Coronavirus: Panic and Stress: Parents Struggle to Balance Work, Childcare

JEFFERSON CO., Pa. (EYT) – They say it takes a village to raise a child.

In this time of the COVID-19 crisis, we might find out – even in a time where social distancing has become a part of all of our vocabulary.

With daycare/childcare centers and schools across the region and state shutting down, and not all parents are able to work from home – what are the options for parents to have their children watched?

“We were scrambling to find alternative care since our jobs are essential and therefore still operating,” Erica Boyles of Punxsutawney said.

That was a refrain a lot of parents were echoing in an ever-changing environment last week.

Michelle Miller, the Director of Childcare at YMCA Younger Years in Clarion, may have expressed the solution at the end of a letter on Tuesday, March 17 announcing the temporary closing of the center.

“Let’s work together to support friends, colleagues, and neighbors,” Miller said in the letter. “Only by coming together can we best handle this crisis and come out a strong community afterward.”

Having family watch children is one option many parents are turning towards.

“My husband and I are still working,” Ashley Perry said. “Our children either go to our family, who live next door, or one of the daycare teachers has offered to watch them when needed.”

Grandparents seem to be the go-to family members for a lot of people.

“My husband and I are still working,” Logan Hinderliter of New Bethlehem said. “Our three-year-old typically goes to daycare but is now staying with my husband’s parents throughout the day. My husband’s father is retired and his mother has shut down her hair salon due to the virus.”

Clarion County resident Stephanie Corle is currently relying on family but isn’t sure how long that can last, and her fears epitomize the fears and concerns felt by many parents.

“My husband and I are both working, and the closing of both daycare and school had us concerned we would have to take leave from work,” Corle said. “But, so far we have family members that have reached out and are willing to babysit for us the next two weeks. Hopefully, if this lasts longer than that, we will still be able to rely on family.”

While grandparents are an option for some, other family members are also stepping in to fill the void.

“My teenager is watching my younger two when we are working,” Tara Himes told exploreJeffersonpa. “They are watching a lot of TV and using different websites to learn on.”

Nathasha Thompson explained that she doesn’t have kids of her own, but she will be watching her niece from time-to-time.

“We are going to do some school things we have found online and do crafts,” Thompson said.

Amy Kaltenbach, who lives in the Clarion School District, said she is lucky, her oldest child is 17 and can watch his younger brother sometimes.

“I am also lucky that I have friends and family that can help out,” Kaltenbach said. “Several of my friends are already off work due to school and business shutdowns.”

Others are turning to friends to help out.

“I’m a single mom with a child that has a heart condition,” Rimersburg’s Shannon Gorsuch said. “I have to continue working to support us. I have had two friends step up and offer to watch my daughter and keep her safe from all this. I would be sunk without these two ladies.”

There have been numerous social media posts from high school and college kids also offering to babysit, but in a time of social distancing, there is a cause of concern among some parents of the would-be babysitters.

“I am being careful as to who I would allow my kids to babysit,” one parent told exploreJeffersonPA.com. “I won’t have them babysit for anyone I don’t know and who’s not healthy. We have a family member with an autoimmune disease, so we have to be careful about what enters our house.”

Other parents, who don’t have family or friends who can watch their children are being forced to take time off of work.

“I had to call off work because daycares have closed, and I had no one to watch my daughter last minute,” Jordan Merryman said.

Other parents are lucky and were already at home but are now needing to juggle having spouses working from home and having their kids understand that mom or dad is working.

“We’re trying to have fun but keep their brains and bodies active,” Fye said. “My husband work at home, and I am currently unemployed awaiting the start date for my new job. So, I’m just keeping the kids busy and out of his hair.”

Jordan Hoover, who lives in DuBois, has three kids five and under and was already a stay-at-home dad. But his wife is now working from home, which has created new challenges.

“That creates new management issues with our kids wanting to see her,” Hoover said. “This sounds cliche, but we are taking it day-to-day. There is a lot of uncertainty in general at the present time.”


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