AUSTIN (KXAN) — After several school districts in Central Texas, including the Austin Independent School District, announced schools are closed through April 3, parents are figuring out who’s going to watch their children for at least the next three weeks.
“It’s very stressful,” said Heather Green who’s working from home. She is Associate Pastor for Children and Families at University United Methodist Church. “Not only having concerns about people’s health and our aging parents, my church community, worried about them getting groceries and taking care of them over the phone essentially, but also navigating it with our own family.”
She has a 4-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son.
“I think the most telling thing today has been that they know that something is different,” Green said. “They’ve been very clingy. They want to be with mama. They want to be with daddy. They don’t want to play on their own.”
Green said with many of their Spring Break plans now canceled, they’re working on figuring out a new routine for their kids and for them.
“If we need to have some work in the morning, or work in the afternoon, who’s watching the kids,” she explained. “I’m sure it’ll be a very flexible and fluid situation day to day.”
For parents who can’t work from home or they need a few hours to focus on work, it’s been a last-minute scramble to try to find a babysitter.
“We’re just trying to navigate and just adjust daily as we can,” said Laura Patterson
Vice President of College Sitters.
College Sitters provides in-home childcare. Normally, Patterson said their services are used for “date nights, weddings, concerts and weekend trips.”
Now, people are asking for “instead of just one day at a time, we’re looking at families who need care Monday through Friday.”
She added, “I would say from last week to now, it’s probably doubled, and we’ll probably continue seeing that, if not triple. Definitely the demand has increased.”
Patterson said many calls are coming from healthcare workers who can’t work from home.
“We have all hands on deck, and we’ve got everybody here,” said Heidi Shalev, Vice President of Marketing Communications and Engagement at Austin Regional Clinic.
“So I’m not going to pretend that this is not a challenge for us because it definitely is,” Shalev told KXAN. “We do have a lot of parents among our doctors among our staff, among our office workers.”
Austin Regional Clinic has been working with Mom’s Best Friend, which has the same owner as College Sitters.
Shalev said, “We do have a benefit here at Austin Regional Clinic that helps with childcare, and we do have employees taking advantage of that at this time. If they call Mom’s Best Friend, they get some days’ benefit where we actually pay for those days for them to be covered for childcare.”
She said if people want to help their doctors, nurses or other essential workers who can’t work from home, offer to help them with their childcare needs.
For many parents, it’s about taking it one day, even one hour at a time.
“Giving yourself just enough grace to get through this day and refresh and start new the next day is going to be super important right now,” Green said.