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There's no more sympathy for working parents with quarantined kids

Carla Temis   

There's no more sympathy for working parents with quarantined kids
  • There was little sympathy for working parents to begin with, in a country where there is no paid leave.
  • Being at home with my son during the first weeks of 2022 make me miss early lockdown 2020.

Working from home is something I've adjusted to, but working from home while being a teacher, cafeteria worker, and a calm mom is something I had hoped I would never have to do again.

This is life during the post-holiday quarantine, which looks a lot like the lockdown in 2020, except this time I'm not so sure there's as much sympathy in the business world for a working parent.

I'm aware of my privilege — employed despite a pandemic, able to work from home — but I felt like a terrible parent telling my son I couldn't play for a few minutes today, and like a terrible employee after being called out for letting an email go unanswered for too long yesterday because I was burning lunch while putting out a different work fire.

I miss the patience we all had for working parents

I don't miss the early days of the pandemic with its shortages of everything from broccoli to toilet paper, waiting desperately for a vaccine to become available, or the uncertainty of how the coronavirus spread. I'm glad we ruled out having to sanitize groceries.

What I do miss, and terribly, is the patience that seemed to develop overnight for working parents.

With offices and schools closed for days and then weeks, stretching into months, few employers and coworkers seemed to mind the occasional interruption on a Zoom call by a cranky and bored schoolchild demanding a snack or "just five minutes on my tablet mommy, please".

In fall 2021, restrictions eased significantly, children returned to in-person school full time, businesses began to call their employees back to their offices, and that welcomed patience seemed to dry up as more and more employers seemed to forget that this pandemic is still very much on.

There wasn't much sympathy to begin with

And, let's face it, there wasn't much sympathy for working parents in the first place.

In my son's first 3 years, colds regularly came home from daycare, and the nonstop passing of germs in our household felt like a most miserable tag tournament. But none of that made me more anxious than the day my boss sniped at me over all of the time I was out for either my colds or my child's.

To this day I have anxiety attacks every time I need time off around anything involving my son.

My husband and I decided to keep our son home for the first two weeks after the school's winter break, a choice validated when we were informed that we may have been exposed over the last weekend of 2021.

While we have since all tested negative, we will continue to keep our son home for the full two weeks. Erosion in sympathy towards working parents be damned: My son already spent a week and a half at home in October because one of his classmates was sent to school even though she was sick, and we have read story after story of children who are exposed to COVID-positive students sent to school by their parents.

Between that and the CDC's befuddling new guidelines, which seem more geared towards keeping businesses running than towards a concern for public safety, and as a family with comorbidity, keeping our child home feels like the right choice for us.

So for now, during my workdays, some calls will feature a little voice asking, "Can I tell you a really good joke?" Some reports will be delayed because I have to stop and help clean up spilled yogurt. I know there will be sighs and pointed stares to endure, at the least. But this is what I have to do for my family and for me.


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