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Parenting in the age of coronavirus: Maintaining a career and a family

One expert says it’s important for employers to take an active role by listening to working parents and adjusting based on their specific needs.

You might have seen it flying around the internet. A recent New York Times op-ed by food blogger and mom Deb Perelman suggests that the coronavirus pandemic has taught parents that you can have a kid or a job, but you can’t have both.

While perhaps not literally true, it’s definitely a sentiment that resonates with a lot of working parents. Coronavirus shutdowns sent kids home from school and limited summer activity options. 

Health concerns mean daycare and childcare – already in short supply – are even harder to find. For parents trying to work from home, omnipresent kids have made life a chaotic mess (not that it wasn’t before).

I know in my home, too often we feel like we’re hanging on by a thread. 

Real-life parent guide Kim Muench says that’s far too common among parents struggling to be both good parents and good employees. Too often it feels like something has to give.

“I don’t think we’re going to have a choice but to try and juggle both things," she explained. "So whether or not we can, I think some people are going to be forced to, whether we think we can or not.”

In her op-ed, Perelman contends that not enough people are talking about parents’ biggest conundrum: without reliable childcare, there’s no way the economy can get back on track. Which makes sense. Even working from home, parents need options for their kids. They don’t want to send them to school without knowing how safe they’ll be. 

But that means trying to parent while also attending to their work requirements. Muench says there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

“How are we going to get to a place where we can get a rhythm or a structure back for our families, given opening up of businesses, if we don’t have a place for our children to go to?”

That’s where being honest about your struggles comes in. 

Muench recommends making self-care a priority. That can mean time for exercise, eating right, even meditation. 

And she also says it’s important for employers to take an active role by listening to working parents and adjusting based on their specific needs.

“These are unprecedented times that we’re in," she explained. "And therefore the employer that is not going to listen is going to lose a really good employee."

Part of that is being flexible as new needs or issues arise.

"I think there needs to be grace on everybody’s part right now so we can do the best to get through this situation at hand,” she said.

For working parents in need of a lifeline, there’s no cure-all. Coronavirus has changed everything, and until there’s a vaccine or a cure this is the new normal. But Muench recommends a positive attitude and the old adage – take things one day at a time.

“I know that with time we’ll get through this. Keeping good perspective, and keeping your own family’s best interests at heart as we move ahead, that’s what I wish.”

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