From Anaïs Férot Giachetti, earth sciences:
I am a female Assistant Research Professor from Penn State University working remotely as a Courtesy Faculty in the UO Earth Sciences department. Our three-year-old son has been home since his UO-based daycare – Vivian Olum Child Development Center – has closed in March 2020 amidst the coronavirus crisis. Since then, my husband, who is a UO TTF in the Earth Sciences Department, and I have been staying at home, trying to keep up with our full-time role as both parent and professional. It has been a very hectic three-month time. We have no family to provide any direct support or relief; we had to cancel our annual trip back to our country due to COVID and won’t be seeing our families. This situation has greatly affected my mental health.
My job has greatly suffered in terms of productivity and efficiency. I am now dedicating half of my time to my son. The other half is filled with interruptions, technical difficulties, and other reasons due to the fact that I am working in a non-professional environment that affect my ability to focus. Due to the nature of my job, I’m used to often work from home but these lockdown conditions are way different. On top of the anxiety caused by the pandemic, there is no way I can conduct my job properly while my boys are around. No way. I’ve tried noise cancelling headphones. I’ve tried to read papers outside, weather permitted. I’ve tried to send them on a walk in the neighborhood – this would last 30 minutes top! Adding to the fact that I am a mom and feel obliged to solve any conflict, cook dinner and just be a “good/perfect” mom, many of these past days ended up with zero work completed. Luckily, I got a 6-months extension to the NSF-funded program I am managing in order to complete the core tasks that have been delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and associated lab and university closures and changed in operations. We also managed to relocate funds to cover salary for the additional months.
The most impactful aspect of the COVID sanitary crisis on our lives is daycare. In many ways, this has caused much pain to our everyday life as UO faculties with a child. Please note that I am mentioning below my husband in my testimonial because we both equally contribute to the life, care, and logistics of our family. His struggle directly affects me and vice versa.
- WHY. While almost all childcare centers in Eugene have reopened since Oregon Governor Brown had issued phase 1 reopening guidelines for childcare facilities, Vivian Olum hasn’t still efficiently communicated if/when it will be reopening which puts us, UO parents with kids at Olum, in a very precarious situation with no end in sight. Why the delay?
- WHEN. The center sent out a survey to the parents two weeks after the guidelines for reopening were communicated. Not knowing when the center will reopen makes it impossible for us to plan our lives in the near-future.
- HOW. My husband is supposed to teach in the Fall. How can we plan for the Fall term? He was supposed to write NSF proposals and research papers over Spring and Summer. How can he do so, remain competitive in his field, and be there for his students? How can he find time to redesign his class to an online format while I’m also struggling to keep up with my full-time job?
- HOW MUCH. On top of our work productivity, efficiency – hence, our competitiveness directly affected – I would like to mention the financial burden potentially weighing on our shoulders. In the plan described in the survey, the Vivian Olum Child center suggests to put “in place a temporary, monthly COVID fee, which is currently estimated at up to 15% of the 2020-21 tuition rates. The center would review this fee periodically; with the goal of removing it as soon as possible once center operations return to normal. […] It is possible, depending on how many children enroll, that the fee could end up lower than 15%.” Note that this fee represents right now an additional $160 per kid, per month for our kid’s class and this fee could go up to $210 for the younger age group. The center might also ask us to provide our child with his own basic classroom supplies adding to the extra charge. We know that other daycares across town have not increased their monthly fee. I would find it very unfair to request UO parents to pay an extra fee (who knows for how long and how much) so their kids can go back to daycare. If we can’t, will we lose our spot?
Overall, I am deeply affected by this situation, personally and professionally. I feel UO has completely dismissed to acknowledge the impact this crisis had on faculties with children. I’m very grateful I had a chance to share my experience and how my personal life AND professional life have been affected by the lockdown. I hope my testimonial will highlight the struggle we’re going through and will help the university to realize there’s a much-needed effort to take action in regard to labor inequities for UO parents with children during the COVID-19 crisis.
Anaïs Férot Giachetti, Ph.D.