Putting Her Needs First

I feel like every day is just... waiting.

watercolor a child's teddy bear in the corner of a room
Image created via Midjourney

I feel like every day is just… waiting. Waiting for a call from the school that one of my kids was exposed to Covid or waiting for a Covid symptom to appear.

We’ve moved into the second week of sending Autumn to preschool for only half days. I pick her up at 11:30 and she eats lunch at home. She doesn’t nap, but she’ll usually play in her room for about an hour. Then I try to keep her entertained in the afternoon until her brother gets home from middle school.

Mornings are fine but my afternoons are a wreck. Some days she’ll sit happily in my office looking at books. Other days, she’ll command my attention with incessant questions, requests to paint her nails, or dumping a pile of toys at my side.

Ger will usually take care of feeding her lunch, but that’s the extent of his daily involvement. His job as a software engineer is far more intensive during normal business hours.

Earlier this week, I asked if *maybe* he could help out by picking her up from preschool. The 45-minute round-trip drive would extend the uninterrupted time of my morning.

He immediately became stressed. He has a daily standup with his team at that time. He dove into unrealistic scenarios like “maybe I should just quit my job” as an alternative to the current situation.

I reminded him that this is temporary. One of a few things will happen. The FDA will approve the vaccine for kids under five in the next few months. Or it takes longer, but Autumn turns five in August anyway. Or she actually contracts the Omicron variant and develops some natural immunity (not our preference, but being realistic).

I reminded him that we’ve been so careful for so long. It doesn’t feel fair to her to let our guard down now just because we’re tired. And having her remove her mask to eat at school feels like an extra layer of risk, given how contagious Omicron is.

Ger suggested that we keep her home for the entire day, that it would be easier. I pointed out that the vast majority of the work would fall to me. Or in an effort to work, Autumn would end up watching tv for most of the day. At least with half days, I have some time in the morning. Ger argued that the tv time wouldn’t kill her, but again I argued otherwise. She’s so happy at preschool. She loves her teacher and her friends. It’s better for her to get the 2.5 hours of socialization per day, no matter what the strain on us. That’s why the half days became the compromise.

No one knows the “right” thing to do. I told Ger that this seems like our best option. We can put her needs ahead of mine, something we’ve done so many times throughout this pandemic for our kids. And something I’ve done as a parent in general.

I never want to lose myself altogether, because I think I’m a better parent when I can do things that make me happy. I also struggle with feeling like I can’t protect my kids during this pandemic. Maybe this plan of half days will fail and Autumn will contract Covid and all of this stress will have been for nothing.

But I remember something often said in my support group for parents who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss. The parents often regret decisions they made around medical care or honoring their babies at the time of the loss. There’s guilt, anger, sadness. However, it’s important to remember that, as parents, we make the best decisions we can with the information we have at the time.

And that’s what I’m doing now.