This is pandemic parenting: I am writing this while watching my toddler take a bath.

I get a lot of work done this way, because hiring a babysitter seems like a life-or-death decision.

Governor Hogan declared a State of Emergency in March 2020 two weeks before my daughter’s second birthday. Almost a year later, the coping mechanisms we’ve built to stay healthy are stretching to their breaking point.

In many ways my family has been lucky. We have avoided catching Covid and can pay our bills with money left over to help others. At the beginning of the pandemic, we were blessed to have an au pair living with us. Our conversations with her quickly warped from “What do you mean it won’t be safe to go to the bar soon?” to “What kind of mask is the best?” Her hard work allowed me to continue my career as a writer and editor full speed.

Then it came time for her to return home to Argentina and things got hairy for my career. Mothers, in particular, have borne the burden of childcare and housework at the expense of their careers during this pandemic. I now barely make enough to cover childcare. My husband’s income keeps us comfortable and I am grateful. But I have my own career commitments, dreams, and ambitions. To reach them, I have to use every minute I can, including the ones where my computer is at risk of being splashed by soapy bath water.

Pre-Covid, we’d planned to send my daughter, Ava, to preschool for five full days, but with the pandemic, decided to send her only in the morning. Her school keeps the children outside—yes, even in rain and snow—all morning, then brings them inside for lunch and nap. Our decision was not based on what was best for Ava’s development, my mental health, or our finances (we prepaid for five full days and didn’t get that money back), but rather on the Covid-19 risk calculus.

I lost 15 hours a week of childcare and couldn’t rely on my child to nap. My debut picture book is called “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby,” after all. It’s essentially nonfiction! Mornings at school are more than some of my friends have. I know a few folks managing with zero childcare due to Covid, and I bow down to them. But mornings are not enough to keep my work promises to clients and myself. Once my toddler is in bed after a long day of fighting about napping, eating, wearing pants, I am exhausted.

This is pandemic parenting: many nights, I join the troops of parents working after bedtime to keep their careers afloat (and waking up very grumpy the next day!).

Because of Covid, I have turned down thousands of dollars of work. Work I would have loved to do. When my husband and I discuss the grocery bill, or new clothes for my toddler, I feel like a drain on my family’s resources, instead of the asset I was pre-pandemic. I have to remind myself I am now an asset in a new way: sacrificing my career means my family is safer.

But that safety is coming at the price of my mental health.

I finally hit a breaking point a few weeks ago. With my first book releasing, and a bunch of editing work from repeat clients I couldn’t turn away, the late nights of work stretched on. I was stressed, anxious, and cranky. I was exhausted but unable to fall asleep. This was miserable for me and my family. Something had to change.

My daughter’s teachers and many people in Baltimore had received their first doses of their vaccine. We decided to send my daughter to school for full days despite the risk.

Well, the joke was on us. Shortly after we took the full-day plunge my daughter missed more than a week of school due to snow days, scheduled closings, and a runny nose (ask me how fun it is to take a toddler to get a Covid test—which was, thankfully, negative).

This is pandemic parenting: I tried to get more help but couldn’t access it.

I’m not even a new parent—those early weeks back in 2018 I needed all the support I could get. I went to breastfeeding support groups where 20 women cried about the transition to motherhood. A nurse from a program called Family Connects came to my house for free via Sinai Hospital. Music classes and library story times provided socialization for my daughter and for me. I made mom friends. I had a village.

I ache for pandemic parents who can’t do any of that. These days, most families I know with newborns have established their bubbles. Grandparents come wearing masks, or after isolating. But back in March and April 2020, walking through my neighborhood, I saw grey-haired couples peering through the window, next to the newborn diapers and baby presents on the porch. My heart ached for the parents and grandparents alike.

This is pandemic parenting: the villages we desperately need are dangerous.

If I am struggling despite the many advantages I have, what is it like for parents without those advantages?

Bleak.

This is pandemic parenting: hunting down food distribution sites to get the meals children normally would have received at school; leaving young children home alone while at work because schools and daycares are closed; struggling to help kids access virtual school in the face of housing insecurity.

But there is help. Here are a few of the many local organizations that have impressed me with their work to help families during Covid (and all the time): Center for Urban Families, ShareBaby, Student Support Network, and Healthcare for the Homeless.

Soon, more shots will be in arms. The village will be safe again. Hopefully, a long time from now, our grown-up babies will look at the pictures of us wearing masks and wonder at the strangeness of it all.

About Tracy and “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby”

My struggles to get my daughter to sleep as a new mom inspired me to write “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby,” a sweet, funny board book which is illustrated by Adèle Dafflon and published by Familius. (No, my daughter is still not a good sleeper, but at least this book helps me smile through the struggle!)

“Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby” comes out on April 13th. Before the pandemic, I knew I wanted to find a way for this book to help other new moms. I also knew, thanks to the advocacy of ShareBaby, that many families in Baltimore struggle to provide basics like diapers and formula to their babies. I believe babies should have dry butts andgood books.

So, for every preorder of “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby,” I am donating a book to babies in need via ShareBaby. You can order a signed copy via The Children’s Bookstore in Lauraville and be automatically counted—just say you’d like the book signed and whom you’d like it signed for in the order comments—or buy anywhere and send your receipt to me at tcgpreorders@gmail.com (where you’ll get an auto response with a little card you can print out about the donation if you are giving it away as a gift). You can find links to major national retailers and Baltimore bookstores on my website.

Tracy C. Gold

Tracy C. Gold is an author, freelance editor, and mom living in Baltimore, Maryland. You can find out more about Tracy at tracycgold.com, by following her on Twitter and Instagram at @tracycgold, or by...