As the pandemic rages on, schools across the country have announced plans for online-only learning in the fall. Working parents who rely on public school not just to educate their children, but also as child care, are scrambling.
Parents are considering many solutions ranging from dropping out of the workforce entirely to the hotly-debated “learning pod” idea in which small groups of parents hire a private teacher. These solutions are expensive, especially for women, whose careers are disproportionately harmed by child care challenges.
If you are a working parent wondering how you will make it all work, here are some ideas that may help.
Know your rights
The government has recently passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) which expands FMLA benefits and allows employees to take “up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to Covid-19,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Employers under 500 employees are on the hook to provide this form of leave to their employees, though small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption. Don’t expect your employer to offer this leave to you; know your rights so that you can ask for this leave if necessary.
Find school age care
While public schools may be closed, child care providers are open for business. With over 200,000 licensed providers, there are likely great options within walking distance of your home or child’s school. According to recent data collected by my company Winnie, as many as 75% have spaces for school age children and can support their distance learning.
While there is a cost, group child care is more affordable than a private tutor. The average cost of full-time child care in a home daycare in the U.S. is $800 per month. Many are also set up to accept subsidies and meal programs, making them more accessible to families in need.
Rewrite the rules
Talk to your boss or HR department about allowing you to work from home. Younger school age children need a parent physically present, but can be occupied by their own play, distance learning, and activities while you work.
Remember, not everyone on the team has children and understands the challenges you’re facing. This can be an opportunity to share with your coworkers what’s going on and advocate for more family-friendly policies, like remote work, flexible schedules and asynchronous collaboration.
You’ve got this
Remember that these are exceptionally challenging times and it’s unlikely that anyone is performing at their very best right now. Your employer likely wants to retain you as an employee just as much as you want to perform well at your job. Go easy on yourself and remember that you are valued as an employee, a parent, and a person.