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Childcare Chaos

Tom Robey Tom Robey May 5, 2020

How has CoViD-19 turned your world upside down?  For many, it’s been a furlough or decreased income.  The more social among us are longing to connect by more than Zoom or FaceTime.  For me, the biggest change has been at home.  As an emergency doc, my job is pretty much the same.  We’ve cut back a few shifts, but the work is there–it just includes more PPE (personal protective equipment) now.  And as a two-physician home with two elementary school-aged boys, we were not exactly out on the town much.  Okay, not really at all.  So when school was cancelled for the year, that’s when our life changed!

Parents: how much notice did your school give you of cancellation?  Seattle Public Schools gave us about 2 hours.  An email around noon on a Wednesday announced that our kids would be coming home with all their belongings at 2:00 dismissal.  My next shift was Friday at 9 AM, so at least I had 42 hours to figure out childcare.  There were rumblings that the schools might cancel, so we had lined up one of our favorite neighborhood high-school babysitters to watch the boys for a day, but Thursday evening, he backed out.  After all, I’m an ER doc and my wife is a virologist… Fortunately, my boss’s daughter had babysat for us before, her school was cancelled, and importantly, both of her parents are first responders!  

But a 20-minute one-way drive to get a babysitter–as awesome as she is–is a bit much.  So we brainstormed.  One of my wife’s colleagues has a high schooler in the neighborhood.  She babysat for an afternoon.  When I had afternoon shifts, my wife would come home early to hand off the baton.  Nanny agencies were swamped, and the fact that we were essential health care workers – both with possible direct exposures to the virus?  Forget it.  The governor mandated that public school districts arrange for childcare options for essential workers.  Our school district’s response: “Sorry, we can’t afford that.”  It took weeks to figure out how to deliver instruction at home, and when it was offered, you had to commit to a weekly schedule and pay hazard rates!  Does this sound familiar?  I just wanted a solution that enabled me to stay home with the kids when I wasn’t working and have a safe place when I was.  My wife works an essentially 8-5 job, so could drop off or pick up if I couldn’t.  

Our deliverance came from that community resource that always seems to be around.  The YMCA.  Almost every Y runs camps and after school programs in addition to having gyms, pools, and social supports.  I got the sense that the YMCA in Snohomish County (where I work) and Greater Seattle (where I live) proudly took on the challenge to develop a safe way to care for our region’s first responders’ and essential health workers’ kids.  So for less than $50/day (subsidized even more for financial need or if you are a health care worker), nurses, medics, and docs can drop their kids off at a safe place where they’re going to have fun, learn, and stay active.  I’m proud to continue my Y membership, and I know exactly where my charitable giving will be going for many years!  

It’s a huge relief to have a place for the boys when we both need to be at the hospital, but as any parent out there knows, that’s only part of the story.  How our home is turned upside down is a story for another post.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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