Guest column: It can't be bring-your-child-to-work-day every day

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The wildfires were easier. Then we could see the threat, in the ashes falling on our windshields and in the strange gray sky. You didn’t need to worry if giving your grandmother a hug would cause her to catch fire two weeks later.

We can’t see COVID-19, but we can see the closed stores and our dwindling bank accounts.

But how would reopening really work?

The sacrifices we’ve made so far have just been to slow COVID down. We still haven’t found a vaccine, an effective treatment or a new, heartier strain of grandparents.

Medically the only thing that has changed since March is that nearly 4,000 Californians have died from a virus that didn’t exist last year.

Rushing back to business-as-usual could be like celebrating a three pound weight loss with a weekend of burgers and fries.

Public health concerns aside, the argument that we need to boost the economy by reopening businesses forgets working parents. We’re heading into summer with very few childcare options. Programs like Munchkins Summer Camp are canceled, and it can’t be bring-your-child-to-work-day everyday.

The fall might look a lot different as well. School days might be staggered to keep the number of students in class smaller. Schools might close completely again if there is a second wave of cases.

I predict many high schools and some middle schools will follow California State’s lead and continue with online-only classes. It would be too difficult to isolate and track cases when students move between classrooms, and this is the age group most associated with mono and not following directions.

Parents of younger kids are in trouble too. The daycare my son was going to attend in the fall just announced they won’t be taking any kids under the age of two for the school next year.

I can’t blame them. My son is delightful, but his favorite pastimes are putting things in his mouth, grabbing our faces, and pooping.

Teachers deserve a safe workspace, and we can’t expect preverbal toddlers to follow social distancing guidelines when they can’t even grasp germ theory.

If workplaces reopen before schools and summer camps do, some people will have family help, and others will make enough money to hire nannies.

What will everyone else do? Leave their seven year old with a list of emergency contacts, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and instructions not to drink bleach?

The crux of the matter is that children have a right to an education, but parents don’t have a right to childcare.

So if you want to kickstart the economy, include expanded parental leave. If we don’t start thinking of raising children as economically valuable work, the next few years will see a lot more parents dropping out of the workforce. That doesn’t leave families with much money to spend in the reopened economy.

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