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I Lost My Daughter

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Last week, my ten year old daughter went missing.

After a day of Zoom home school and altogether too much screen time, she and her sister were bickering, so I told my ten year old to go for a walk around our neighborhood. Our neighborhood isn’t gated, but it only has a single entrance and therefore has virtually no traffic. It’s a great neighborhood full of other kids, and everybody rides their bikes and skateboards out in the cul-de-sac. We really don’t ever worry about our kids while in our neighborhood.

But Maia went for a walk and never came back. After more than an hour and a half, I looked up from my work to realize that she had not returned. My wife, who was also working from home, went into full-on Mom mode and jumped in her car to drive around the neighborhood.

She called me ten minutes later in a genuine panic. “She’s not here, and nobody has seen her. She’s not here!” I jumped into my truck and sped around the neighborhood, shouting her name, talking to the neighbors who were walking their dogs, recruiting another neighbor to drive to the neighborhood across the street to look for her, and ultimately calling 911.

I went home to meet the officers. I was only there a few minutes when my daughter walked through the door. She had gone to one of our neighbor’s homes to play.

Why am I writing about this in my Insights column today? Because I think one of the biggest challenges for reopening the economy is the cancellation of all the summer camps and programs that working parents rely on for childcare each summer. At some point, our society decided to outsource child care responsibilities to the school system, and the fact that this system goes on an annual three-month holiday was already a nightmare for my wife and me long before any pandemic came along.

Now, any strategies we might have previously employed to address the nightmare are up in smoke. Summer school is not happening. Summer camp is not happening. Summer youth sports leagues are not happening. Many would argue that the coronavirus even makes it dangerous to drop your kids off with their grandparents. Go ahead and open your local gym or barber shop with social distancing guidelines, but tell me how that’s going to work with a bunch of ten year olds. It’s just not.

"Covid-19 has taught us a lot of things, but one critical thing it has showed us is how important child care is to a functioning economy," said Frances Donald, chief economist and head of macro strategy at Manulife Investment Management. Child care is expensive, and the current unemployment situation is highlighting that inequity.

The Department of Labor reports that 93% of fathers and 71% of mothers in America participate in the workforce— they're either employed or trying to be. Even among mothers of children under the age of three, the workforce participation rate is over 50%. The reality for these households with two working parents is that they’re going to have to adopt a strategy to cope, perhaps with one parent working from home, quitting their job or not looking for a new one if they were laid off. Without reliable, affordable, and coronavirus-free child care, going back to work is simply not an option for many parents.

It seems likely that there are going to be lots of kids hanging out on the streets all day this summer. And they’re not going to stay away from each other. And it’s going to be difficult for their working parents to be aware at any given moment of what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with. There’s a church around the corner from my house, and the neighborhood kids have already dug a giant hole under the fence so that they can get into the playground. The hole is so big now that one girl dragged her bicycle through it the other day. That kind of stuff is just what kids do.

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