The Top 2 Things Parents Need Most Right Now

The pandemic has everyone spinning right now. All of us parents seem to be in one of the 5 stages of grief. I have moved past denial and am currently sitting in a huge vat of angry. I am angry that we are in this mess. I am angry we opened too quickly, I am angry at all the Spring Breakers, Memorial Day party-goers, and Fourth of July revelers. I am very angry at all the politicians who allowed these idiots to ruin any chances our kids had of going back to a much needed in-person classroom.

The reality is, it doesn't matter how angry I am. The fact remains, as many before me have said, there are no good answers. There is only the least wrong answer. Regardless of the decision on where we end up schooling our children, parents desperately need 2 things right now.

1. TO PLAN: On one hand I felt bad for the kids in school districts who announced weeks ago that their fall semester was going to be online. It felt like giving up. On the other hand, I was jealous. At least they have an answer. At least they can make family plans.

Above everything, parents need to be able to plan. Sure we know in the back of our heads that the best laid plans are slated to go wrong at the worst possible moment. Working parents live with the uncertainty of that every day. It is inevitable that the morning of a huge presentation or non-negotiable meeting at work, a small child will come down the stairs and announce they just threw up and don't feel well.

But that is uncertainty we signed up for. We can deal with the minor daily inconsistencies of short-term interruptions as long as there is a larger plan. Constantly kicking the can down the road in the vain hopes that the numbers will get better, that more money will appear, that data will coalesce into a consensus is not helping. Childcare, tutors and other resources are scarce right now, and by putting off the decision we are forcing parents to compete at the last minute in a race for care solutions that will end up leaving some unemployed.

2. SUPPORT: This is an unprecedented time in history and we, as a collective society, need to decide if supporting the next generation is something we are invested in as a society or not. What I am talking about is money, resources, and solutions. Parents, working or not, need support for their families on every level.

The only solution that is going to work at this point is an all-in approach from every sector. Employers need to recognize the plight of working parents and support them by working with individual employees to reach an appropriate plan for both parties. Government agencies will need to deal with the economic fall-out of the unemployment rate and rising home insecurities. Schools, depending on their choice to go back or remote teach, need to provide parents with tools to address mental health and stress management issues. Healthcare needs to make covid (and influenza) testing and basic health care more accessible to all families so we can identify and mitigate outbreaks before they balloon.

Most importantly, and I cannot stress this enough, the fastest way to find long-term workable solutions for school aged children is to throw money at the problem. We have bailed out various industries that we have deemed "too big to fail" and considering 32% of the workforce also happens to be parents of school aged children, many who rely on the economic resource of public school, I would say that the public school system is definitely something that should be considered too big to fail. We need a full-scale economic bailout to bring school buildings up to date, expand services, hire more teachers, shrink classroom sizes, and add nurses and health care workers. 

Valuing Families has never been more important

For the last 3 years it felt frivolous to write about valuing families, supporting caregivers, or supporting childhood independence- not when it felt the very threads of the democratic republic we live in were, and are, fraying at the seams. It has felt so vitally important to engage on a base level, arguing against things like corruption, conflict of interest, and governing for the people that anything else felt like wasted breath. A drop of opinion in an ocean of partisan warfare. I took it all in and became overwhelmed. I allowed my voice to fall silent, to lose the mission and to fall out of love with the goal of changing hearts and minds on the topic of caregiver support.

This doesn't mean caregivers suddenly became less important. In fact, in the age of rising healthcare costs and the jury still out on issues like the Affordable Care Act, Medicare Expansions, and improved drug pricing, it seems even more critical. We need to encourage people to buoy up the individuals toiling without reward or recognition, often to the detriment of their careers in order to care for someone in their life whose needs exceed their abilities.

We most often think of caregivers in terms of young children and terminally ill adults, but there is a whole host of individuals who require extra care. Adding to the population of struggling caregivers is the epidemic of opioid addiction which is striking the very population we are set up to depend on as mid-level adult caregivers.

Calling for businesses to embrace caregivers has been a message that has felt lost- adrift on a stormy political sea, with no land in sight. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic upon us, this issue has suddenly been thrust into center stage. The question of how we provide caregiver support, safety and economic security has become a matter of immediate need at all levels.

Obsessively reading the news and wringing hands in worry is not going to stop the oncoming tide. This voice may still be lost in the din and clamor as we actively write history, but it no longer feels convalescent.

The voice of the Two-Penny Soapbox is still here, still fighting, and once again relevant. We may have other things we need to tackle first, but we absolutely need to remember that our caregivers aren't getting a break, so neither should we.