As irrational as it sounds – and as irrational as it is – in the back of my mind, I keep wondering if this whole quarantine, shelter-in-place thing is somehow my fault.
I know that sounds crazy. But hear me out.
First, for years, I have struggled mightily with trying to work and parent simultaneously. The whole work like you don’t have children and parent like you don’t have a job thing. I’ve worked my ass off to have a career that is both intellectually fulfilling and steady (to the degree that any career in these all-but-rivaling the Great Depression times can be steady). And yet that has meant that I’ve missed out on field trip chaperoning, volunteering in the classroom, and attending during-the-school-day performances. It’s utter bullshit that has left me in tears at my desk at work about not being able to be with my kids in those moments, and in tears over the kitchen sink at home over the stress of not having done “enough” at work.
Next, I’ve always been jealous of working parents whose jobs give them the flexibility of working around their kids’ schedules. Since I’ve had children, my kids have been in childcare every damn day. They’re in school now, but maybe because we’re around so many academics (read: faculty with flexible schedules and often summers “off” to work from home), my kids are among the very few who are in both before and after school care every damn day, and every single school break – from winter break to spring break, summer and every single school closure in between. I swallow my jealousy when I hear from parents who get to spend mornings with their kids and go in only after drop-off, when school doesn’t start until 8:30! Or afternoons. Or both!
Third, for the past 2 years, I have been working for a boss who trusts nobody to work from home, ever. So I haven’t had a work from home day in 2 years. And that means: when my kids were home sick with strep and sleeping 9 hours a day, I couldn’t put in work hours. I had to take it as sick time. Which meant I didn’t have enough sick time for myself, and came to work with the flu myself. (Sorry coworkers!)
So what if all of my work-parenting issues brought this to bear? What if my much-needed career break to spend time with my kids also came at the expense of: my kids being around their teachers, friends, and the structure of school days? And the peace & quiet of my commute or workout during the workday? Do I say sorry, everyone?