Daycare During COVID is Putting Families in Crisis

Who's Watching Out For The Families with Kids Under Five?

Here's the reality of the last week in our house, with two kids under five. 

Last Thursday our youngest went back to daycare for the first time after the holidays. He moved up a class so he had a new teacher, new kids, and lots of change. He did well, the little trooper. 

On Saturday he got a runny nose that continued on Sunday. Under Ontario's new COVID rules if your kids have a runny nose you have to keep them home, so he stayed home on Monday. So much for that new class excitement. 

On Monday afternoon he woke up with a cough. Nowadays if your preschooler gets a cough, they are assumed to have COVID and your entire household needs to quarantine for five days. There's no test-to-return option at the moment (maybe soon?) - that's it. The entire household.

So on Tuesday, we pulled our other kid out of daycare. 

On Wednesday my wife requested a leave of absence from her job for the next six months. She was looking forward to going back to work in February, but the current reality of juggling work and this childcare mess was too much because good luck juggling any kind of job - especially teaching - with simultaneously looking after two kids under 5.

This morning our eldest woke up coughing. We're figuring out if this is him emulating his brother for attention or - more likely - if he caught his brother's cold. The daycare emailed to let us know there's a confirmed COVID case in our youngest's cohort. So now we now re-start the quarantine timer.

TWO DAYS. It took TWO DAYS back in school for **our entire household** to have to quarantine for more than a week. With no COVID in our household and no access to PCR tests to be able to return either of them to school. I wonder how long it will take for the next cold to hit once they do go back... 

Lots of attention is rightly being given to kids aged 5-11. I don't begrudge it - the kids need it, their parents need it and their teachers need it. But right now kids under 5 and their parents are feeling completely abandoned. Parenting young kids is hard enough at the best of times, but after two years of being at the bottom of the list of priorities we're just so worn down.

And we're the privileged ones. We're so lucky to be able to afford the sky-high cost of daycare. It also pains me that my wife is the one to have to take time off from her career (we did discuss the idea of me taking time off instead). It makes sense for our situation but that still sucks too... and I'm seeing that playout for multiple families.

The feeling of abandonment and betrayal is real. The financial reality of paying for unused childcare spaces AND having to take time off work is real. And - I can't emphasize this enough - the feeling of despair, of wanting to scream at the wall but having no alternative but to instead try to find the stamina each morning to keep going, is real. 


Dave Fleet is a husband, dad of two and the head of global digital crisis at communications consulting agency Edelman. Dave sits on the Program Advisory Committee for post-graduate marketing courses at Seneca College and is also a mentor for the BANFF Spark Marketing Accelerator for Women in the Business of Media. You can find him on his website, on Twitter or on LinkedIn.