While waiting in line at Rite Aid this morning (keeping the 6 feet apart rule), I overheard a woman at the checkout counter saying to the cashier, “I am a nurse and this is my day off. I keep telling my kids, ‘This isn’t a vacation, do your f——g homework!’” 

A day off from being on the front line of the virus war.

When I returned home I picked up the paper and turned to the Opinion section (my favorite). I read an economist’s take on this crisis and how it could be a positive do-over for our country. But for all this economist’s great advice, not a word was spoken about new policies to help working moms – especially those who are asked to keep working and who have young children — without having the social safety net of free childcare or Pre-K.

The nurse I mentioned is still working while her kids are at home. I wondered who she has to care for them? And if she is lucky enough to be able to afford childcare, how does she make sure whoever is tasked with their care doesn’t put her family at risk? Even when preschool reopens, parents will need afterschool care until one or both parents return from work. So where is universal preschool? 

Why are economists leaving working women out of the equation? While the economist pontificated about the many things needed to help workers right now, what about the need for free childcare or Pre-K for those workers who have young children at home – especially for those in risky jobs like nurses?  

I assert that anytime we discuss the coronavirus and how it is causing chaos in our lives, we must remember that female workers must have affordable childcare and free Pre-K in order to work. And for those now out of work, how do they go on interviews without this social safety net in place? It makes no sense.

We also need to think about all children’s futures, and that epidemics wreak havoc on them socially, emotionally and, importantly, psychologically. As a society we can’t forget the children who need help making sense of their world turned upside down. Affordable mental health care for children and families is what is needed to avoid untreated trauma influencing young and old alike in ways that may have lasting damage if not addressed.

We give lip service to the importance of families and family values. But with many people living in small apartments, and now working in them with children, we need to think about ways to preserve marital relationships. Because we naturally and automatically go into survival mode when we are fearful and stressed out. Couples need affordable mental health services.

And finally, why in the world can’t we find a way to cut all the red tape and politics in times like these? Government should get the tests from wherever they can and test every American to know the shape and movement of the virus. Governments should compel factories to produce the goods needed right now to stop the pandemic (and damn the political consequences). And, most importantly, let’s get cash to working families hit hard by the crisis RIGHT NOW. Those with NO SAFETY NET will be thrown into panic mode very soon. We can’t allow that to happen because the fabric of our society depends on it.

While most of us are stuck at home, we might spend some time imagining a better world. We can reflect on ways our society can do better for all of our citizens going forward, because pandemics will continue to pop up and we need to be better prepared. Let scientists lead the messaging, not politicians. When this is over we must commit to being a part of a social revolution long overdue that is fair, just, and humane. This isn’t about profit or politics – it’s about right and wrong. 

If you or someone you know could benefit from having a counselor to talk to, please reach out by calling 310-402-2229. 

Well Baby Center is doing affordable tele-therapy for anyone who needs it. Our offices are closed to walk-in traffic, but our staff is still there routing calls to our counselors so you can get the support you need right away. We are also offering Mindful Parenting Groups using video conferencing. 

Stay well by practice social distancing and self-quarantining as much as possible. The virus spreads indiscriminately, so those who have no symptoms may be carriers and infect others unbeknownst to them. Those infected won’t show symptoms for a week or more, infecting more people, which exponentially will devastate containment measures. We are all in this together so please practice these containment measures to save lives.

Warm Wishes and Blessings,

Deborah Groening-Rother, Psy.D.
Founder and C.E.O. of Well Baby Center, and Infant Mental Health Specialist