It was a mad scramble at the weekend for thousands of parents across Victoria, as the State Government moved to close childcare centres in response to the growing COVID-19 outbreak.
Many spent their Sunday trying to interpret the government's new rules, which mean childcare and kindergarten (pre-school, to those in NSW) is closed, except to vulnerable children or the children of authorised workers.
Navigating the government's worker permit system proved difficult, as early years management services struggled with issuing changing government advice to parents.
By Sunday night and even into Monday, there were still parents who didn't know whether they would be eligible or who would look after their children in the week ahead.
COVID-19 has meant working from home is now the norm for many. Its flexibility is a blessing, being able to dial in for video calls from virtually anywhere.
But working from home while navigating children is still a challenge for even the most seasoned WFH professional.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant sparked debate last week when she said working from home was not a good enough reason for children to be sent to childcare during the COVID outbreak.
For this parent of two small children, aged 3 and 1, in a household where only one parent can work from home, having accessible childcare when working from home means your children are receiving essential care so you can be a productive worker.
When you pick them up from childcare, you've got your work done and they've usually had a great day filled with vital outdoor play and exploration (not constant screen-time), nutritious food and naps on time. It means their needs are met and they sleep beautifully. Kids respond best to routine. Happy child, happy life.
On the days where your children can't attend childcare (more often than not, in the current COVID environment). It means you are half on and half off - children being supervised by The Wiggles and Bluey on repeat, constant snacks to keep them content while you get through that next meeting, and video cameras turned off so you can wipe runny noses, wipe a bottom or cuddle an upset child. Nap times are often pushed out, making 5pm a dangerous time with a deadline to meet and overtired kids to boot. And when they're finally in bed - you're back on the tools until late at night, to finish the work you didn't complete during the day.
It's easy to see how this is impacting families and their well-being. It's also important to balance that with the need to keep our kids safe during this pandemic, especially given the third wave is taking hold in younger and unvaccinated age groups.
Eminent immunologist Professor Peter Doherty this week said children aged five and under would have to be vaccinated if Australia is going to defeat the COVID-19 Delta variant.
If it means a quicker return to normality, then this parent is all for it.
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