Stay-at-Home Parenting in the Time of COVID-19

As of time of writing, more than 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported again in the US, the first time since the end of May.

But as if the 4 million cases and more than 140,000 deaths are not enough, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that COVID-19 rates were more than 10 times higher than what was reported. 

At a time when more is being learned about this pandemic, the US continues to reach ominous milestones in the resurgence of the virus across the nation. The mayor in our residence Washington, D.C. just issued a new mask order that basically says every person should wear a mask as soon as they leave their homes because of the upswing of new cases.

The District is still in Phase 2 of reopening since June 22. This means restaurants and other non-essential retail can open indoors at 50-percent capacity with social distancing. Parks, fields and playgrounds can reopen as well as gyms, yoga studios and the like. Telework is still encouraged.

File photo of downtown Washington, D.C. dated June 2019 by Anna Lowe from Pexels

New Family Routine

Four months in to the pandemic, my husband, daughter and I got on to a routine to retain as much a “normal” life as we can.

With masks on, we will go on our daily walks to open areas where we will not be anywhere near other people.

We try our best to keep our active toddler entertained, knowing that she will not be around other kids for quite a while. 

At the height of the pandemic, a nearby cemetery became one of our favorite walking spots. Our toddler can freely run around without going nowhere near another person.

Back to ‘Normal’

Four months ago, though, things were on a different trajectory. In late February, our daughter started to go to a day care center so I can start looking for a job. It was a very exciting time for me because I’ve been a stay-at-home mom until then.

I had so many plans lined up—finally I could go out and see friends without a baby in tow and get my much deserved “me time.” 

Soon after, I received a job offer from the Philippine Embassy in DC. At that point, I was convinced that everything is happening according to our plans. I was pumped to be back in the labor force. Finally, here is something that I could look forward to.

April and her baby Rafi

Bunny Rafi before she turned 1 last year.

In mid-March, the coronavirus started getting bad in the US and schools and most day care centers were shut down. Offices closed and employees were ordered to work from home. All non-essential businesses stopped operations and stay-at-home orders were implemented in the region.

In short, everything would be back the same way it was for me—stay at home full time with my daughter, and this time, with my husband as well. 

It was heartbreaking, to say the least, but I understand that the world is dealing with a much bigger problem.

Back to the same old grind, I guess. After all, staying at home has been my reality since I got here in the US so it’s nothing new to me.

Rafi with her dad Geoff

Stay-at-Home Parents

It kept me thinking, though, with the pandemic forcing working parents to stay at home and take on additional responsibilities of caregivers, maybe more people will now have more empathy for stay-at-home parents?

Unlike in an office setting where you can find constant camaraderie, the job of a stay-at-home parent can be very isolating.

Unlike in an office setting where you can find constant camaraderie, the job of a stay-at-home parent can be very isolating.

I lost relationships and identity when I left the workforce and that’s when it gets hard, at least for me.  

With parks and libraries closed, my daughter and I have nowhere to go to and are forced to listen in on my husband’s Zoom calls where my loss of professional identity is even more rubbed in my face.

Physical, Emotional Labor

With people forced to work from home, the pandemic, perhaps, has shed light on the invisible physical and emotional labor that stay-at-home parents do.

To be single-handedly responsible for our children’s schedules, meals, education, and behavior, while also struggling to find a moment to ourselves is not easy on our mental health.

I might be stating the obvious here but I’ll say it anyway: Being a stay-at-home parent is unpaid hard work and never an easy luxury.

I might be stating the obvious here but I’ll say it anyway: Being a stay-at-home parent is unpaid hard work and never an easy luxury. If we are to be frank about it, no matter how we love our children, being with them all the time is a massive undertaking.

I love my daughter very much, but there are days when all I want is to deal with an adult problem and an adult to solve it with, before I lose my mind completely over the looped nursery rhymes playing on the TV or board books that I read to her everyday.

I know that my family is lucky and I am genuinely grateful that my husband gets to keep his full-time job and spend more time with us. We are all home and safe so, in that sense, I am not one to complain.

I am also not here to discount other struggles that other parents, working or not working, are dealing with during these trying times. It’s not about arguing that at-home parenthood is harder than working outside the home when you have kids.

The King family

More Awareness, More Empathy

I am also not here to discount other struggles that other parents, working or not working, are dealing with during these trying times.

It’s not about arguing that at-home parenthood is harder than working outside the home when you have kids.

It isn’t a competition as there are so many factors you need to consider to compare different situations.

It’s just that there isn’t much awareness of all the stuff that comes with at-home parenthood.

As the pandemic continues to bear responsibility for a lot of alteration in the world, hopefully people will emerge with productive empathy and greater understanding for stay-at-home parents.

The coronavirus pandemic is a harsh time but I hope that all of us who do this work are feeling at least a little bit more seen.

other stories by the author

About the Author

April Espejo is a Filipino expat in Washington D.C. where she is currently a stay-at-home parent to Rafi. She was previously an Editor in CGTN and a Senior Communications Officer for the Philippine Transportation department, after more than half a decade stint as a broadcast journalist in Philippine network TV5.

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