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Parenting during COVID-19

Sophie Phillips, Chief Operating Officer, TexProtects: the Texas Association for the Protection of Children

I’m on day 20 in my tiny make-shift home office moving from one zoom meeting to the next. I run a nonprofit working tirelessly to rapidly respond to the way COVID-19 is impacting children at risk of abuse or currently stuck in limbo in the child protection system. At the same time, I’m attempting to keep eyes on and engage with my almost-walking 12-month-old and navigating financial implications with my spouse’s business deemed nonessential. I am sure many people can relate to the emotive chaos of life right now.

I have the desire and conviction to seize this precious time at home to read and teach new skills to my baby. Then my email pings and reminds me of the fulfillment that my work also brings – a job that is of critical value and purpose, especially now. But how can I effectively advocate for the well-being and protection of others’ children if I am struggling to be present for my own?

In a world turned upside down and careers deemed “essential” vs. “nonessential”, we are desperate to prove we are valuable and the work we do matters. Both as employees but also as parents. But we are all fearful of the unknown and lack of control. This fear drives us to prove our worth, inflicting self-induced pressure to overproduce and overdeliver so we aren’t disposable. Now is not the time to shoot for the moon. As Disney’s Frozen Elsa would say, we need to “Let it go!” — let go of unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others and find our new “normal.”

Like a lot of working parents, I need help but hate asking for it. But I am learning through this crisis that asking for help is a strength, not deficit. It will help me be a better parent to my son. It will help me be a better boss and colleague.

The work I am so proud to do is for a nonprofit with a mission to protect children and empower families in our communities to thrive.  Whether it is a tip on providing age-appropriate activities while children are at home; ensuring children have a supportive caregiver at this time; or ensuring families have access to concrete needs like diapers, formula and food; our organization is here to help.

We are in this together. This crisis has been a great equalizer and I invite you to join me, and acknowledge in this moment, we all need help and can’t do it alone. We need to eliminate the stigma attached to asking for help and admitting that parenting is harder right now.

Report abuse either by phone: 1-800-252-5400 or online at txabusehotline.org [link: https://txabusehotline.org/Login/Default.aspx] if you suspect a child may be in danger. Every adult in Texas is a mandatory report. To know the signs of abuse and neglect, please visit the Texas DFPS website at  https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Child_Protection/Child_Safety/recognize_abuse.asp

Sophie Phillips has been with TexProtects since 2012. As a social worker, her passion and interest is in addressing the root causes of child abuse and neglect and creating partnerships to advance state policies and practices. She led the statewide Texas Home Visiting Consortium for many years, a collaborative of home visiting providers, funders, researchers and state agency resources to raise awareness and coordinate legislative efforts around the expansion of home visiting in Texas. She received her B.A. in Social Work from the University of Iowa and a Master’s in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis. You may reach her at sophie@texprotects.org.