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Raising Confidence

‘Pandemic Parenting’: Parents Share How COVID-19 Affects Their Most Important Job

2021 KinderCare Parent Confidence Report

When we started talking with families in January 2020 for our annual Parent Confidence Report, we couldn’t have imagined what was to come. Before lockdowns were ever a worry, over 2,000 U.S. parents like you shared how confident they felt about their parenting, work-life balance, and employer support. 

By fall of 2020, everything had changed for families. We saw a unique opportunity in exploring just how much the pandemic had impacted your confidence in caring for your kids and performing successfully at work. So, we went back to over 2,000 U.S. parents in October to ask about their experiences. 

When you read our findings, you might recognize these feelings or see yourself in the results. But in this data, we see so much opportunity for building stronger communities, creating new family routines, and ultimately finding better ways to support you and your family as you adapt and thrive. 

6 key takeaways from the 2021 Parent Confidence Report 

Click on a takeaway for more information and confidence-boosting resources, or download the fact sheet.

1. ‘Pandemic parenting’ is the most stressful time of parents’ lives.

No one understands how difficult parenting in a pandemic is—except parents like you. We’ve heard from so many that quarantine has held intense feelings of isolation as the support systems, families, and friends you relied on became inaccessible.

KinderCare Confidence Report

  • 55 percent of parents (and 59 percent of working moms) say parenting during COVID-19 is the most stressful time of their lives. 
  • 54 percent of parents say they’ve never felt so isolated as a parent as they have during the pandemic. 
  • 58 percent say “pandemic parenting” is relentless, with no break in sight. 
  • 56 percent say they haven’t been able to rely on relatives or friends as much for child care due to the pandemic. 

Now a year in, we all might be finding some of the daily routines and rhythms we craved, but it doesn’t mean the ongoing stress and anxiety of the health crisis has gone away. In fact, 66 percent of parents with young kids say the burden placed on them today doesn't get as much attention as it deserves. And it’s clear from how you feel about the amount of support you get from your employers and your work-life balance. 

Confidence booster: Feeling extra stressed lately? Get tips from our teachers to help you and your family find calm.

2. Work-life balance is disappearing as family time blends with work.

For over a year, two of the support systems your family relies on most—school and work—have been in an uncharted state of flux. The shift to remote work in 2020 made the struggle to juggle work and life harder for even the average worker. But we heard that school and child care closures made the transition a perfect storm for your family.  

KinderCare Confidence Report

Suddenly, many of you were home all day (and every day) with your children. That meant more family time, but you also shared that it wasn’t as focused on family as you would have hoped. And the same can be said for work.  

  • 46 percent of working parents say they rarely have quality time with their child that is uninterrupted by work. This rate is even higher among working dads at 51 percent.  
  • 23 percent of working moms say they’re unsatisfied with their work-life balance, compared to 12 percent of working dads. 
  • Parents estimated their children interrupted roughly 9.5 hours of their workweek before the pandemic. By fall, that number increased to 13 hours, or nearly two working days. 

Confidence booster: Is your family having conversations about the right time to return to learning? Here are three considerations for when you’re weighing the decision to go back to school or child care.

3. Working parents expect more from their employers.

Between increased unemployment, work-from-home pivots, and an emerging category of essential workers, everyone is facing challenges to get even basic work done without child care. 

If you worked from home without school or child care, you had to find new ways to juggle work and care. On the other hand, if you’re an essential worker, you might feel pressure to choose between work plus child care, or leaving employment to care for your child. And both scenarios pose one of the biggest opportunities for employers to lend a hand to working families. 

KinderCare Confidence Report

  • 47 percent of working parents say their employer doesn't understand the needs of parents today. 
  • 46 percent feel that their career growth is on hold as they try to navigate pandemic-related child care needs. 
  • 43 percent believe they will be overlooked for promotions in the future because they have a child at home while they work. 
  • 62 percent of working parents believe their employers should offset the cost of child care. 
  • 76 percent say being confident in their child care provider helps them excel at work. 

The reality is, without child care, working moms told us it can feel like their careers get moved to the backburner, especially when it comes to how supported they feel at work. 

  • 22 percent of working mothers are worried that they will have to quit their job in the next six months to care for their children. 
  • 47 percent of working moms grade their employer’s child care policies as a C or lower (compared to 29 percent of working fathers). 
  • 30 percent of working moms say they’re unaware of any child care policies or benefits being offered by their employer in the wake of the pandemic. 

Confidence booster: If your employer doesn’t offer child care benefits or you're not sure if they do, consider emailing your HR representative to let them know just how important it is to you! You can even share this resource about child care benefits that matter to working families.

4. Solo parenting is so much more challenging in times of change.

We also heard from solo parents who shoulder all the responsibility for their families. Without schools, child care, or other family support, a staggering 60 percent of single parents say they’ve never felt so alone as a parent as they have during the pandemic. 

You should never feel alone as a solo parent, but we know it’s easier said than done without the support you need. Here is another huge opportunity for employers to step up. 

KinderCare Confidence Report

  • Nearly a quarter of single parents are dissatisfied with their work-life balance. 
  • 61 percent would grade their employer’s child care policies as a C or lower. 
  • 41 percent of single parents say their employers do not offer child care policies or benefits that they are aware of. 
  • 34 percent have taken on a less-demanding role or job to spend more time with their child. 

Confidence booster: Hear a touching story from one of our parents, Nichole, about what solo parenting during a pandemic is like for her.

5. Overall, parents just want to know that their kids will be all right.

So much of what we heard from you about pandemic parenting centers on your anxieties to be all the things your child needs without your support systems. But you told us you feel most vulnerable about your children's continued social, emotional, and academic development.  

KinderCare Parent Confidence

  • Six out of 10 parents (61 percent) feel they are constantly choosing between isolating their child for the sake of their physical health or risking illness in order to encourage their child’s social-emotional development. 
  • 71 percent of parents with school-age children (ages 6–12) worry about long-term effects of the pandemic on their child’s educational development. 
  • 67 percent are also worried about the mental health implications this time will have on their school-age children. 

Confidence boosters: Concerned about how all this time at home or away from class will affect your little learner? Here are some resources from our experts that can help: 

6. Despite all the challenges, parents do see silver linings.

The pandemic has affected everyone in different ways, and no report can fully reflect everything you’ve experienced over this past year. But as the great French painter Henri Matisse once said, “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” 

In a year of constant change, you told us that all these months at home held a gift you’ve needed all along: more time with those you love most in this world. 

KinderCare Confidence Report

  • 56 percent of parents (and 60 percent of moms) say they’ve developed stronger relationships with their children. 
  • 53 percent are thankful to be closer as a family. 
  • Nearly two-thirds of parents (63 percent) feel they can be more involved in their child's life because their modern work schedule is more flexible. 
  • More than half of parents (57 percent) found a silver lining in their ability to appreciate the smaller things in life. 

Confidence booster: As things change, how do you keep finding your silver linings? KinderCare’s Content Architect Rashelle Chase shares three tips to keep your focus on hope and positive things at home.  

KinderCare ConfidenceWhenever you need a confidence boost, new ideas for learning at home, conversation starters for family chats, or just some feel-good family fun, our blog is constantly updated with resources to help. It’s just one more way of saying we’re always here for you as your partner in parenting.

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