As a Parent, I Worry About How the Pandemic Is Affecting Childhood

In his latest WFH dispatch, Eric Stine talks about the impact quarantine during COVID-19 is having on some of his kids’ favorite parts of childhood.

Eric Stine is the Chief Revenue Officer at Qualtrics. Recently, for the first time in his professional life, he became a full-time remote employee because of the coronavirus pandemic. Each week, he’ll share the highs, lows, and learnings of a WFH newbie. You can read all of his weekly diary posts here.

Dispatch From the Home Office, Week Two — I Think It’s Gonna Be a Long, Long Time…

“Papa, can we have a playdate?”

Nicholas asked me that on Monday. How do you tell a 3-year-old he can’t go on a playdate? We’ve tried to explain to him that people have been sick, and we don’t want to get sick, so we’re having school and playing at home right now. We are fortunate that the twins’ pre-school sends over lessons and activities for the kids. Handwriting, language skills, ideas for art projects… even Spanish lessons and gym activities. Neil dutifully does them all — he even makes them better. Neil has been amazing — turns out he’s a preschool teacher, camp counselor, and chef.

I worry about what the massive amount of unemployment, all hitting so quickly, is going to do to this country — horribly exposing restaurant workers, housekeepers, and others living paycheck to paycheck or hand to mouth to strife no one deserves. The undocumented, unsalaried and uninsured will be a huge casualty of this crisis — but they will also be the undoing of the upper middle class. Too many are too reliant on those without savings, without health insurance, and without protection in this country. And so the people who have to go to work — those who show up when they’ve got a bit of a sniffle, or a cough, or a slight fever because they have no child care, no checking account, and no choice — will fuel the spread of this precisely because of the circumstances we have created. We built this tinder box.

I also worry about how long things can stay closed before the bottom truly begins to drop out. There is still hiring — grocery stores, warehouses — but mapping jobs losses to job opportunities may be a shorter-term issue than the thousands of mom and pop retailers and restaurants that close. I worry about big box retailers and hoteliers closing the bottom 5% or 10% or 20% of their locations permanently. I worry about a commercial real estate crisis and an erosion of the tax base precisely when we need government to spend its way out of recession.

But, most of all, I worry about the toll this will take individually. We are social animals. A Peloton class isn’t the same as going for a run with a friend. A Zoom call isn’t a meeting. Takeout from your favorite neighborhood restaurant isn’t the same as sitting there with your spouse. A video playdate sucks — kids need to jump on each other; it’s how they learn not to jump on each other.

The kids have been in remarkably good spirits. We get them outside every day — for at least an hour. March is unforgiving — and some days are warm and sunny; others are colder and wetter. But, honestly, we’d take them outside in anything short of a zombie apocalypse (which is clearly not off the table at this point). 

On the upside, I’m running outside again. I occasionally pass the same cyclist who I think might be waving at me — or simply making a right turn. On Maple Avenue North they’re putting in a sidewalk and the man who holds the STOP/SLOW sign so bidirectional traffic can share a single lane is my new friend. We never speak — but I run past him from a distance of at least six feet three times a week. I think we both look forward to it. 

I look forward to the mailman like a kid waiting for Santa.

The kids’ birthday is soon — but we just canceled their party. The Easter Bunny hid eggs under the couch cushions. It’s a lot less fun buying candy online. I hate what this is doing to childhood.

Of course, these turned out to be the least of my preoccupations when, on Friday at 6 p.m., Neil knocked on my office door to tell me Nicholas had a fever of 102.7.

Working From Home in the New Normal is a data-driven storytelling initiative from SAP and Thrive Global, bringing together insights powered by the Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse with actionable Microsteps and stories from Thrive to help you navigate working from home. Visit daily for the latest data and stories to help improve your focus, prioritization, and well-being.

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