In October of 2020, we published a blog from CWBA member Emmy Langley discussing virtual learning and parenting during the COVID Pandemic. Little did we know then that a full year later, we would still be dealing with the many challenges that COVID continues to present, including balancing work, family, childcare, health, and simply living through a pandemic. Thankfully, our communities have worked very hard to help most children return to in-person learning, but parenting during a pandemic remains forefront in many of our minds.
We thought that now would be a good time to revisit this topic and see how parents are doing a year and a half into the pandemic. This time around we thought it would be interesting to get the perspective of both a mom and a dad, so I recently talked with co-workers Patty Ho and Jim Burke to discuss their journeys. Both of their families have stayed healthy during the pandemic, which they are very grateful for, and they repeatedly acknowledged how lucky they are to have their health, job security, and flexibility. They are both partners at Sheridan Ross, P.C., which has maintained a flexible work from home policy for its employees. However, like many of us, they are still experiencing huge challenges; these challenges are real, very hard, and it is always a good reminder that none of us are alone in this experience.
The Beginning of the Pandemic
Patty Ho is a partner at Sheridan Ross P.C. She is married and has a daughter, Hazel, who is almost 3 years old. Her husband works fulltime for Denver Public Schools, which meant at the beginning of the pandemic, he was often in Zoom meetings everyday for 5-6 hours, as DPS was trying to figure out how to ensure access to virtual learning for all students, especially those students who did not have access to computers or internet. Patty and her husband spent the early days of the pandemic trading morning or afternoon shifts with Hazel and then trying to balance work during the evenings and weekends. Patty remembers those times as nearly impossible. Although, they were able to join a nanny-share with another family that they decided to form a pod with, this only occurred Monday – Thursday, leaving them juggling work and childcare on Fridays.
Jim Burke is also a partner at Sheridan Ross P.C. He is married with two kids, 5-year old Oliver and 2-year-old Claire. Jim’s wife is an attorney, as well. When the pandemic started, Oliver was able to finish his first year of preschool, in-person, but as more and more people tested positive for COVID, including some members of the school community, the school shut down for the summer, and his family decided to keep both children home for the school year, particularly because they relied on the children’s grandparents for additional childcare and wanted to limit outside exposures to COVID. They swiftly turned their home office, into a combination of office, gym, and preschool, and he and his wife faced the reality of having to rotate who was doing preschool/childcare each day, while the other worked.
Childcare Fall 2021
Patty’s daughter Hazel went back to daycare in April, around the time Patty and her husband were vaccinated. Recently, Hazel began wearing a mask to school, which Patty describes as going pretty well. Although Patty is grateful for the childcare she has, Patty still does not feel like it is back to normal. She describes that there is “always the risk in the back of my mind that my daughter can get [COVID].” Patty feels uncomfortable that her daughter cannot yet get vaccinated, and she is constantly wondering about what will happen if the school has to close again and how she could have to at any moment have to go back to watching Hazel during the day and working every evening and all weekend. She reports that she still has a lot of stress, anxiety, and sleep deprivation.
Jim’s son, Oliver, started in-person preschool a few weeks ago, which they are very excited about. However, due to the preschool schedule, along with also needing childcare for Claire, his family is still highly dependent on a part-time nanny and part-time grandparent support. He says it’s “a lot to juggle, but we feel grateful we have the help.” Even with the support they have, he and his wife are still trying to cram 8 hours of work into 4 – 5 hours during the day and then trying to catch-up during the early-mornings, evenings and weekends. He also reports similar worries about bracing for shutdowns and school cancelations, especially with the recent surge with the Delta variant.
The Mental Impact
Both Patty and Jim describe the mental impact of COVID as being very tough to manage this far into the pandemic, particularly with the Delta variant and uptick in cases. Patty says, “I feel very worn out and exhausted.” She states that she has planning and decision-fatigue from trying to keep it all going, and also feels a lot of anger and frustration. She wonders what people are doing who don’t have the resources available to them that she has and how parents who are earlier in their careers are handling this situation.
Jim reports that it has been hard to process that we are still in the pandemic and that things have gotten worse again. He says with the past year and half being so difficult, there has been so little time/space to deal with the mental impact of living through a pandemic. He shares Patty’s anger and frustration, especially as it relates to wishing we had higher vaccination rates. They both describe the ripple effects of being careful to protect kids and how hard the prospect of staying in your bubble and remaining isolated can be.
Selfcare and Silver Linings
Patty and Jim both report that while selfcare is incredibly important, it has been hard to come by. Patty’s opportunity for selfcare often is limited to when Hazel takes her naps on the weekends. During those times, Patty will meditate or sometimes catch up on some much-needed sleep. Patty also reports that sometimes selfcare comes in the form of open and honest communication with co-workers about what your limits are and setting realistic boundaries. Jim says that he likes to focus on physical health and hope that mental health follows. He usually gets up early to exercise, both to not encroach on his kids’ childcare needs, as well as to avoid the bad air quality that unfortunately has been so typical this summer. They both express that they wish they had more time for selfcare.
In terms of silver linings, they both feel like the ability to work from home and/or have a more flexible work schedule has been really good. Patty says that COVID has proved that workers don’t necessarily need to be in the office 8 – 9 hours per day and that flexibility has many benefits. Jim says that prior to COVID, there seemed to be a myth that work had to be done a specific way, sitting in an office chair 40+ hours per week, and it is good that is shifting. He likes the ability to be more present with his kids, while still having a job he enjoys.
Thanks to Patty and Jim for a great conversation and kudos to all of the parents out there trying to balance everything during the pandemic!
Julia Kneeland Lazure is a partner at Kneeland & Lazure Law, LLC, where she works with individuals and families to navigate major changes in their lives, so they can have peace of mind and plan for their futures in the areas of estate planning, business law, and family law. She graduated from the University of Colorado School of Law, and prior to joining Kneeland & Lazure Law, LLC, Julia worked at Denver District Court as the Family Court Facilitator and served as a judicial law clerk. In addition to volunteering with the Colorado Women’s Bar Association, Julia serves on the planning committee for the Alternative Dispute Resolution Annual Continuing Legal Education Conference; volunteer guest lectures and provides trainings at Denver District Court; and is the Immediate Past President of the Junior League of Denver, a women’s training and civic leadership organization.