This story originally featured on Working Mother.
It’s no secret working parents are torn on reopening schools.
If they resume, it’s going to be a huge challenge to keep kids, teachers, and the community at large virus-free. On the other hand, many parents can’t afford the back-up childcare they’d need if schools remain closed. Despite those difficulties, a new survey by Care.com shows that a clear majority of parents are worried about or are uncomfortable with sending kids back to the classroom come fall.
The 2020 Back to School Survey looked at 2,019 parents across the US in July, focusing on the challenges they’ll be facing come fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, with finances, childcare, homeschooling, and more. Of parents’ biggest concerns about sending kids back to school, 66 percent said their child getting COVID-19 was their greatest worry, 51 percent said it was their children being a carrier and getting someone else sick, 49 percent said it was children not socially distancing, 48 percent said it was the lack of knowledge on how the virus affects children, and 43 percent said it was finding childcare.
When asked what would make them most comfortable, the three most popular solutions parents selected were: continuing virtual learning or homeschooling until there’s a vaccine, using remote options until there are significantly less cases in their state, or a staggered online and in-person school schedule. Though the data collected doesn’t discern working parents from stay-at-home parents, both groups are rightfully stressed.
While working parents, moms especially, will struggle most with school closures—with more than a quarter of parents planning on taking a break or permanently leaving their positions due to a lack of childcare and women being twice as likely as men to quit their jobs post-pandemic—there’s no simple solution.
Some parents are getting creative with alternatives by forming homeschooling pods with private teachers, but finding childcare might not be so easy. A new survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) of more than 5,000 childcare providers from all 50 states, as well as Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, found that 40 percent of childcare centers are at risk of closing permanently in the coming months if they don’t receive an infusion of cash from the federal government. It’s no wonder 65 percent of respondents in the Care.com survey said they anticipate needing more childcare than they currently have this fall, while 20 percent said they anticipate needing more care although they can’t afford it.
If companies don’t act fast and create flexible childcare plans for employees, an alarming number of moms might simply leave the workforce, widening the wage gap and threatening women’s progress altogether.