April 18th 2020

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Justice at last: Cardinal Pell set free

EDITORIAL Australia needs an economic reset after covid19 crisis

CANBERRA OBSERVED The very young can still be 'taken care of' during the covid19 outbreak

RURAL AFFAIRS A national disgrace: Our great land sale

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Use detention centres to help deal with covid19

GENDER POLITICS Do we really need to ask, what is a woman?

REFLECTION A chance for a change of heart: Covid19 as Memento mori

FAMILY Who let the kids out? The stay-at-home parent and covid19

ECONOMICS The oil cartel: The lesson for other industries from OEC

HEALTH Lessons from the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic

CULTURE AND SOCIETY There is a war: The battle in and for hearts

ASIAN AFFAIRS What makes China different is not the Chinese but the CCP

HUMOUR Locked down in Covi Town

MUSIC Great, er, swan songs

CINEMA+TV Staying in; staying sane

BOOK REVIEW Not our Robin Hood

BOOK REVIEW At home among others




CARDINAL GEORGE PELL FREE: The commentary file

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Who let the kids out? The stay-at-home parent and covid19

by Staff Writer

News Weekly, April 18, 2020

Among memes, elbow bumping and toilet paper stockpiling, covid19 has led our society to ask: Should we send the kids home from school?

The simple answer is “yes”. School closure will most likely decrease the spread of the virus. It seems pretty obvious: close the schools and let everyone chill at home, away from festering disease, unwashed hands and enforced 1½-metre social distancing zones.

Covid19 has shown us that
we are running low on “social capital”.

But it’s far from simple. Chris Reykdal, the superintendent of public instruction for the U.S. state of Washington, which has been hit hard by covid19, states that he hesitates to close schools and send “a million Washington kids home knowing that, for hundreds of thousands of them, they simply will not have any parents at home”.

Perhaps more than any other issue that has arisen as a result of covid19, the lack of alternate carers for children has exposed the great lack of social capital in today’s society.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, Social Capital is defined as “the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively”.

Many Western countries lack this resource as both parents are tied to the workplace at the expense of any emergency care required for their children.

So, how have people sought to deal with this problem as more and more schools close worldwide?

In Italy, many grandparents started caring for their grandchildren once schools were closed down. Medical authorities in Italy are warning against this trend, stating that it may well lead to increased risk to the elderly there. Meanwhile, Germany’s social affairs minister is urging grandparents to stay away from public transport and children.

Such problems cannot be avoided in a world where it is common and even unavoidable for both parents to undertake paid fulltime work. Technology has given us many gifts, meaning an increasingly greater possibility for parents and others to work from home, which is to be applauded. However, in some industries that just isn’t possible.

So, we are left with the question: What is to be done with all these children, since their parents are unable to stay home and care for them? Should the children perhaps stay at school after all, kept away from their grandparents and anyone else they may infect?

How long will it be until someone calls for locked-down child internment camps?

We may joke about such things, but the societal and health impact of keeping schools open in the midst of an epidemic is no joke. Have we got to the point that we are risking our entire nation’s health simply because we have so poorly managed our country’s interrelationships?

Imagine if we lived in a world where each family was a strong and secure unit, self-sufficient in terms of caring for its most vulnerable, and able to make choices that led to better outcomes not only for themselves, but for the whole of society?

It’s not just about covid19. A common inquiry, from academic researchers to mummy blogs, is the question: What should a worker do when their child is sick and needs to stay home from school or child care?

Taking the day off to care for a sick child is impossible for many parents who simply run out of sick days and other leave. For casual workers, these days are often not available at all, meaning they have to forfeit a day’s wages; which for many is simply not affordable. Spending time with a sick child can lead to career worries among parents and is linked to lower wages, according to a Swedish study.

If a parent is forced, through any of the above factors, to send an unwell child to day care, this can lead to a spread of sickness and inadequate care for both well and unwell children.

And, beyond the occasion of sickness, there are many reasons that a parent’s presence in the home leads to great societal good; greater emotional stability for children, savings on pre-packaged food and grocery costs, more availability of parents to invest in their communities, and less time spent on roads, leading to benefits for the environment.

We can see that a stay-at-home parent, as opposed to a stay-at-work parent, isn’t just for those who are “too lazy” or privileged to go back to paid work. It is a positive investment that would benefit all of society long before the next plague comes.

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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm