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Childcare and Covid-19: ‘So much energy is going into pretending work is happening as normal. But it’s not.’


By Dominique McMullan
25th Mar 2020
Childcare and Covid-19: ‘So much energy is going into pretending work is happening as normal. But it’s not.’

Dominique McMullan describes the reality of working full-time while also quarantining from Covid-19 and caring for a child


When we received the email I cried with relief. Although honestly, that doesn’t take a lot these days. Our creche would not be asking us to pay the monthly creche fees while they were closed. 

After a long struggle to even find a creche place for our son (which you can read about here) the thought of losing that place was pretty devastating. But the fees each month cost more than our mortgage and due to current circumstances, we simply didn’t know if we were going to be able to pay. 

It was important to us to know that the staff, who love our son so palpably, and who he misses so much, would receive payment and keep their jobs.

Yesterday, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone secured a rescue package for the childcare industry. The package gives businesses and their staff State support and asks them in return, not to charge parents while also ensuring their child’s place is secure until social-distancing rules come to an end.

As well as keeping our place, it was important to us to know that the staff, who love our son so palpably, and who he misses so much, would receive payment and keep their jobs. For this we are grateful. 

However, a second problem remains. 

Women bearing the brunt

Across the country, parents are increasingly desperate as they attempt to entertain their children while simultaneously working their day jobs. As the bulk of childcare all over the world still falls to women, it is friends and readers of IMAGE who are bearing the brunt of this responsibility. Often minding the children during the day, while cooking and cleaning; and using the night to work. This can’t last. 

Important phone calls are happening in airing cupboards. Crisis Zoom meetings are taking place with toddlers plugged into iPads just out of shot.

Many of these day jobs were already demanding, but now, as businesses clamber to figure out this new reality, they’ve become frenetic. Important phone calls are happening in airing cupboards. Crisis Zoom meetings are taking place with toddlers plugged into iPads just out of shot. WhatsApp groups and Google Docs are being filled in, in between the 55th round of ‘The Floor is Lava’. So much energy is going into pretending work is happening as normal. But it’s not. 

Framed within the context of what is happening across the world, the issue of balancing childcare and a day job seems minor. But at times like this, we can only live in our own realities, and this is the reality for so many. And to quote that overused word from the old-world, it’s unsustainable. As I type this I can hear my son screaming in the other room. My whole body is tense as I ignore the primal urge to get up to go and help. 

Hold those you love close

I’m lucky. He is with my mum. We were temporarily living in my parent’s house as the Covid-19 crisis developed. The right time for my son and I to leave seemed to pass us by unnoticed. Grateful isn’t a big enough word to describe how I feel about having the help, but more about simply being able to be close to them. The urge to hold close everyone I love is tangible at the moment. But I am not sure how long this situation will last. 

Communicating with your husband through a car window, when he can’t hold his 11-month-old son would be too hard.

This urge to keep everyone close made it all the more difficult for my husband to separate from us a week ago. He interacted with someone who had travelled and we decided that until the isolation period was over, it was safer for him to stay away from my parents. He sees his baby on FaceTime for the moment. Communicating with your husband through a car window, when he can’t hold his 11-month-old son would be too hard. Next week the isolation period is over, but we are unsure what we will do then. 

This is uncharted territory, and there are no easy answers. 

We must only live in the day. One episode of In The Nightgarden at a time. 

Photo: Dominique McMullan


Read more: Coronavirus volunteering: Practical advice and guidance on how you can help

Read more: Remote working is about to become our new normal. Let’s keep it that way

Read more: ‘Keep a routine’: a former Navy submariner shares his tips for living in isolation