If you’d rather laugh than cry about the impossible situation parents are in during the pandemic, you’re not alone — and now there’s a new virtual way to commiserate.
The Parenting in a Pandemic Simulator, developed by Smita Venkat, brings you right into the world of noise, stress and chaos that parents of young children are now very familiar with. As Venkat explained it when she shared the game on Facebook, “it’s a choose-your-own-adventure experience except replace the word ‘adventure’ with whatever the opposite of that is.”
In the game, you’re given multiple options for dealing with the impossibility of getting kids fed and looked after, giving presentations at work, and talking to child-free friends about what you’re going through. And, spoiler alert: every choice leads to guilt, hurt feelings, loss of productivity or pandemonium of some sort.
The game touches comedically on a really big problem: that working full-time during a pandemic is untenable for parents, especially if their children are young.
Kids who would normally be at school, in daycare or at summer camp are home, where they need to be fed, taught, bathed, entertained and cared for at the same time their parents are supposed to be working at their regular pace. Essentially, at a time of increased stress and financial pressure, parents have two full-time jobs — one of which is completely unpaid.
Pre-pandemic, more than half of caregivers in Canada were women, and women were more likely than men to spend more than 20 hours a week providing care for someone in their family.
“Parents cannot leave children home alone, which will force those who can’t afford alternative arrangements to drop out of the work force,” Lauren Dobson-Hughes wrote in the Globe and Mail. “A loss of household income will devastate many families, especially single parents, and set back women’s equality by years.”
Pregnant women and working mothers who take on more parenting work than their male partners “may spend a significant amount of time out of the work force, or their careers could just peter out in terms of promotions,” economics and public policy professor Betsey Stevenson of the University of Michigan told the New York Times.
“We could have an entire generation of women who are hurt.”