Marisol with her grandson.
Marisol with her grandson.
Photo: Marisol
Imbalancing ActImbalancing ActMothering during the covid-19 pandemic

Marisol, 50, lives in Torrence, California with her husband and two teenagers. She runs an in-home daycare. 

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I’ve run my daycare for the past 15 years. Usually, we have anywhere from eight to 20 kids a day. I pick up clients through walk-ins. The daycare constantly changes, which is very challenging for a business. Now, I have only two kids in my daycare. I was making at least $15,000 a month. Now I live with $600 dollars a week.

I modified the drop-off and pickup procedures for my parents. I put a table outside with soap, water, and disinfectant. The parents don’t even touch the doorknob. I don’t allow anybody to come inside the house.

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As a daycare, we already clean intensely, but now it’s more. Cleaning and disinfecting take effort. I spend hours online looking for cleaning supplies. I bought 12 ounces of hand sanitizer for $22. I had to do it. They raised the prices. If I live with $600 a week, that’s $400 in supplies right now. People out there, they don’t see how much we as daycare providers struggle. We’re working right now for less than 4 dollars an hour.

I feel like I have a huge responsibility now with the little guys in the daycare, plus my grandson comes every day to the daycare. For me to not hug or give a kiss to my grandson, it’s very emotional. Babies, the first thing they do is run and hug you. I wear overalls now for work and I have a mask. I have a costume party every day for the little ones because they’re afraid to see you with the mask, so I make it fun with the kids, we decorate the masks.

My husband is an engineer and is working from home. Our bedroom has become his office. There are four of us living in my house. I have two 15-year-olds who are six months apart: my son and my adopted daughter. I also have a daughter who is 30-years-old and an 18-year-old son at college.

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Having a daycare in-home with teenagers is very challenging. My kids grew up in my daycare, they are used to seeing the kids, but the situation we’re living in right now is more challenging. I never worked so hard emotionally in my life as I do right now. They will do homework in their rooms, but when they come around the kids, they have to wear masks. They say to me, “Nothing will happen to us, it’s just for old people.” Having to implement social distancing with my teenagers is very challenging. You can tell a young child to wash their hands and they follow through. A teenager looks at you like you’re living on the moon.

It’s a lot to carry, but protecting my kids is protecting me. Having my children take their temperature every day and be afraid that something could happen to them—it’s just hard. Women, we are doing more at this time. It’s overwhelming. I have to make the rules inside the house. Every day we wake up at 5 o’clock and go for a run, it’s the only time there are not that many people out. By 11 o’clock we do meditation, whether they like it or not.

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This quarantine is making everybody crazy; emotionally, it’s overwhelming. My kids cannot go to the park or the beach. My children surf. My daughter was crying because I wouldn’t let her go to the beach. That’s fine. One day you’re going to thank me that I didn’t let you go there. My 18-year-old son was depressed. He was running in college, preparing himself for the big national event in May, and he was depressed for weeks. I was devastated as a mother. Helping him to overcome his emotional state has taken a lot from me.

How can I explain to my 15-year-old son that he cannot practice? He’s a wrestler. My daughter, how can I explain to her that she has to stay at home and cannot see her friends? I feel like my children’s lives right now are hanging onto me. [Crying] I have to be strong to tell them, “We’re going to be okay.” My teenage daughter has a temper and when she’s upset, she breaks things. Dropping things, slamming doors, breaking brooms. She’s so overwhelmed. It breaks my heart. She cannot even see her therapist. She tried to do therapy through Zoom, but she said, ‘It’s not working, I don’t need it’ and slammed the computer.

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My oldest daughter will come to me and ask me to take my grandson and say, “Mom I can’t do this, I have to take a break.” They don’t see that I have been their rock. I need that time off, too. My only time off is to come to the garage. I cry in the garage, I hide myself. I work. I work I work, I work, just to keep myself busy.

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I told my kids, “If you don’t move, you drown. Let’s pretend we’re swimming right now in a bucket of miseries and we have to keep going otherwise we won’t survive.” You have to be a very strong person to keep a house of four in a healthy mindset. I feel like if I cry in front of my kids, they will follow me. I do believe fear is contagious. You have to be fearless sometimes. They don’t know how I am inside. Some nights, at 3 o’clock in the morning, I go to my garage and I cry and I cry and I cry. Because if I start crying my husband asks me, “What’s wrong,” and I get worse.

My aunt died two weeks ago from this virus. My brother is contagious right now and he is only 51-years-old. My fear grows every day. But if I remain in the same spot, I’m going to drown. I have to keep moving, and I have to drag my children with me. I do believe in the darkest place you can find light if you choose to. Yesterday I ran two miles, today I ran two and a half miles. I have to push myself otherwise I will go crazy. I run with a mask, it is hard to breathe, but if I don’t, my kids are going to say, “Mom tells us to do it but she doesn’t do it herself.” You have to be an example for your children to follow, especially with teenagers, who are so rebellious.

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I’m an immigrant. My family back in Nicaragua is dependent on me. I still send money home. I have 12 people who depend on me overseas, family and employees. I have a house in Nicaragua and four people who garden, clean, watch the house, and take the dogs to the vet. I have a big plot of land with mangoes, avocados, plantains. I allow people to grow plants on my land and take it home to eat. These people have children. The parents from my daycare bring me baby clothes and I used to ship all this stuff to Nicaragua every three months to help the poor people.

This virus doesn’t just affect my family here in the U.S. It affects my emotional and spiritual life. This virus reveals who we really are, if we are selfish or if we care about the community. I go to my neighbors and I say, “Are you okay? Do you need anything? I have this extra toilet paper.” My neighbor is a landscaper and he said, “Marisol, do you want me to cut your tree?” If we all do a little bit, we will be OK.

Senior Staff Writer, Jezebel

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