Working from home, with kids

It’s going to get harder on Monday

IN 2017, a video went viral of a little girl walking in on her dad as he tried to conduct a live interview with the BBC. How many parents had a moment like that this week?

If humorous social media memes are any indication, the struggle is real for parents trying to work remotely while watching or entertaining a child, or overseeing a child’s homeschooling or virtual learning.

Massachusetts schools are already closed for three weeks to avoid spreading coronavirus. But life is about to get harder for many working parents in Massachusetts, as Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision to order most daycare centers closed goes into effect Monday. That means more children too young to entertain themselves will be home.

In making his decision, Baker had to address competing interests. On one hand, 27,000 people signed an online petition asking Baker to close childcare centers. The petition notes that toddlers cannot perform “social distancing,” and keeping childcare centers open puts teachers at risk of contracting coronavirus, since children can be carriers without showing symptoms.

Many daycares are already closed. The Watertown-based childcare chain Bright Horizons said Wednesday that it would close more than half its US centers through April, although Boston Business Journal reported that the company would keep some centers open to serve the children of medical professionals and to meet a spike in demand for backup care.

On the other hand, the Baker administration is licensing emergency childcare providers to care for particularly vulnerable children and children of parents who need to go to work, such as medical professionals and those whose jobs are otherwise essential for health or safety reasons. Concord Public Schools superintendent Laurie Hunter tweeted earlier this week that Emerson Hospital employees are in desperate need of childcare and are seeking babysitters.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu actually expanded daycare coverage for that reason, even as he closed the state’s schools, letting daycare centers enroll more children and allowing businesses to set up emergency daycares for their employees.

In the meantime, as BBJ notes, employers will need to provide flexibility, understanding the needs and family obligations of their employees.

Parents have a plethora of online resources to draw from, from free educational resources to tips on entertaining children at home to a list of locations to pick up free lunches. Organizations like Boston Children’s Museum are offering free online learning resources while the New England Aquarium is posting educational animal videos online. Anyone want to watch Myrtle the green sea turtle eat breakfast?