Ideas & Advice

Parents of the youngest kids are not OK right now (Opinion)

Parents of the youngest kids are not OK right now (Opinion)
Written by Publishing Team

The situation left the parents of the youngest children (including me, with two daughters under 5) in crisis. But there are things we can all do to help.

Here’s what it’s like to be a mom of young children right now. In my local supermarket, there is a sign on the door asking customers to wear masks. But the grocery store doesn’t enforce the rule, and some adults selfishly choose not to. This means that I cannot bring my own baby to the store when I need a gallon of milk because she is too young to wear a mask (she could choke, which is a risk for everyone. children under 2 years old), and, with the virus circulating so widely that it is simply dangerous to expose it to other people.

So when I’m not at work, I practically live under house arrest. Fortunately, my husband is able to do our shopping. But not all parents have partners or other people in their home who can.

Even for relatively privileged parents like us, life is full of impossible choices these days. Our toddler, for example, is bored in his current kindergarten class. Her teacher told us months ago that she was ready to move to an older children’s class. But we’re holding it back because the upper-level class has a lot more students – and, therefore, would bring a lot more potential exposure.

Meanwhile, our pediatrician’s office recently asked me to drop the appointment time for my baby’s well visit so that the office could accommodate more sick children. I did – partly because I was worried that if I took her to the doctor, she might catch the coronavirus from other kids in the office. So now my baby is behind on critical screenings and vaccines that would protect him from other diseases.

And since my baby is too young for a mask, I won’t bring him to daycare. But finding home child care providers is almost impossible. On my local Facebook forum for daycares and families there are countless posts from parents looking for babysitters and nannies – far more than the few posts from someone looking for such work. .

Also, while we understand that my husband – an emergency room doctor – has to report for work, many employers still expect parents who are not essential workers like me to work in person. The idea of ​​bringing Omicron home for my daughters is terrifying.

Much of the national conversation is (rightly) centered on whether public schools should close during this latest wave, and there is an understandable measure of anger against those who choose to remain unvaccinated. But when we focus our attention on reopening at all costs, we fail to recognize the reality that a huge number of those of us who are unvaccinated are young children.

While Covid-19 poses risks to all of us, children 5 and older are at least eligible for vaccines – and not seeing much increase in hospitalizations. But parents of young children – vulnerable little ones who don’t have these protections and are hospitalized with this virus in alarming numbers – are really in dire straits.

As grim as this situation may seem, there are little things we can all do about it that could make a bigger difference than you think.

First, grocery stores and other private businesses should require their customers to wear masks. Of course, that would not be a panacea. Cloth masks don’t seem to offer enough protection against Omicron, but there isn’t enough N95 for everyone. Still, if everyone was masked, it would be much safer for parents like me to bring our babies to stores when we needed essentials. Retailers who do not enforce such warrants are sending a worrying signal about their lack of care for young children. It’s a message parents won’t forget.

Second, we all need to help each other. Do you have a neighbor with young children? Ask if you can pick up something for them the next time you go to the store. Does your colleague have a toddler? Let them work from home if they prefer and it is entirely possible. And ask if you can help them with a project. (Many of us try to limit our childcare services because everyone we allow into our homes is potentially at risk.) Are you retired or unemployed and want to work temporarily as a Who is responsible for childcare for a local family in need? Let them know!

Local community forums on social media are a great place to ask for and offer this type of help. For example, last month someone who came to work at my house told me about a single mother in the area who needed supplies for her newborn baby. She had recently arrived from Brazil and had almost no family or friends to support her. I asked for help for this woman on a Facebook forum for people who live in my town. Within days, I had filled my garage with donations for her.

Parents of young children are not doing well right now. And while no one can make the virus go away or make tough decisions about school and medical appointments, there is still a lot more businesses and community members could do to help us.

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