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EDITORIAL: Parental overload

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball. (image from video)
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball. — Screenshot

It’s not simple.

And chances are, we’re going to hear a lot more about it.

As COVID-19 restrictions loosen, some families are facing a very real collision between working at home and the fact that they aren’t allowed to put children back into child care, unless they’re designated as essential workers.

The problem? Starting next week, as restrictions change, families will see one parent have to return to work, while the other has to pull double duty, both working at home and providing child care.

Details on the government’s thinking on the issue were left to the very last question of the media availability on Monday, when Premier Dwight Ball was asked about how one remaining parent could be expected to do, essentially, two full-time jobs.

Ball’s answer was that such a schedule was possible. “Most people that do work at home, they have the full day to be able to put that work in place, and therefore, services could be provided (by) the second parent once their job is done.”

The problem? Starting next week, as restrictions change, families will see one parent have to return to work, while the other has to pull double duty, both working at home and providing child care.

In other words, caring for young children and holding down a full-time job is something that can be done essentially simultaneously during a single day — it’s simply a matter of scheduling your workday for when your partner returns home from their workday. (And to be clear, working at home is not working without deadlines — there is still work that has to be delivered on time, not conveniently after nap-time, and things like online meetings where the schedule doesn’t revolve precisely around your toddler’s favourite show-watching time.)

That’s probably something Premier Ball hasn’t attempted for himself recently. It’s also virtually unworkable; once your children are grown, it’s hard to even remember how completely exhausting caring for children actually is, let alone the concept of adding the demands of a home-based workday into the mix.

It is, after all, why child care exists in the first place — and why parents pay for it, even when paying for it eats up a substantial portion of the household’s income. It’s not at all a walk in the park.

To his credit, Ball also said that the issue might be revisited. “So there are a number of different circumstances that we would have to look at. But keep in mind that June 26 is usually when schools would close in other years as well. So, we’re going to continue to work with families, and if this puts undue pressure, there’s always room for opportunity to review those programs.”

With all due respect, the room for opportunity to review those programs is right now.

But there are some — slightly facetious — options parents might consider.

Maybe some busy parents could add Premier Ball to their bubble and drop their children off with him for the day.

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