South Seattle parents come together during the teacher strike to offer childcare coverage and mutual support
The teacher strike illuminates the unexpected ways that parents can forge community.
Photo courtesy of Marilee Jolin
South Seattle parent Marilee Jolin, mom to 6-year-old and 8-year-old Seattle Public School students, saw a serious issue at hand as SPS teachers went on strike last week. With school out of session, families were stuck without the ever-crucial coverage – many of them stuck with no childcare and no ability to take time off of work to stay at home with kids.
In the leadup to the strike, Jolin found herself talking to neighbors and fellow parents from school, figuring out what they would do in the event of a strike.
“What struck me were a couple things,” says Jolin. “Our situation is such that my husband and I both have to be flexible with work. He’s in the tech industry and so he also has some flexibility. We also have funds, so if we needed to take time off, it wouldn’t affect us adversely financially.”
Jolin also has family who live in the area, offering a further level of security for securing coverage.
The same couldn’t be said for some of Jolin’s fellow parents. Jolin’s neighbor, a parent herself, mentioned that she had already taken a day off of work. If she had to take another, her neighbor said, she wouldn’t be able to make her rent. “This is my neighbor, this is my friend,” Jolin recalls thinking. “How many people is this affecting?”
Jolin saw on social media that multiple South Seattle parents were offering to host ad hoc childcare in their homes, having one parent watching five to six kids one day, rotating to another parent the next. Jolin looked at a number of Facebook groups to see how parents were responding; while the group childcare dates didn’t match up with her childcare needs, she was ultimately able to host her neighbor’s daughter one day during the week.
The very idea for rotating care among parents throughout the community sprung from a realization of the disparity that exists between families during teacher strikes, Jolin says. “For some families, it’s an inconvenience; For others, it’s the difference between making rent that month.” In response, parents have come together to support each other.
In Jolin’s perspective, the situation ultimately helped to illuminate the ways that communities can come together. “It kind of made us get out of this bubble of perceived independence: ‘Actually, I’m gonna lose my mind if I have to bring my kid to work another day.’”
Jolin feels that the experiences of sharing childcare responsibility with others in her community has helped to cultivate and deepen her relationships with fellow parents. “For me personally it’s been really interesting,” Jolin says. “My older daughter isn’t a terribly social kid; This has been an interesting opportunity for us to reach out in ways we wouldn’t normally,” giving Jolin’s daughter the chance to cultivate friendships she might not have otherwise.
As Jolin notes, the strike also brought parents together in another way: to combat attempts to foster antagonism between parents and teachers over the strike. “What I’ve seen in the parent community is nothing but support for the teachers: 'How do we come together at this time?' Yeah, this sucks, we don’t want this to happen, but we’re going to come together to support the teachers rather than blame them.”