‘It Is a Nightmare Out Here’: Seattle Parents Struggle to Balance Work and Child Care


The boys, 8 and 10, do schoolwork for a few hours each day that was assigned by their teachers after the closures were announced. Afterward, they play video games like Fortnite and Minecraft. One of her biggest concerns is that business will slow and she will no longer have a job.

“My rent is half of my income,” she said.

Another worry: providing enough food for her sons. Fitzsimons, who relies on free school meals, will soon begin picking up grab-and-go breakfast and lunch bags for the boys at a nearby high school every morning on her way to work.

On top of all this, in April she will be juggling medical appointments for her 8-year-old, who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair.

She has no family nearby. In the past, Fitzsimons relied on UrbanSitter, a website and mobile app that connects parents with babysitters. But now she would need a sitter for at least nine hours a day. “I can’t afford to do that right now,” she said.

Janene Lalonde, 46, who lives in north Seattle, also has a son with special needs: Franklin, 3, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. She recently found out that his regular visits with a speech therapist and an occupational therapist have been canceled because of concerns about coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Lalonde, an administrative law judge, is struggling to work from home.

“Franklin is watching ‘Toy Story’ in the other room, so I have probably 90 minutes I can work on stuff,” she said on Monday morning.

When he’s not in front of a screen, Lalonde is “constantly fetching snacks” she said. At this age, she added, “they just need a lot of attention.”


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