Her sons stay up late in the after-school program, so she can pick them up after work. But her daughter isn’t old enough to be eligible for the program, and she needs to get home early — while Moorman is supposed to be at work. She had to scramble to find a loved one to help, and she crosses her fingers that the bus driver will be back soon.
Another complication is that her two young children are not old enough to go to school. The nearby nursery is dealing with its own employment issues and is not accepting any more children at the moment. At the moment, Moorman’s grandmother is looking after them, but growing up and taking care of two young children is hard work.
Moorman, who lives in Owensboro, Kentucky, deals with all of this while recovering from a breakout case of Covid-19 herself. She worries about what the future will hold.
“I am so worried about that [remote school] “There will be a possibility again,” she said. “Last school year was a terrible struggle.” Moorman was on maternity leave at the time, so she didn’t have to worry about going to work. Now the situation is different. “If it happens this time, I’m not really sure of the outcome.”
Nearly two years into the pandemic, working parents are wondering how much they can afford.
The domino effect is real — and likely to hurt the economic recovery. Just one bus driver can shouting that he is sick can lead to a series of consequences that disrupt the work of many people.
Omicron and functions
Some workers may throw in the towel and leave the workforce because of this last hurdle, which could slow the nation’s job recovery.
“A lot of workers have withdrawn from the labor market,” said David Wilcox, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and an economist at Bloomberg Economics. “It’s amazingly diffuse.”
And for parents, the sudden lack of access to child care is a huge burden.
Even before the pandemic, “many parents were struggling to find affordable, high-quality childcare,” said Elise Gold, chief economist at the Economic Policy Institute, adding that “fathers, especially women, have often left the workforce” due to a lack of Child care. “Omicron has exacerbated that.”
Gould added that sudden increases caused by variables such as Omicron and Delta “have made it more difficult for parents to stay in the labor market or get a full-time job in the labor market, because there are so many unknowns.”
She added that it was too early for an Omicron effect to appear in the government’s employment data. But if the past is a precedent, the current rise in cases will mean a weaker January jobs report.
Day care centers and schools send children home
Terence Davenport’s 2-year-old daughter has been in foster care throughout the pandemic. Then hit Omicron.
A series of issues between daycare workers and children has resulted in Davenport’s daughter having to stay home for most of the year so far. While his wife is at work and their seven-year-old son is at school, Davenport balances the responsibilities of the house with the care and entertainment of their daughter — which means plenty of breaks for cartoons, coloring books and toilet training.
“What I usually do is keep her in my office… and ask her to bring all her toys to play while I try to focus on work,” he said. “It’s constant attention to her, keeping her occupied.”
Davenport, who lives in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, said he works for a global IT consulting firm that was understanding. But the current setup is not sustainable. “I can’t be on a call with a two-year-old crying in my ear,” he said. Davenport fears he won’t be able to keep up with the work while she’s caring for her, let alone think about new jobs or promotions.
If their daughter had to stay home for weeks, the family would have to make tough decisions. Davenport is the primary breadwinner, he said, so he and his wife have discussed the possibility of her working part-time or leaving her job entirely.
The struggling Davenport and Moorman nurseries are a bigger problem.
Government data shows employment in the childcare industry is down 10% compared to February 2020, noted Jessica Brown, associate professor of economics at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business. It cited a 2.4% drop in jobs across all other industries combined.
“With the increase in staff at Omicron, a large number of childcare centers were already understaffed, and therefore did not have the people to cover when staff were absent,” she said.
Aside from contracting Covid and struggling with childcare, parents have to fear that their children will get sick, along with the threat of multiple quarantine periods.
Tired of tired
When Tori Martinez’s 11-year-old daughter tested positive for Covid-19 last week, Martinez assumed it would only be a matter of time before her other family members tested positive.
She decided to stay away from work as much as possible for a few days, keeping her son home from school while her daughter is quarantined in a separate room, and her husband is working remotely at home as well.
Martinez, her husband and son — all of whom were vaccinated, like the couple’s daughter — continued to get tests, expecting another positive result. But all three remained passive.
It’s a mixed blessing, because Martinez now fears her family will once again have to close if one of them tests positive from the other exposure.
“There were a few moments where I looked at my husband and just said, ‘I’m tired of being tired,'” Martinez said. “We are all trying to make the most of these conditions,” she added. “But 22 months is a really long time to get the most out of the conditions.”
The pandemic has left Martinez, like many parents, completely exhausted.
“Even when you know you’re doing the right thing, that you’re making good, healthy choices and trying to get past that…it doesn’t make it any less sad.”
Anneken Tappe of CNN Business contributed to this report.