Overwhelming terror clouds around me the moment I open my eyes. Before I even get out of bed, when the light is lingering in the uncomfortable space between dream and reality, I worry. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m putting my children in danger by allowing them to go to daycare. The second I finish my prayers—which should bring me comfort—a hundred thoughts flurry in my mind:
Is today the day they get sick?
Who’s to blame if they do?
The daycare’s doing so much to keep the kids safe.
But should I keep them home?
I don’t have the capacity to teach them at home right now.
I can’t get any work done if they’re here.
Am I selfish for wanting time to work?
But I want to rest too.
But the virus. That damn virus!
Am I making the right decision?!
And on and on and on…these thoughts never stop. I think about them during breakfast, and as I work and clean, and when I strip my children down in our designated quarantine zone in the garage, and even later in the evening when they’ve been sleeping for hours. I can’t seem to decide if I’m playing with fire in an already burning house.
When the pandemic started, family and friends sent me numerous messages asking about my family. Are you okay? Yes. How are the girls? Insert long pause. I eventually tell people they are fine, but I am always hesitant to share that they’re not 100% quarantined and I still take them to daycare. While all schools and many daycares across the country are closed to prevent the spread of covid-19, daycares in my city are still open and considered essential businesses.
It’s uncomfortable to pull out of my driveway each morning and navigate down empty streets—neighbors standing in their open garages watching me drive by. While the kids are in daycare, my husband and I work, and I perform double (quadruple?) duty cooking, cleaning, hunting and gathering supplies; reevaluating our contingency plans day by day.
When I’m in my car driving my girls to daycare, it feels like I’m committing a crime. Like I shouldn’t be out in a catastrophe with my defenseless children. Like I’m sentencing them to death and worsening our collective situation despite the time it provides me.
Parenting has always been difficult, but now the world has opened up in strange new ways. Our immediate threat is virulent and yet invisible, and it seems like there is no foolproof way to thrive in this environment without some or all of us becoming a combination of sick, tired, and sad—or worse.
Even as I lean toward withdrawing my children from daycare this week, it only feels like half a solution. Like I’m only dragging us outside the burning house where, as we look in, the flames would still be reaching toward us.