Parents have hands full juggling work, childcare, kids' well-being

By Dang Khoa, Long Nguyen, Thuy QuynhSeptember 14, 2021 | 08:53 pm PT
Parents have hands full juggling work, childcare, kids' well-being
A father helps his daughter with her online lesson. Photo acquired by VnExpress
Managing both their children’s online schooling and their own livelihoods, and anxiety about their children's health and mental well-being are taking a huge toll on Vietnamese.

Hoang Phuong Dung starts her Monday fatigued and stressed, when her seven-year-old son does not want to attend his online class, and her four-year-old daughter keeps crying for breakfast.

"Sometimes they are fighting and screaming while I am working, and I wish I could vanish or leave this house right away," the 35-year-old says.

She cannot sleep at night worrying about how to keep her children safe from Covid-19 and sustaining her income.

Her husband stays at his workplace, a bank in Ho Chi Minh City’s Phu Nhuan District, while Dung works from home while also taking care of her children amid the lockdown.

Similar scenes play out in many parts of Vietnam where lockdowns keep children and adults homebound, and taking care of schooling while also earning a livelihood has been tough for many adults.

A kis leaves a Covid-19 centralized quarantine facility in HCMCs Thu Duc City in June along with a family member, June 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa

A kid leaves a Covid-19 centralized quarantine facility in HCMC's Thu Duc City along with a family member, June 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa

"I am exhausted because I must work and also keep a watchful eye on my sons," Nguyen Thi Anh Dao of Hanoi’s Ba Dinh District says.

The couple, who have worked from home for months, have had a tough time helping their older son, 11, focus on his online lessons while also cooking, cleaning and keeping their three-year-old son engaged at the same time.

She says: "I let my older son sit in the kitchen and I work in the living room to watch over my three-year-old. Sometimes if I have a meeting, I lock myself in my room."

Their helper had left Hanoi for her hometown in May due to coronavirus fears.

"My husband is supportive, but whenever the kids need something, they always interrupt me."

It has been particularly vexing for people whose spouses have to stay at the workplace as mandated by authorities to mitigate the spread of Covid.

For Le Thi Tra My of HCMC’s District 12, home has become a veritable madhouse.

Her husband stays at his workplace two weeks a month, and she has to cope with two rowdy primary school-aged children.

"Sometimes they throw the TV remote or food at each other and burst into tears while I am typing madly on my laptop," My, an accountant at an energy firm in District 2, says.

To cap off things, her income has been reduced by half since June.

Many parents are also worried about the risk of their children contracting Covid, especially those too young to be eligible for vaccination. They know adults could easily bring the virus home.

"I go to the supermarket once a week, and I hold my breath until returning home because I am frightened I would be accidentally infected by a stranger and my children would get the virus," Truong Minh Hieu of HCMC’s District 3 says.

Like many other parents, Hieu and his wife avoid coming into close contact with strangers and prevent their children from going out no matter how much they complain about being cooped up.

"The first thing we want now is vaccination for our kids," he says, adding he has spoken numerous times with his 10-year-old son about the pandemic, which has prevented people from venturing out in the last few months.

More than 11,800 children had contracted the novel coronavirus as of early September, including more than 10,000 in HCMC.

Health authorities have said people aged under 18 will not get vaccinated yet due to the shortage of vaccines. The nation of 96 million has vaccinated more than 24.72 million against the new coronavirus, with more than 5.62 million having two doses.

A girl has her nose swab taken by a healthcare worker in Hanoi, early September 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

A girl has her nose swab taken by a healthcare worker in Hanoi, early September 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Many parents are also concerned about their children's mental well-being.

Some people are worried their young children are not getting the opportunity to learn how to get along with others of their age or greet adults. Parents of teenagers fear that the prolonged lockdown can cause social anxiety, emotional and behavioral problems, especially since kids have remained homebound the whole of summer.

"My seven-year-old son sometimes has a meltdown, saying he hates online classes and misses his friends, while my teenage daughter is addicted to TikTok and uses her phone all the time," Nguyen Van Dat of HCMC’s District 7 says.

Last month his family could not celebrate his son’s birthday because they could not buy cakes and candles or invite any of his friends to a party due to the stringent lockdown regulations.

"I could see the disappointment on his face; he had kept asking me many times if he could have a birthday cake, but we could not manage it."

Dr Cao Tien Duc, head of the department of psychiatry and medical psychology at Hospital 103 in Hanoi, says the pandemic has had a great impact on children's psychology, increasing their feelings of fear and isolation and causing behavioral changes like bringing on tantrums and outbursts.

Their minds can be easily scarred by seeing the loss of a loved one to the pandemic, he says.

More than 1,500 children in HCMC have lost their parents, according to the city Department of Education and Training. Across the country, 15,901 people have died in the ongoing wave, which has infected more than 630,000 people since late April.

"That grief is really difficult for children to overcome," Duc says.

In Hanoi, Dung has spoken to her children about the pandemic and how to protect themselves from the virus, but it has made them worried.

"They told me that they are afraid for themselves and for their parents. I want my children to know what's going on out there, but I do not want to worry or scare them."

Last week when she was preparing to go out to buy groceries, her daughter burst into tears and begged her not to go, fearful her mother "would get that virus and die."

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