Lifestyle

Half Of Working Parents Are At Their Pandemic Breaking Point

A single mother with four children sits on a sofa with her kids. Her little boy sits on her shoulders as her toddler snuggles into her as she cries. Mum consoles her. The scene is stressful, as the parent attempts to multitask. A recognisable scene that parents can relate to.

Honestly we’re just shocked that the other half of parents aren’t about to completely break down

A new survey has found that 47% of all working parents say they have reached their breaking point in the COVID-19 pandemic — with a lack of consistent and reliable source of childcare as a major stressor as the omicron variant sweeps across the nation.

This follows a November survey that found that half of parents believed that they couldn’t do 2022 if it was anything like 2021. Well — bad news! — it’s seemed pretty similar so far.

The survey, which was conducted by Engine Insights and commissioned by Bright Horizons, talked to 1000 working parents with kids between the ages of 0 and 12. The survey also found that 70% of parents think that in-person school or care for their kids is very important to their kids’ wellbeing, while 62% said that the same care is very important to their own ability to work.

While the novel coronavirus is obviously to blame for the last two years of school and daycare closures, COVID has absolutely showed everyone in the country the weaknesses and issues with our normal system of childcare, which include, just off the top of our head, low wages for workers, childcare deserts, lack of equal pay for women, lack of employer child care solutions, and lack of government help related to childcare.

In other words, while the pandemic is the reason your kids were home four out of five days last week, the response by the public and private sector should have and could have been way better.

“The pandemic illustrated more than ever how essential child care is for working parents to be engaged and productive at work, and therefore has a huge impact on our nation’s economy,” says Bright Horizons Chief Human Resource Officer Maribeth Bearfield, who was involved with the survey. “We find that those employers who invest in solutions to the child care challenge for their working parent employees reap the benefits in employees who are able to put their best foot forward at work because a major stress has been taken off of their shoulders.”

Of course, while the economy of the country is important, Bearfield also points out that “the childcare puzzle” also hurts parents — both their mental health and their careers.

“Without consistent, reliable child care, working parents are burdened with the stress and worry of not only who will care for the children week to week, but also the health and safety of their children as they bounce from caregiver to caregiver,” she says. “The amount of time and worry involved in piecing together the child care puzzle on a regular basis leaves working parents with less available time and brain space to dedicate to their jobs and can ultimately hurt their careers.”

And this isn’t just about parents losing their freaking minds because they can’t write a work email without making a peanut butter sandwich and breaking up a fight. Kids need consistent care, too.

“Routines and rituals provide a lot of comfort for kids,” explains Rachel Robertson, VP of Education and Development at Bright Horizons. “Since children can’t manage their own schedules, predictable and reliable schedules provide a sense of security for them. In addition, their relationship with stable, reliable, consistent, and caring adults is paramount to them feeling secure and comfortable in times of stress.”

So: what’s the answer? It feels like while parents are keeping it together just to get through the next 10 minutes, the country (both the government and the private sector) needs to be working on long-term, viable solutions for working parents. Even when/if the pandemic ends, it’s clear that any other large disruption will put us right back in the same untenable situation.