Day cares, schools, offices, and non-essential businesses are closed. Thanks to coronavirus, we’re all jammed at home trying to carve out some semblance of normalcy from the strange conditions that have been thrust upon us. For many parents, that means somehow trying to balance the demands of working from home with child care, home schooling, and the other responsibilities that come with raising kids. How are dads handling it? Some are being pushing to their breaking point; others have figured out ways of making it work but are still balls of stress and exhaustion. Almost all are feeling burned out or unsure of how much longer they can keep this up. “We’re in this weird purgatory where we’re not giving our full attention to either work or kids,” said Derek, one of a dozen dads we spoke to about how they’re balancing work and child care right now. Perhaps one solace is that everyone is in the same position and trying their best to figure this out together. Here’s what they said about balancing kids and work during the coronavirus crisis.
I’m Out of my League
“My wife is a nurse, so she’s on the front lines. She’s amazing. But that leaves me at home with my job — I’m in IT— and two toddlers. To be honest, I could do the IT stuff in my sleep. But the childcare aspect is just brutal. Going from having kids in school and daycare all day, to having them in your face is like going 0-60 right into a brick wall. Plus, when my wife comes home from the hospital, we have to spend so much time cleaning, disinfecting, and being cautious that there’s really not a single minute of downtime. Even when we’re falling asleep, it’s basically just turning over in my head what I’m going to have to do to survive the next day.” Ethan, 36, Texas
I Take Calls in My Car
“It’s got better acoustics than the bathroom, which I did try. But I was told it sounded like I was trapped in a broom closet. The car is great. My kids are old enough that I can scurry out and not be bothered for at least 10-15 minutes. If I’m having a really rough day, I’ll sit through a few songs on the stereo, too, to cool down and reset. Funny thing, we have a neighbor down the street who we don’t really talk to that much. He also has two kids. I see him jumping in and out of his car randomly throughout the day, too. I bet he’s figured out how well this works.” – Brandon, 38, Connecticut
I Let the iPad Babysit
“I know it’s probably not the best parenting method out there, but it works. And, at this point, during this craziness, I have absolutely no problem firing up some games or videos to babysit my kids for an hour or two while I crank through work. It’s absolutely not ideal, and if I found out their teacher was doing something similar, I’d probably be really pissed. But, given where we are as a society right now, and the fact that I need to prioritize providing for my kids by keeping my job, I’ll have to swallow the hypocrisy and go with it until I figure out something else.” – Max, 37, New Jersey
I Hired Help
“My next door neighbor is a teaching student, meaning she’s about to get her teaching license to become an elementary school teacher. The school where she was doing her student teaching is closed, so I asked her to ‘teach’ my kids during the day. I know we’re supposed to be shut in, but my wife and I have no other choice. We just can work with the kids around. It’s too much. I know I’m not shy to admit I’m in over my head, and I imagine my wife feels the same way. We need the income, and this is just how it has to be for now.” – Jonah, 34, Pennsylvania
I’m on the Verge of Tears Every Day.
“I don’t know how we’ve lasted this long, and it’s only been, like, three weeks. This is easily the hardest, most daunting situation my wife and I have ever faced. She lost her job because of this, and I’m struggling to keep things together. Child care is completely nebulous and fluid. What works one day might not work the next day. Or the next hour. Or the next minute. It’s just a constant state of adaptation and hoping things get better.” – Manny, 34, Florida
It’s Working. But, Shit, Is It Exhausting
My wife and I are both working while caring for the kids. Luckily our children are a bit older — I don’t know what we’d do if we had very young kids at home — so we’re able to give them a bit of structure. They’re 5 and 7, so they follow, and actually crave, structure. But what we’re doing now is that I get up at the ass crack of dawn and do a few hours of work, then I shift into dad mode and do breakfast and home school stuff until about 2. I’ll answer some calls during that time but for the most part I’m with them. Then I dig into work at 2 or 2:30 and work until six, have dinner, and finish up whatever I have to do at night. It’s working out fine right now but, shit, is it exhausting. — Ken, New York City
I Love It.
“Honestly, I fucking hate my job. Working from home has been great, because I don’t have to see any of the assholes I work with, or spend time in that soul-sucking office. When I need a pick me up, my kids – son is 4, daughter is 2 – are right there doing something funny or cute. My mother-in-law used to come babysit for us, but she’s at risk now, so she can’t. I’ll admit, I’m an eternal optimist, so I probably have my rose-colored glasses on. But I’m enjoying every second of being home and able to spend the time with my wife and kids.” – Mark, 30, Tennessee
I Can’t Give My Full Attention to Anything — and It’s Taking a Toll.
“I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to know how to do it. We have a two year old and a four year old and we’ve tried everything: breaking the day into two hour shifts, plopping them in front of iPads when we’re in meetings, giving them activities and classwork. They’re good kids, but they’re kids. And they need to be occupied or soothed or entertained or held. I’ve gotten maybe 1/3rd of my work done over the past week and that required staying up until midnight or later.
It’s the same for my wife, who’s also working from home. We’re trying to organize conference calls, computer usage we have two laptops and one iPad. With four people that’s not exactly easy. We’re trying our best but we’re not giving kids our full attention and we’re not giving work it’s full attention. We’re in this weird purgatory where we’re not giving our full attention to either. Our bosses have noticed. But, worst of all, our kids have noticed, too. They’re safe and fed and relatively happy during the day but they’re picking up on the fact that things are different and that mom and dad can’t devote their full time to them. It made me cry the other night I was just so exhausted by the news and parenting and work and not sleeping much. We’re trying new tactics every day, so hopefully we’ll figure out a better way.” — Derek, 38, Boston
I’m Fine. For Now.
“I’m actually really good at multitasking. So, while it took me a bit to get the hang of playing three different roles – Dad, teacher, and provider – I think I’m nailing it. I check my e-mail early in the morning to put out fires. Then I set the kids up for a school ‘lesson’. Sometimes it’s iPad or computer stuff, but sometimes I’ll look for easy things I can do with them at home like word games or math puzzles. Then they do ‘classwork’ while I put out more fires. It’s true, there really isn’t any time to spare, but the routine and the combination of school and work makes the days fly by super fast. Hopefully I can keep it up and not burn out before this is all over.” – Jerad, 37, Ohio
I’m Running Damage Control
“We have a middle schooler, and a high school senior. For the senior, our daughter, this has just been devastating. Prom is cancelled. The SATs were either cancelled or postponed – I forget. She’s missing the end of her senior year. At first, I was tempted to roll my eyes at the drama, but it’s starting to sink in. This really sucks for her. She’s being deprived of something that, while not necessarily life-defining, is really important to her spot in life right now. So, I’ve tried to put on my empathy hat. My wife is better at it. But, I’ve been trying to reassure our daughter that better things are coming. Neither of us can make up for those lost experiences, though, which is sad.” – Brian, 44, Ohio
I’ve Adjusted My Hours.
“A lot of my work is responding to requests that need to be taken care of within 48 hours, or so. I’m pretty much on my own concerning time management, and when I choose to get things done. So, I spend most of the morning teaching and working with the kids on schoolwork, and I just push my work responsibilities back to the afternoon or evening. I’m burning the candle at both ends, and I’m definitely not sure how long I’ll be able to keep this up. But, one day at a time, I guess. Right?” – Alex, 36, Nevada
I Bring My Kids to Work…Virtually.
“I work for a pretty small company, and we have morning check-ins over Zoom. Everyone who has kids just brings them to the meetings to say hi, and make them a part of things. I think it really helps the kids understand that I’m ‘working’, when they see me on the computer during the day. They’re able to recognize that I’m not just watching videos or playing games like they do. They see the people I work with, and the fact that most of them also have kids who are in the same situation. It’s been a really helpful process while we’re all still getting used to this.” – Jon, 37, Arizona