‘There Are NO Universal Right Answers’: Doctor Mom Nails Back-to-School Worries


Though most of the nation’s kids are back in the classroom—whether in-person or virtual—working moms’ lives still haven’t gotten any easier. One doctor mom nailed all of the difficulties this unique back-to-school season has brought upon working parents.

Megan Ranney, MD, MPH, is an emergency doctor, researcher and associate professor at Brown University. Her two kids returned to school last week, and she took to Twitter to explain why she let them go partially in-person, and why other parents are struggling with this decision.

She explained the two opposing sides of the back-to-school conundrum—noting they’re both equally valid.

Megan begs parents to “do our best to follow the science … while recognizing that science is evolving.”

“Yes, this is scary.
“Yes, this is unprecedented.
“Yes, there are NO universal right answers.”

But, she acknowledges that “there are reasons that some kids NEED to be in school, and there are some reasons that teachers or parents NEED their kids to stay home.” She continues, “Both are okay.”

It’s clear that a lack of childcare is taking its toll on working families. As many as one-third of parents are expected to quit their jobs due to school closures this fall, meaning a dire fall for working women especially.

What we do know is this: In a South Korean study, the reopening of schools caused a boost in infection rates. Megan explains that it really depends on the local coronavirus numbers and the procedures involved with reopening schools.

The mom acknowledges that kids sitting in a classroom is a much less high-risk activity compared to, say, sports, chorus or band. Ultimately, she suggests, the back-to-school debate should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Megan’s thread speaks to all of the parents struggling with guilt surrounding sending kids back to school or daycare this month. It’s impossible for parents without childcare to give 100 percent of their focus to their kids and their job, and schools reopening would lessen some of that burden.

Lastly, she leaves us with what the other half of parents have been feeling: that sending kids to school in most of the country is just plain unsafe.

Whichever path you’ve chosen, understand that there is no right answer. Employers can help make working parents’ lives easier by being compassionate and allowing flexibility to all of their employees taking care of loved ones during this time. For those of us with no choice but to help our kiddos with virtual learning, here are some tips from a teacher mom to help lighten the load.


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