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Posted at 11:21 AM ET, 08/24/2011

A parental aftershock: needing emergency childcare

What was a more seismic event in a parent’s life in the region: yesterday’s earthquake or today’s school closings?

Many of us were counting blessings last night that the region’s natural disaster was not as bad as it could have been. It was more a region-wide fire drill, a test run in case a real disaster strikes. By this morning, we expected all to be back on track.
Mount Rona Baptist Church on the corner of 12th and Monroe St. in Columbia Heights sustained damage from the earthquake. (Amanda Voisard - The Washington Post)

Then the texts arrived for many parents where schools began this week: schools closed today to assess earthquake damage.

Suddenly we found ourselves in emergency mode again, this time scrambling for back-up care. “What was DCPS thinking?” one dad who took the morning off wrote to me.

Back-up childcare is a rare commodity here, especially for families who just began the school year. Finding an after-school sitter or program is hard enough for working parents.

A recent study commissioned by Sittercity found that more than half of parents surveyed cite finding an after-school sitter and arranging transportation logistics as the biggest stressors they face during the back- to-school season (56 percent), beating out buying back-to-school necessities such as clothes, notebooks, pens, paper, computers (42 percent).

The oddball school closing was not part of the survey, but it’s a good bet that causes even more stress. At least with snowstorms that close schools, forecasts give us a warning. But the earthquake didn’t provide much time to plan. (The orangutan guttural holler does not count as a fair warning.) So, many workers were forced to take today off — some not so reluctantly as it was a beautiful day. But others surely have deadlines that will be missed, clients that will be disappointed, bosses who will be angry.

Now that many of us have been motivated to create a family disaster plan, today has given us a reason to create an emergency childcare plan too.

How did you handle the school closings? Has it motivated you to come up with a back-up child care plan?

By  |  11:21 AM ET, 08/24/2011

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