Our childcare providers are superheroes: From a parent in Public Health

When my son was just a month old — still pocket-sized and brand new to the world — I faced the decision that so many new parents dread: who would take care of him when I went back to work? I wasn’t ready to hand him over to anyone else, and wondered if I’d ever be. I thought about quitting my job (impossible), asking my parents to move in (impractical), or even finding a way to sneak him into work with me (just plain old loopy — the early days of parenthood will do that to you).  And then my neighbor told me about Miriam, a grandmother who ran a childcare in her home a few blocks away. “If there were an earthquake,” my neighbor said, “there’s no other place I’d want my daughter to be.” I grabbed the one open spot in Miriam’s childcare and, relieved, went back to work.

Fortunately, we haven’t had an earthquake in Washington recently. Our books are still on the shelves and our plates in the cupboard. But in most other ways, our lives are shaken and upended. The COVID-19 pandemic is the public health equivalent of an earthquake, though on a global scale. And just as in an earthquake, we’re all looking for the safest places to be.

My son is now a newly-minted 5-year-old and in his last year of preschool. I’m a Public Health employee working on the COVID-19 outbreak response — a role that requires long hours and minimal distractions. Every day, I count on the amazing team of people at my son’s preschool who make it possible for me to do my job. They give me the time I need to work, and they give my son the great comfort of knowing he’s in a familiar, secure, and loving environment. In this earthquake, there’s nowhere I’d rather my son spend his days.

If you are a child care provider, thank you. Thank you for being our co-parents and our rocks. Thank you for the countless times you’ve changed our children’s dirty diapers and soiled clothes, or cleaned their faces after they’ve decided lunch was more fun to wear than to eat. Thank you for teaching them to love music and books and art, and not minding when that means your world is always noisy and your clothes are forever covered in glitter and tiny handprints. Thank you for calmly riding the wave through their tantrums (and occasionally ours), and teaching us all how to be more forgiving and open-hearted — especially during uncertain times like these when fear and anxiety are the easiest emotions to tap into. And thank you, in this most trying moment, for continuing to be such a vital part of our community by playing a truly critical role in our COVID-19 response.

By showing up each day, you’re allowing grocery store workers, bus drivers, delivery staff, and garbage collectors to provide the community with crucial services. You’re making it possible for healthcare providers and first responders to keep working. You’re keeping our emergency rooms open, fire stations operating, and ambulances going. You’re keeping our healthcare system functional so that it can continue to serve people experiencing a full range of health conditions, from infectious diseases like COVID-19 to heart attacks and cancer. You are saving lives.

And through it all, you are human — with worries, health issues, and concerned family members, just like the rest of us. Your health and wellbeing are paramount, and we support you in making personal and institutional decisions to protect yourself, your staff, and your families.

You are frontline heroes, beloved by our community and our children, and we are deeply grateful for you.

Originally posted 3/22/20