This week, we rolled five months working from home with no organized childcare.
It was also the week that R was supposed to start back at school.
Her first day was an amazing one at her small school where there were <20 kids and only 5 families at most per class. Pods were being kept. Kids are outside all day. Parents had to follow strict rules at drop off and pickup. I was concerned about Covid- terrified even - but my mental health and professional well-being needed this.
Even with school, I knew I would be doing also sorts of weird gymnastics with my schedule because R's school doesn't have before or after care. That meant, on occasion, going to our work parking lot and working on my laptop while my daughter played on her tablet so that we could drop off dad or pick up dad and still make it to her school in time for drop off/pickup. My husband adjusted his schedule to limit that. However, after one, blissful day where I couldn't hear feet running or the TV going or screeching at the dogs overhead and I wasn't dealing with the stress of entertaining my child, I knew it was worth the sacrifice.
Yes, you heard it: our best case scenario includes having to occasionally work in a parking lot in our car.
My kid had the best day at school. She loved every dang moment of it. She came home with stories and pictures and couldn't wait to return in two days when she'd go back. That day is today. Today I am working from home with her and cobbling together childcare for the next week and some change.
Last night, I was informed that school would not reopen today - as planned - because a staff member had tested positive. That staff member had been tested and quarantined after reporting minor symptoms and had not been around any children - just masked and distanced staff members outdoors.
So, our exposure risk isn't 0 but it's very little. Everyone in contact with her has to get tested. I'm scared for this staff member because everyone there is a basically family by now.
R is now home with me. I will again pick up the slack and do everything all over again - work from home, watch or coordinate childcare, and cook. As I have been for the past 5 months.
My nerves are fried. I resent this so much. I truly hate being stuck here. I need a vacation - to myself - where no one touches me or talks to me or makes pretend horse noises at me for 2 hours. My husband says he understands but he doesn't and couldn't. It is hard to describe the stress of working FT, caring for a child R's age, not having a second person home, being responsible for paying 90% of the bills, and also cooking and mealplanning everything we eat. I derive most of my feelings of self-worth from doing actual things at work. I do not derive self-worth from making meals or saying "please stop jumping off that thing" 100 times in complete isolation. I have been told by people who chose to be stay-at-home-parents that they don't, either, which is why this is so hard for all of us.
I was supposed to take a day off - to myself, alone - for the first time in 5 months on Monday. That will be postponed to forever.
Until then, I will be praying school does reopen in a week and a half and that R can go back. Or that they don't and I can find childcare that will come to my house that we can afford. Either way, it's going to be me doing all of the domestic and emotional labor to make that work. Because that is the lot of women in this pandemic.
Even with a spouse who is a great co-parent, I am always the one making these plans because it's "weird" for dads to hire outside childcare and because I manage our finances.
I don't know how to make it feel better. There really is not a way to describe how broken I felt last night. There is no end and no bottom. It's not our schools' faults. It's the fault of a virus and a broken public health response because of a broken government response. Our school is doing the best it can - better than most schools even. And still, we made it one day before Covid said "nah".
This is why we can't safely reopen k-12.