miss Bookworm*

        I agree wholeheartedly. Also a woman, no kids. For me though, there’s also the added part of being a supervisor. I feel even less able to complain; it’s my job to support my direct reports, help them when they need it, and pick up the slack when they need to tweak their schedules. What right do I have to complain about being burned out when I can see that they are likely way more burned out than I am?

        I ended today in tears (just like I do most days but today was especially bad and I feel like a total witch). One of of my direct reports came to me and asked for two weeks off at the end of next month because their spouse needs a medical procedure; they need the time off to take care of their spouse and to take care of their kids. I can’t say no to him. I also can’t reshuffle his work to others for those two weeks as no one can take on more work (our company keeps bringing on new clients but won’t let me hire anyone)… so guess who’s going to be working [unpaid] overtime to get it all done?

        I’ll be surprised if I don’t have a complete breakdown this year. My mental health is at an all time low.

      3. AnonyMooose*

        Even before the pandemic, I was getting burnt out because I was expected to make up the difference for my male parent coworker. He had overdrawn his bank of goodwill and I had finally had enough when I found out he complained about me taking vacation time in Fall 2019. Apparently, it was fine for me to cover for him when coming in late and leaving early on a weekly basis for years, but it was too much for him to cover for me for 10 days, the longest vacation I had taken in over a year. To make it worse, he made more than me and I never received any merit raises or bonuses for doing his job better than him.

        It’s not fair or right that the burden of making adjustments falls on their peers rather than it being addressed as a systemic problem. At least in my workplace, it could be addressed by hiring more people or increasing our student budget, but that isn’t happening anytime soon due to any hiring becoming embroiled in internal workplace politics. It’s seen as easier to lean on people who already are overwhelmed and ask them to make up the difference. If they resist and set boundaries, like I tried to unsuccessfully, they are the ones seen as hostile and bullies. The parents who have gotten away with taking advantage of their colleagues’ labor play the victim card. It’s not bullying to stand up for yourself when you have had enough of being taken advantage of in the workplace.

    4. JamminOnMyPlanner*

      Honestly yes… those of us taking on extra work without extra compensation for our coworkers with kids (who are still getting paid to work from home while I’m doing their work in the office…) are not okay, either!

  6. Gem*

    I feel this so much. I’m in a similar situation to many of the parents quoted in the article. I’m not working now and one of the major reasons is that I just can’t get reliable childcare and/or an employer that cares. It’s so discouraging.

  7. So so tired…*

    Thank you for this. This really struck a cord with me because this is the way I feel:

    “It feels like this year is even worse than last year or 2020, because now most people have decided to move on, despite the pandemic clearly raging on. I’m so anxious because my youngest still cannot be vaccinated.”

    For me this year does feels worse than last. I’m a single parent so I have no one to switch with. There is never a break. My employer is understanding to a degree but I still need to take unpaid leave once I run out of time off if I can’t put in my hours. And the worst part for me is that we are socially isolated in a way that others with kids eligible for a vaccine just aren’t.

    The last two years have been some of the most isolating snd stressful of my life. And structural changes is desperately needed. But, I have no hope for it. I’ve begged local and state politicians to help with that change, but it falls on deaf ears.

    1. Re'lar Fela*

      THIS. I’m also a single parent and, as much as my employer tries to be understanding and accommodating, I’m the only single parent in the office and no one actually gets it. This year is absolutely the worst year of the pandemic thus far (and my kid is 5/fully vaccinated). So many people have just decided that the pandemic is over and/or they’re “sick of living like this.” It’s infuriating and exhausting and I just can’t.

        1. Dweali*

          Count me in the group hug. My 1 yr old just caught Covid at the end of January. I only had 20 hours of PTO saved up and while I qualified for FMLA (which is turning into it’s own nightmare getting approved) I still had to take 28 hours unpaid. I’m lucky I do have help from his aunt and uncle who are usually willing to watch him when sick but dang…

          All that verbal dump to say, it sucks and virtual hugs to anyone that needs it

          1. Justme, The OG*

            I am somehow extremely lucky that I have a lot of PTO accrued. If I burn through COVID leave and sick leave then I can use vacation leave before having to go unpaid. BTDT when my kid had the flu six years ago, though (I wasn’t there long enough for FMLA).

            But it’s all so much more than the lack to PTO. It’s literally everything parents are having to go through right now.

      1. So so tired…*

        Mine is 2. We just got over a 10 day stretch at home because he caught COVID. During those days he was home the only choice I had was to work from 7:30pm to 3:30am. Because I was almost out of sick time and I can’t afford to be unpaid. I know I wasn’t doing my best work running on no sleep, but what other options did I have? And, my employer believes they are being accommodating because they are allowing me to work outside of core business hours (which to be fair they are more flexible than many employers). Last week I got to shower twice.

        Plus, now my kid is back in daycare I’m working extra hours in the evenings to try and catch up and clean up work I did last week. Plus, like all single parents I’m terrified I’m going to need more time off and that my employer may fire me or require me to take unpaid leave.

        The stress is overwhelming, and I feel like only people in a similar situation have any clue what it’s like.

    2. Momma Bear*

      Yes. There’s a lot of commentary upstream about how we all need to get back to the office as if we aren’t still dealing with things. We are still in virtual school at any moment/periodic quarantine whackamole. Even if schools aren’t “babysitters” it’s hard when the affordable option is 6 hrs of school time + before and after care on site. If the school is closed, there’s also no childcare since it’s on site. It’s a double whammy for parents.

    3. Greg*

      As a parent who isn’t single, I hope you know how much admiration I have for you. This has been impossible to manage with two sets of hands around, I can’t imagine how I’d do with just my own.

    1. Indigo a la mode*

      We see you, friend. I’m so sorry for what you’re going through and the sacrifices you’re making on all sides. It’s unfair and I’m angry that so many people are doing their part to end the pandemic and having their lives put under immense pressure because of people who won’t play ball.

  8. Meganly*

    I have 2.5-year-old twins and we’re fortunate enough to be able to afford a nanny to come to our house… but it’s still so hard. And I agree that this year seems almost worse, because everyone is just so over COVID. It’s hard not to be frustrated at the folks saying things like, “the unvaxxed deserve to catch COVID” like there isn’t a huge chunk of the population who can’t get vaxxed. Combined with the ever-being-pushed out timeline for under-5 vaccines availability and I’m about to pull out my hair. I’m so tired.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Not to mention the fact that the unvaxxed catching Covid can then pass it on to other people–including vaccinated people. The vaccinated people might not be as hard hit, but it’s still no picnic and still a problem.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Yup. I’m coming off of two weeks with a (vaccinated and boosted) spouse in isolation due to a positive covid test; our 4 year old had to be out of daycare because of exposure to my spouse, which meant I did about 6 hours of work in the last two weeks. My spouse’s school no longer requires masks, so even though HE has been wearing one he still got sick. If both parties are wearing masks, that is less likely to happen so if you want to help parents? WEAR YOUR MASK UNTIL OUR BABIES ARE VACCINATED.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Sorry, not shouting at either WantonSeedStitch or Meganly. Just so, so frustrated that mask mandates are lifting when we can’t get these littles vaccinated.

    2. Dutchie*

      Plus unvaccinated people usually have vaccinated loved ones they leave behind.

      And it seems to be unpopular in these times, but: I don’t wish dead on anyone. Especially not one that, if I am to believe the medical personnel that worked on COVID wards, is as horrible as this one.

      I get it, I am also suffering from empathy-fatigue. I also find it hard to keep being kind to people who think that my partner (who is high risk because of an underlying condition) should just die or to think back with any respect to my former boss who told me that the COVID virus didn’t exist, after I had been out sick for a few months after contracting said virus at the beginning of this nightmare. I am not saying anyone else should have the same position (I just have some religious convictions that make me hold this position, despite myself.)

  9. Re'lar Fela*

    Thank you for this, Alison. My child is 5 and fully vaccinated, but still requires near-constant supervision when home. Recently, we had two weeks of NTI (virtual school–if you’ve ever tried to get a kindergartener to participate in virtual school you know what an adventure that can be), followed by my own bout of COVID, which then inevitably turned into my kid’s 10 day school-mandated quarantine period (which, of course, required virtual school supervised by a random person who is not the day-to-day teacher and to whom my child has no existing relationship).

    Trying to work throughout all of this time (because our PTO accrues throughout the year and I started this job in late 2021, meaning I had no time available) was an absolute nightmare. Now my kid is back in school and I’m back in the office, but I’m still cleaning up the mess of the past month or more. I’m a single parent (and my child’s only parent), so there’s no other option than to try and do it all simultaneously and fall apart day-by-day as I fail in every area of my life. It’s exhausting and demoralizing…and that’s with a school-aged, fully vaccinated kid.

    This is awful all the way around. Thank you for giving a voice to parents.

  10. Anone*

    It’s just f’ing awful out there. I’m staying home with our kids only thanks to some very generous family support – but that can’t last forever. We are being asked – ordered! – to bear the burden that society should be bearing through government and employers. They get the benefit of our labor; we get screwed.

    Thank you for writing this.

  11. the cat's ass*

    Even before the pandemic, the structural problems of child care and employment in the US made parenting unbelievably difficult. Working around child care and school schedules, unyielding employers and omg if someone got sick. COVID just made all of this much harder and more visible. What sucks is I’m not seeing ANY changes to support parents of young kids.

    1. The Original K.*

      I’m not seeing any changes either, which is infuriating. There’s long been a call to “get back to normal,” but normal sucked for a lot of people. I want better.

    2. higeredadmin*

      This. We always used to joke that being a working parent is workable as long as everyone is healthy. And my husband has a very flexible job and I have “unlimited” sick days (as in I don’t have to accrue them).

    3. Some dude*

      In a weird way COVID has actually made it a little easier because my spouse and i now work from home most days. I used to go to work really early to leave early to get my daughter from aftercare, which she hated. I realize I am in a privileged position, but the grind of commuting and rushing back in time for pick up was a lot.

      1. the cat's ass*

        Yes to all of the above. You are seen. My kids are grown/in HS but i will never forget how tenuous child care felt at times, and they were in good programs. All it took was one kid getting sick, one day care issue, and the whole thing would fall apart. And that was BEFORE the pandemic.

  12. minkysmom82*

    My child is an adult now but I do not miss those days at all, school closures, illness, having to arrange to stay at home for various reasons and bosses not understanding ‘just leave them with family’. What if I don’t trust my family? What if I don’t have any family?

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Or, what if your family and every other possible babysitter doesn’t want to risk looking after an exposed kid who is supposed to be isolating?

      1. VintageLydia*

        The only family available to watch my kids in an emergency are my retired parents or my brother who is a stay at home dad to a very newborn infant. I’d never expect either set to watch my kids if my kids were exposed and possibly infected.

    2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      That was something my old manager back at ToxicJob could never understand. Yes, i have family, but my husband’s mother had dementia and couldn’t be trusted with a baby, and my closest immediate relative was an 8 hour drive away.

    3. Salymander*

      Yes +1000

      My family is terrible, and some of them are actually dangerous. I went NC with them years ago. My husband’s family is mostly quite elderly, with many health problems, and living on the other side of the country. We don’t even have anyone to put down as an emergency contact on our child’s school forms, so having a family member actually watch our child is just not possible. We can’t afford to pay for a nanny, so if we needed childcare in order to work we would be out of options.

      Employers who tell their workforce to rely on unpaid family to watch children so that their employees can get back to work are trying to foist the costs of doing business off onto employees and their families. It is more of the same selfish garbage employers have been doing all along, but now it is affecting a whole lot of people in a really obvious way and we are all just sick of it. When you are making these terrible rock-and-a-hard-place types of decisions for your own family, it used to seem like the ones making these decisions were on their own. What the pandemic has shown us all is that we are all suffering with this crap system, and employers are relying on the unpaid or underpaid labor of our friends and family in order to continue to do business and keep raking in the profits. The wealthiest people are having a grand time playing with their stacks of cash that were provided by a mistreated workforce supported by unpaid labor.

    4. Cera*

      I have seen Facebook posts with parents ready to leave their kids with people they have never met before; they are at the point of having no other choice.

  13. Lifelong student*

    I am old- my children are grown- my grands live far away and all have and always had SAHM’s. I can no longer care for children due to health issues. I am not qualified , or able to be a child care provider in some one else’s facility or home. I can’t do anything to help- but I do vote for those who support policies that may help those under these stresses.

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      There is something else you can do — wear your mask. Everywhere. Encourage your friends, family, and coworkers to wear their masks so they don’t pass covid to parents with children too young to be vaccinated.

      I’m coming off of two weeks with a spouse in isolation due to a positive covid test and a 4 year old out of daycare which meant I did about 6 hours of work in the last two weeks. My spouse’s school no longer requires masks, so even though HE has been wearing one he still got sick. If both parties are wearing masks, that is less likely to happen.

  14. Sympathetic Non-parent*

    This all sounds terrible!
    I have a question: once the younger kids are vaccinated, that will be a huge relief for a lot of parents. But is that expected to change any of the logistical challenges? Are there likely to be fewer quarantines for the kids or different rules that would enable access to more reliable childcare options?

    1. Massive Dynamic*

      There will be fewer quarantines. Right now, my vaxxed elementary school kid doesn’t have to quarantine after direct exposures but my unvaxxed preschooler does. And vaxxed staff don’t have to quarantine either.

      Definitely doesn’t fix everything going on here but it will be a noticeable help.

    2. regular reader, rare commentator*

      My 5-year-old, fully vaccinated son’s daycare has shorter quarantine protocols for fully vaccinated kids and teachers (5 days vs 10 days for non-vaccinated). So in theory once the under-5 crowd is eligible for vaccination, that should help.

    3. So so tired…*

      Childcare is a huge issue in general. COVID has made things worse because many daycares closed. So even if everything went back to the way it was before childcare would still be a major issue and stressor.

      For me once my kid is vaccinated it will mean he won’t need to quarantine after a close contact. And that will help a lot. But, the structural issues surrounding finding good quality affordable childcare still exist.

      1. Salymander*

        Yeah. Things would be better, but even if they get back to how they were pre-pandemic that wouldn’t mean things would actually be good or truly functional in the long term. The system is broken, underfunded, and full of terrible inequality even when it is working as intended in ideal circumstances. When things go wrong like in a global pandemic, all the cracks and stresses in the system just fall apart.

        1. Tired social worker*

          Seriously, thank you – it’s unfair, but I kind of have a fight-or-flight reaction when I hear the phrase “back to normal” in an aspirational sense, for precisely the reasons you state..

    4. Ari*

      Yes. Right now my toddler’s daycare has to enforce a 10-day quarantine following any exposure for any children too young to be vaccinated. Once he is vaccinated he will not need to be excluded for an exposure, only if he actually contracts COVID.

    5. PostalMixup*

      Yes, in theory, with caveats. My child’s center closes the whole classroom if a single child is COVID-positive, because all those other kids have to quarantine. Once my kid can be vaccinated, in theory he won’t have to quarantine unless he has symptoms. In practice, if vaccination rates for kids are low, and only 2 of the 8 kids in his class are vaccinated and the other five exposed kids have to quarantine, odds are good they’ll just close the classroom anyway, because it doesn’t make sense to have two staff members caring for two children when the center is short staffed. We shall see.

    6. Jen*

      My kid’s daycare requires my kid to be COVID tested or stay home for 10 days for pretty much any cold symptoms. It’s a lot to deal with as finding an appointment to get tested is a challenge.

    7. Sommersolveig7*

      It would in certain districts–for some, if you’re vaccinated, the isolation period is shorter and/or you can test out after a few days. Also, the vaccine lowers the infectivity of those vaccinated, so you’ll have less circulation of the virus if everyone can be vaccinated

  15. motherofdragons*

    Thank you for elevating this, Alison. I have honestly become sick of/burnt out on all these major news outlets sharing articles that all say the same thing: parents have it REALLY hard right now, but there’s no real solution. But it was really refreshing to hear voices from real parents from someone I know has compassion for what we’re going through. You stay the very best. And fellow parents, particularly fellow single parents: I see you.

  16. DLL*

    I’ve got a four-year-old and a three-year-old. We have had close contact after close contact, each of which must be followed by a 10-day (now) to 14-day (until about a month ago) quarantine, and our daycare enforces a “sibling policy,” which requires that both kids be quarantined if either has been exposed. I don’t think my kids have had a full week of normal child care since mid-November, though of course we have had to continue to pay even though we’ve barely been able to use any of our child care. My spouse works in a pretty structured, on-site environment and doesn’t have much flexibility. Between my job being very flexible, grandparents, and a little bit of child care we have had, we’ve been able to keep it together and even have been able to preserve some PTO. We’re extremely fortunate as these things go. But it has been absolutely *brutal,* with countless late nights to make up for time spent caring for the kids and preserve PTO, last-minute scrambling for backup child care, the kids missing out on activities, everything. It’s impossible to overstate how thrilled I was when the emergency use authorization for the vaccine for little kids was submitted, and how devastating it was when it was withdrawn last week.

    Parents of young kids are not okay.

    1. Malarkey01*

      OH the still having to pay thing is so overlooked too. When people say just hire someone to watch your kids- okay that might work but if you’re also shelling at $1-$3k a month for childcare you aren’t using there’s almost nothing left in the budget for quarantine back up care.

  17. Clare*

    That first link about the vaccine coming was just so sad…because on Friday Pfizer pulled their EUA application, so parents of kids <5 are back to waiting.

    1. Phony Genius*

      Yeah, that link is now outdated. Too bad Alison probably can’t update it, since Slate is not her website.

    2. FridayFriyay*

      Yup. And most of the public discussion about this decision is focused on how Moderna’s data will submitted in April for possible May FDA approval, but that data is only for age group 2-4y, so that isn’t exactly helpful for those of us with kids under 2. It’s just so dismal with no light on the horizon.

  18. Art3mis*

    I don’t have kids and I’m no where near management. But I’m all about smashing the Patriarchy, taking down the establishment, and eating all the rich MFers I can. I’ve got forks, pitchforks, and lighters, let’s roll. Let me know how I can help.

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Wear your mask, regardless of your vaccination status. Everywhere. Encourage your friends, family, and coworkers to wear their masks so they don’t pass covid to parents with children too young to be vaccinated.

      I’m coming off of two weeks with a spouse in isolation due to a positive covid test and a 4 year old out of daycare which meant I did about 6 hours of work in the last two weeks. My spouse’s school no longer requires masks, so even though HE has been wearing one he still got sick. If both parties are wearing masks, that is less likely to happen.

    2. DrMamaNooneCares*

      Advocate for those of us with kids under 5 at home (covid leave, flexible work, telework) so we don’t have to stick our own necks out begging for help or even just acknowledgement about what an awful bind we are in.

      Thank you

  19. introverted af*

    My husband I literally just last night talked about how we didn’t know how we were going to make it work to have kids in the near future. We make decent wages, but we want to 1) not be absent to the most formative years of our children’s lives and 2) also provide a relatively similar standard of living to what we have. We are religious, but feel some pressure from our families to “just trust God!” Which like, are they wrong? Not really. Inconsiderate, lacking in compassion, unable to actually help with our concerns and just sharing platitudes? More likely.

    America needs to get its s*** together.

    1. Cassandra Complex*

      My husband and I are also having similar conversations, minus external familial or religious pressure. It’s like, “Ok honey, who’s going to quit their job for the next pandemic?” when we have a two year old or something. Do we buy a house, or have kids? It’s hard to have a good answer or to even care at certain points about some of these questions.

      1. Paris Geller*

        My fiancé and I have been having this conservation too. Throughout our entire relationship, we’ve been on the same page that we’re not sure if we want kids or not. There are times when I think I want children, but seeing what parents have been going through during the pandemic has really swayed me closer to the not category.

      2. introverted af*

        oh my gosh, the house or kids debate is killing us. We are kinda in a place that like, buying a house might come first but we wouldn’t be mad if we had a kid first. We really want kids.

        The current hold up is that I just started a new job so I need to make sure that I would have been here long enough to get FMLA with my other leave that’s available. My job does offer 2 weeks parental leave then however many weeks for short term disability but it’s just awful when you realize other countries have mandated minimums and we have to figure out what we can piece together to maybe get 2 months at home with a baby.

    2. Leilah*

      Same. My dream is actually to foster older kids and teens (ages8+). But right now we have three full-time jobs between the two of us and really no way to make it work without that, so I’m not sure how we could ever do such a thing. If anyone would be suited to quitting one job it would be him — he would love to be a SAHD. But his job that he would quit pays the most of the three. At this point it looks like we will have to wait until age 45 to consider kids unless we get some kind of inheritance when my grandfather passes. And I know how privileged that is! We actually make what I would have considered “good money” – and we have the possibility of inheriting a bit. That’s doing better than a huge proportion of the population. We just don’t have the TIME when all the jobs are demanding so many hours.

    3. Daisy Gamgee*

      Trust God, but row away from the rocks, you know? God gave you and your husband the sense to see what a difficult situation this is. Your family’s advice to expect a solution to drop out of the sky is nonsensical.

      I send you all my best wishes.

    4. Salymander*

      Some of my family used to tell me to “Let go and let God,” whenever I had a problem that needed solving. Suffering PTSD from severe childhood trauma and rape? Let go and let God! Sexually harassed by a teacher and classmates? God will deal with it! Nowhere to live but under a freeway overpass? God is watching over you! Seriously, it was incredibly harmful to me, and made them all look like huge jackasses. Telling someone that God will provide while offering no help or support to remedy any of the real problems is just lazy and selfish. I know that people who say that are not necessarily trying to be cruel, but in brushing off valid concerns as unimportant and not supporting the work needed for real change, they are in fact lending support to some terrible people and systems. Systemic inequality thrives because it is so easy to look the other way. Life seems more pleasant if you can pretend it is all fair and safe and that there is a reason for everything.

  20. Phony Genius*

    My only comment is that Alison’s list of solutions includes subsidized child care. That won’t really help if the child care keeps having to shut down repeatedly due to somebody testing positive for the virus. It doesn’t matter who pays for it if it keeps becoming unusable.

    1. Sympathetic Non-parent*

      I presume that might lift some financial burden on parents who continue to pay for expensive childcare they barely use. In turn, taking unpaid leave might be more financially palatable.

    2. Critical Rolls*

      Subsidies for child care would hopefully lead to places like daycares being able to operate with more than the minimum staff, which would be a big help.

    3. Salymander*

      Subsidized childcare might not remedy the problems of shutdowns due to covid in the short term, but they will help to reduce the systemic long term problems that are being exacerbated by the pandemic. If things were unequal and poorly functioning in ideal conditions, they are completely unworkable once things go off the rails. Fixing some of the systemic problems helps to relieve at least some of the short term covid induced issues, and provides long term relief as well. Pandemic conditions will suck regardless, but if some of the systemic issues are fixed then the covid related stuff is easier to figure out.

  21. ThursdaysGeek*

    “…parents of young kids have been left to find individual answers to systemic problems, and that’s an impossible task.” This is a great statement of the overall problem.

    But, even if there were paid childcare, those childcare centers would close down when covid invades, parents would need to keep the kids home, and have no time for both themselves and their work. Even if the government paid for more child credits, their companies wouldn’t have their production when they’re not there, and would struggle or lose business. The money for paid childcare, for child credits – comes from us: taxpayers and businesses paying taxes, and while there are some solutions there, the money is never free. In the meantime, part of the shortage of workers are single parents with young children, parents who simple can’t do it all under these circumstances. I don’t know if there is a systemic solution to solve all of this during a pandemic, but I’m sure we could find something a step or two better, if we were willing to work together.

    1. Generic Name*

      If we taxed capital gains like income, we’d have plenty of money. Sure, Elon might have to forgo his eighth yacht to launch himself into space, but SOMEBODY’S gotta make a sacrifice.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        That would include me. And I don’t mind paying more taxes, but it’s easy to say here’s a simple solution when you only see the faces of the billionaires. I will be paying capital gains taxes this year because we sold a house last year. Yay! Our renter, who had not been paying rent reliably for some time, mostly because we are too busy and overwhelmed, and we knew she was struggling financially – she finally quit paying altogether. We couldn’t afford to keep supporting her, so selling it was our only option (thank you covid). So in addition to the loss of rent over the years (our own fault), we’ll be paying capital gains on the house, making it a net loss.

        1. Ismonie*

          Hi, we pay capital gains rate on a lot of our income. It’s bullshit. There is no reason that my partner should pay less in taxes because his business can and does compensate with shares, where some other businesses cannot, and where most people who get options already earn well above average. There’s nothing special about stock money that means we should get more of it than somebody who works in a job without stock options. It’s a racket.

      1. SofiaDeo*

        Yes! And why can’t companies either raise pay, or give the same pay/benefits for 30 hours’ work, when they are having record profits? SMH.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          I’ve heard of a concept of making a law that a CEO can’t get above x% of their lowest paid co-worker (where I’ve forgotten what x is). If, for instance x is 100, then if the CEO wants to be paid 10 million, then their lowest paid worker will need to be paid 100,000.

          But, as someone else points out: the people making the laws benefit by the current laws. (I also think that our government should be required to have the same health care coverage as everyone else, and then it would be fixed very quickly.)

          1. MsSolo (UK)*

            You know that if that did go through, all those lowest paid employees would suddenly become contractors to get them off the books. There’s always a loophole if you’re greedy enough.

    2. anonymath*

      I have family in several other countries and they’re doing better. Their daycare workers have less turnover because the daycare workers have better pay, health insurance, and paid time off. They can afford to work in daycare, in essence. We had to move daycares for my kid because of the turnover at her second daycare — when workers had covid or had to take care of a family member, they didn’t have the cushion to keep working, in essence. So even at a micro level of simply looking at quality daycare, other countries are doing better because of all these factors coming together.

      Yeah, my family in Europe pays higher taxes, but man they get actual services in return! And the taxes aren’t that much higher. Given that I pay $12,000/year more in daycare costs than my sister, I’d take the taxes. I mean, think this through: I’m paying $12-16k a year for four years for daycare (so let’s call that $56k) and then when my grandma went into memory care and then hospice, that cost an extraordinary amount (let’s call that $300k, given the $10k/month tab for memory care alone). And then there’s college… say you have a kid at a medium-fancy school and you’re not getting much aid, so $160k assuming a four-year graduation and they work to pay their own room and board. So, do marginally higher taxes — maybe 10 percentages points higher a year — really outweigh the more than half-million dollars I’m looking at paying *myself* for daycare, grandma’s memory care, and the kid’s college?

      1. Some dude*

        This is one of the sicknesses of america’s cult of the individual – in a lot of ways we pay more to have things screwed up than if we would just pool our money for things, because we think pooling our money is socialism and we don’t want poor people to have free stuff or whatever. It’s cheaper to educate a kid than lock them up as an adult, it’s cheaper to give people healthcare than deal with what happens when they don’t have it, etc. etc.
        And I know the European system isn’t perfect, but it is certainly a step up from what we experience.

    3. Sam I Am*

      How about ending corporate welfare? When business doesn’t pay a wage high enough for housing and food for full time work, the taxpayer gets to do it. Why? Why does the taxpayer have to fill out the monthly budget for someone working full time, while the c-suite and stockholders rake in the dough? Why do we let them get away with this?
      I’m happy to pay taxes to support nutrition and housing subsidies, but if someone works full time they should be earning enough that they don’t need subsidies.

      1. Generic Name*

        They get away with it because people who are advantaged by the current system are the ones who make the rules.

    4. marvin*

      Got to say, if we had an economic system that was capable of valuing human lives and social benefit rather than just the bottom line, individuals wouldn’t constantly be asked to risk their lives and wellbeing for the sake of turning a profit.

      1. SofiaDeo*

        This. I have noticed for quite a few decades the unsustainable corporate motto of “we must have constantly increasing profits.” I don’t know how to stop this, but IMO it needs to be done. Somehow, paying a living wage and benefits needs to be mandated above corporate greed.

  22. LizB*

    It’s all absolutely devastating. And the commenters/writers-in on this blog are largely (but not exclusively) folks in office jobs – parents who work in retail, food service, sanitation, manufacturing, and other essential in-person jobs are being hit even harder, if that’s possible, by the complete lack of structural supports. I wish there was more we could individually do.

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Wear your mask, regardless of your vaccination status. Everywhere. Encourage your friends, family, and coworkers to wear their masks so they don’t pass covid to parents with children too young to be vaccinated.

      I’m coming off of two weeks with a spouse in isolation due to a positive covid test and a 4 year old out of daycare which meant I did about 6 hours of work in the last two weeks. My spouse’s school no longer requires masks, so even though HE has been wearing one he still got sick. If both parties are wearing masks, that is less likely to happen.

      Mask mandates are being lifted, and it’s only going to make things worse for parents of kids too young to be vaccinated.

      1. LizB*

        Absolutely – I am still masking everywhere, still getting curbside takeout, still avoiding most in-person gatherings, yelling at my city officials to put our dang mask mandate back in place. Plus taking rapid tests prior to seeing friends with small kids. I’m sorry society is letting you down so very badly.

    2. Ali + Nino*

      Thank you for pointing this out. It’s a big contributing factor to why so many front-line nurses who are parents (primarily women) are stepping back from the field or switching to different jobs entirely.

    3. Amber Rose*

      Person working in manufacturing here.

      I’m dying inside. I literally have no idea how my coworkers with kids even get out of bed in the morning.

    4. Captain Swan*

      Yes, this. In December, over the holidays, our entire household got COVID (husband, me, and our 19 year old daughter). Husband and I both work office jobs that are telework for the foreseeable future, so we just worked as per usual or took vacation time as we previously planned.
      Daughter works part time at a restaurant, she missed all her holiday shifts and needed doctor’s clearance to go back. None of that was a problem but it took an additional week after she was cleared to get her back on the schedule.
      We were concerned that her not being on the schedule meant she was let go (not the case, it was a communication snafu).
      Now imagine how much more difficult daughter’s situation would have been with kids or if she just needed the paycheck.

  23. Lps*

    We had to make the decision to have my husband leave the workforce last year since childcare is too unpredictable. Having the vaccine for under 5 pushed out again has been disheartening.

  24. RunShaker*

    I found out late last week my company has decided for us to return to the office on April 4th. My company has been awesome in that employees were able to WFH while similar companies have been back in the office and/or on hybrid schedules for last 6+ months. But there has been no communication for people/parents who are caring for young children and/or at risk family members. I am not a parent but I am worried for my coworkers that are parents. I hope my company (companies in general) does right thing & allows employees to make the decision that is best for their family. Sending hugs to all parents.

  25. Leah K.*

    I don’t know how much longer we could be expected to just keep propping up the system that is fundamentally broken. I know someone whose daycare is now operating on a “first come first serve” basis due to staff shortages which means that once they’ve reached their max child-to-caretaker ratio they start turning people away. So, you never know if you are going to have childcare on any given day, unless you are there literally right as they open. Oh, and instead of closing at 6:30 they now close at 4:30. And there are no other options available. Yet our company is encouraging us to start returning to the office because we “work better together”.

  26. Campfire Raccoon*

    I have three kids at three different schools (HS, JrH, and Elementary). They’re all (finally!) vaccinated, but we still get regular stay-at-home days because of all the exposures. My littlest was 5 when this all started, so I feel all those parents with littles out there. Three kids at home for 14 months was …not fun.

    Omicron’s surge is finally slowing in my area, but it was bad for about 5 weeks. The 15-min tests will give false negatives, so we have to go to the school district’s drive through site. Testing through the district is free, but each time it’s 3 hours in a car line. More than once I’ve been turned away because they’re too busy.

    Last month the whole family got omicron. Thankfully it was mild for all of us as we were vaxxed and boosted but that was another 3+weeks of kids at home on a weird staggered schedule. We didn’t all test positive at the same time.

  27. Joobe*

    We also need some sort of systemic solution to summertime care for younger school-age kids. Since my son entered school, and no longer goes to daycare, this is the most stressful situation I encounter. He can go to a traditional daycare for the summer, but my experience with that option (from using one for two summers) is that they don’t do much that’s enriching for the >6 year olds. I mean, it’s not like my job, though reasonably flexible, lets me stop working for the three summer months because my kid is out of school, but there’s nothing set up for a full-time summer solution. My state of Utah doesn’t have nearly the supports for working parents (during “normal times”) as some others do, largely because there seems to be a much larger percentage of moms who don’t work, and don’t “need” summer solutions. Therefore, our versions of YMCAs (what my sibling in the MidWest uses) don’t have fulltime options, just half time camps that you might be able to cobble together haphazardly. I got fortunate last year that his after school sports program offered a summer camp for the whole summer fulltime, but due to all the other issues going on, who knows if they’ll be able to staff it again this summer? I’ve been lucky that I haven’t had a single mandated quarantine for an exposure (a small miracle!) but I still stress out like no other about how to keep my kid safe, healthy and away from screens while I work to support our family.

    1. Ali + Nino*

      TOTALLY agree. Just signed up my almost five year old for a great day camp. But there are two empty weeks before camp begins and two or three after camp but before school starts up. Now to beg the local teenagers to start a backyard camp to fill those remaining weeks…

    2. Captain Swan*

      Ah, the summer care patchwork quilt problem, know it well. When daughter was in ES, we used the summer camp program (which was an extension of before/after care during the school year) which covered most of the summer and then sent daughter to Grandma Camp for the last two weeks of summer. Daughter and Grandma loved it. Then came MS, daughter wasn’t quite ready at 12 to be home all day alone. That summer we put together an extensive (and really expensive) plan of week or two week long summer camps: sleep away girl scout camps, camps through the parks programs, sports camp, and Grandma Camp. I had a list on my desk that had the camp, location, and start and end time for each week because it was so hard to keep track of. Not everyone can do something like that and we swore we were never doing it again after that summer.

  28. Extroverted Bean Counter*

    The comments here on AAM vs the ones on Slate are night and day.

    I knew (as a member of a two working parent household, where I can WFH and my spouse cannot, with young children) that diving into the comments there was likely going to get my hackles up. I’m sad that I was right.

  29. Potatoes gonna potate*

    I am “lucky” in that Im self employed and get to set my own hours so in theory I can work around the times someone can watch my toddler.

    The problem is the “someone watching her” part, her dad watches her for a few hours daily but in that time I have so many other things that need to be done in addition to work like doctor appts, making those appts, house stuff, my health stuff etc. I looked in to getting someone to come over for a few hours a week but I know people who personally have lied and faked vaccination cards and negative tests, so….I just can’t risk it.

  30. JelloStapler*

    Thanks for writing and publishing this. It’s an important topic, and with FDA pushing age 2-4 for what seems to be indefinitely, its also timely.

    1. WFH - A Hill to Die On*

      I have a 4 year old and my heart broke when it was pushed it. Usually he’s at daycare or his grandmother’s when I work from home, but when he’s sniffly/runny nose/coughing sick even with a negative Covid test, he can’t be at either place. Last time he was sick and at home someone complained to my boss (who knew why he was home with me) that they heard him on a call, briefly. Sigh, some folks just don’t get it, or don’t want to.

  31. wear floral every day*

    I am so sad and I empathize so much with everyone. I quit by job in February of 2020 before the pandemic was a reality. I stayed at home with my autistic 8-y-o as my husband was not allowed to work from home even in the midst of strit lockdowns (he is not an essential worker btw). I was incredibly lucky to find a job with a lot of flexibility few months ago; however, I had to make a lot of sacrifices to keep our family system running. For example, I had a great opportunity for a job in my field but I had to say no because there was a second major lockdown with schools closing etc. I combined WFH and digital schooling for my kid for a few months and I ended up burnt out. I recently had an argument with people I considered good friends as they insisted that they had it worse during the lockdown because I was not alone. I have not enough words to conveince them that struggling to keep a job, while entertaining and providing schooling for your kid is not my idea of good company. These people are not my friends anymore, the situation is sh** enough without people who cannot empathize.

  32. new*

    My federal agency has a lot of faults, but the extreme flexibilities for folks working at home is not one of them. Regular hours were extended to 11:00 pm (normally 7:30), and could be broken up into segments to accommodate schooling or other needs. Saturday was added as regular hours. It was easier to reach the 80 hours every pay period without having to dip into leave with these flexibilities in place.

    I truly feel for parents, my friend is a grandmother who works from home but agreed to keep her two granddaughters and manage their schooling when schools were closed, because her daughter has a job that cannot be done from home. She almost lost her mind, because her own job is high level and one of the grandchildren is in kindergarten!

    I guess children are supposed to just evaporate or be left to go feral. This society has not shown support for working parents (mostly mothers) since the time of Rosie the Riveter during WWII, because their labor was required. Terrible.

    1. new*

      Note these were not meant to be permanent scheduling changes but were enacted quickly in 2020 when everyone was sent home.

  33. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Into year 2 of this and it’s shown current social and governance structures simply are not fit for the task anymore.

    There’s too many who still protest against vaccines, against masks, against universal healthcare, against wages that are liveable, against people who have additional responsibilities needing additional help.

    The list…is too long. And by god I’ll do everything I can to ensure some fairness for my staff (and me) and vote for those who might make a better future.

  34. Rachael*

    My problem is an inflexible co-parent (my ex-husband). Because I WFH now and throughout the pandemic, my ex refused to pay for help with childcare (I have a 10 year old and an 8 year old) when the schools were closed and they were doing remote. His take is that they are home with me and I should be able to manage my project manager job (on calls ALL day) and also make sure they are doing their schoolwork during the day. I ended up working in the evening after school and was either working or with kids from 7am-11pm. I spent so much money trying to get a “nanny” for help, but I could only do it a couple of hours because they wanted 20+ dollars an hour (not unreasonable, but it is when it means that it cuts your income in half unexpectedly). I only budget for child care for school breaks and summer, so it was a complete hit to my income to have to do it all on my own for 7 months and battle my ex-husband who conveniently just gets to “skip and hop” to work and be able to criticize how I’m handling having the kids all day and night all week (he picked them up on the weekends). So, my take is that my employer handled the pandemic beautifully. My co-workers and boss were amazing. It was my so called “partner” that caused all the stress, lol. And the government left me to the wolves and expected me to either pay for childcare by myself or take a dive with my mental health. Luckily, the schools are in session and I have a reprieve, lol. For now.

  35. Amber Rose*

    None of us are OK.

    I have so much sympathy for what my parent-type coworkers are going through because it sucks so, so much. I’m doing my best for them too (as far as I can in terms of workflow). But man, none of us are doing OK right now. Everything is just so effing awful.

    Imaginary group hug.

  36. Xarcady*

    I don’t understand why the government ended the mandate requiring employers to give employees PTO for quarantine. Just having that back could solve so many of these problems.

    Along with employers hiring enough people to get the work done even if one or two people have to quarantine. But that’s a pipe dream.

  37. lilsheba*

    Man, I can’t even imagine having small kids during this, I am forever grateful mine are grown. If they were little there is no way in hell I would be sending them to school in this. No way at all. They would have to figure out a way to keep on remote learning. I’m also grateful I was on leave the first few months of the pandemic, and have been working from home every since, cause there is no way in hell I would go to any shared building space now. I won’t go back to theaters, or restaurants, or any crowded indoor space or even outdoor space. I’ve been vaxxed and boosted AND I caught covid last month anyway but luckily it was mild. But I don’t want to mess around with this crap. I feel for people who aren’t getting the help they were in the beginning, because everyone is acting like it’s over now.

  38. Amesip*

    +1 to everything Alison said. I would never have worked so hard at having a baby in 2019 if I knew this bs was on the horizon. If I could go back in time and slap myself, I would! But I can’t, and I have a baby that was born in January 2020. Thank God for my wonderful mother who is able to watch him while I’m at work! I can’t afford childcare even in ‘before-times’ conditions. To have to spend so much money while simultaneously needing to put up with closures and inevitable exposures for my son would have been completely untenable!

  39. SallyForth*

    I feel so bad for all of you, especially those in countries without decent parental leave. You sound exhausted.
    My DIL went back to work at 6 weeks and my son then had 12 weeks of saved up personal leave but had to go back early because they were so short staffed due to COVID. My husband and I, as well as the other grandparents, are retired and have been doing childcare for them, living with them 2 months at a time. We all live in Canada. They live a 5 hour flight away in the US. I am grateful flights are cheap right now and we can do this.

  40. Wendy*

    The issues mentioned in the replies have been going on for decades and centuries.

    Man alone cannot solve these issues.

    1. Clare*

      “Man” absolutely can choose to hire adequate staffing that takes into account humans needing leave (sick, vacation, or caregiving) and prioritizing safe childcare during a pandemic. There’s not some sort of cosmic force saying “actually, you have to schedule your employees for 50 hours of work a week with no slack.”

  41. Zennish*

    Maybe not, but we’re the only tool-using primates handy, so we probably ought to give it a try. :-)

  42. Chilly Delta Blues*

    Add to this school mask mandates ending, including at our daycare and my anxiety is at an all time high. Plus work now requiring business travel again… feeling forgotten, or rather like a burden leadership would rather forget, is a very spot in description.

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