Archive for August, 2021

Scenario Planning at Home During the Pandemic

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of scenario planning without realizing that I was doing it. The other night, in a fit of insomnia caused by anxiety about sending my almost 5-year-old to kindergarten for the first time, it dawned on me that I was working through the steps of scenario planning that Allison Layland and I put together for the National Comprehensive Center.

I have all the normal mama emotions of sending your eldest off to school for the first time, that are then combined with the spread of the Delta variant (even in highly vaccinated Connecticut); the need to adjust to a whole new schedule balancing public school bus pick-ups, drop-offs, holiday and early dismissal days (there are so many of them!), juggling after-care providers; a 20-month-old transitioning to a new class at his part-time daycare; the realities of managing our household; and attempting to work and manage my business on top of all of this.

I started spiraling – What do we do if (i.e. when) one of the boys has a close/direct contact and has to quarantine? What do we do if our vaccines aren’t strong enough and we (as the adults) get sick and still have to take care of the boys? What do we do if there’s a lockdown again? What do we do if both boys are quarantined at the same time? What do we do if we get sick and it spreads throughout our house for weeks and neither kid can go to daycare/school during that time? What if one of us gets seriously ill? Will the vaccines protect others enough to allow us to safely bring in someone else to help if any of us are sick? This might be called spiraling in an insomniac’s world, but it’s also known as Step 3 – Identify critical uncertainties.

I then shifted into Step 4 (develop a range of plausible scenarios) and Step 5 (discuss trade-offs and implications). In the first shutdown, I had a colicky refluxy non-sleeping 3-month-old and an energetic 3.5-year-old home for 5 months, while my husband and I in our sleep-deprived states trudged through each day (and night) while attempting to work (full-time for him, part-time for me). Lesson learned – if it happens again, we will work to find someone who could move in with us and ride out a shutdown storm with us and provide childcare. Relief – I have a potential solution for one of the worst-case scenarios. I can go to sleep.

A few days later, we get the call that one of the boys has had a close contact with a positive staff member and both boys can’t attend school for several days. Unfortunately, there aren’t many plausible scenarios in this situation. Step 6 – Create a strategy and action plan – I give up almost all of my work time this week, my husband covers me for one important presentation, we cross our fingers that they both test negative (they did), I try not to go down the rabbit hole of the implications of what happens if one of them is positive, and I try to make the best of it with a few socially distanced outdoor or at-home projects and adventures.

Step 7 – Monitor, reflect, and revisit with new data – At times, there have been nice moments, laughter, beauty, and hugs. At other times, sanity and patience are questionable. Key data points to analyze by the end of a quarantine:

  • The number of Wild Kratts, Octonauts and Sesame Street episodes viewed
  • The number of snacks provided
  • The number of times the freezer boo-boo pack is utilized
  • The number of times any of us cried (me included)
  • The number of smiles, tickles, hugs, and laughs

My conclusion – scenario planning is not just something that schools and businesses are doing throughout the ever-changing world that is COVID-19. I say all of this recognizing my place of privilege – a steady income from my spouse, a flexible job as a business owner that allows me to stop working when needed (just without the income), a home, our basic needs being met, the availability and access to vaccines and diagnostic testing, and that we live in a highly vaccinated area. Even with all that privilege, it’s freaking hard and sometimes feels impossible. Families, and most often (but not exclusively), moms are bearing the mental and actual burdens of developing the scenarios and implementing whichever course of action is most plausible or is the only option. Unfortunately, scenario planning and rapidly adjusting expectations and realities will continue with us until the pandemic can get under control.

To all the fellow parents out there, especially working parents – hats off to you. This is parenting on steroids and without all the social and community supports that many of us have come to depend on to raise healthy strong kids. In the meantime – just get through till bedtime (so you can start your work day).

An aside and useful read – Parents are Not Okay, The Atlantic


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