While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted us all, it isn’t a mystery that it has disproportionately impacted parents who have faced added stress, work-from-home situations, and unpredictable school / daycare closures. A recent article in Science stressed that the pandemic was particularly disruptive for parents working in a scientific field, and that these effects would be felt for years into the future - as it takes approximately three years for research to go from the concept-stage to publication. Here at InVivo Biosystems our parents are reflecting on the challenges and triumphs they have faced over the last two years.
The latest Covid surge, fueled by the omicron variant, has put many parents back in the now familiar and rocky terrain of having to do it all: being full time employees while being full-time parents and stand-in teachers and daycare providers [Figure 1].
Figure 1. Covid disruptions hit their highest level of the school year schools that closed or went virtual for at least part of the week for reasons related to the Covid-19 pandemic (The Washington Post, 2022).
The never-ending blend of work and home life has led to increasingly drained parents, and a wave of working parents, mostly women, quitting their jobs (The Washington Post, 2022). Throughout the pandemic the U.S. Census Bureau has consistently found that child-care concerns were among the top reasons people reported not having worked in the past week. And when you look at the costs of current child care, it’s no wonder. Pre-pandemic child-care costs were already on the rise, with child-care costs growing twice as fast as overall inflation since the 1990s, and in 2019, the cost of a typical day-care center in California was equivalent to ~50% of the median income of a single mother (Thompson, 2019). Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic only increased this rise in child-care costs — causing center-based child-care costs to spike roughly 41% (Halkidis, 2021). In addition to having to consider the physical care of their children, parents are also aware that the pandemic has not been kind to kids’ mental health. This has meant that, more than ever, parents are having to manage their own mental health while helping their children manage their mental health during this overly stressful time.
Matt isn’t alone, the vast majority of parents reported having concern over their children’s mental health during the pandemic, which then in turn, exacerbated their own feeling of burnout [figure 2].
Figure 2. COVID-19 and burnout are straining the mental health of employed parents (McKinsey & Company, 2021).
For working parents in the scientific community, the pandemic has meant constant disruptions to their research. Dashun Wang, a professor at Northwestern University, focused his investigation into how COVID-19 specifically impacted the scientific community - surveying over 7,000 scientists. He found that there was a marked decrease in productivity overall, particularly in the output of publications, with women and parents of children under 5 being the most affected (Madhusoondanan, 2021).
“there was a 36% decrease in the initiation of research projects [in 2020 compared to 2019]” - Gao et al., 2021
This survey emphasized how long-reaching the pandemic’s effect on the scientific community will be: scientists noted that they were not only starting fewer projects, they were also being more conservative about the type of projects they were starting, and were doing so with fewer post-docs.
At InVivo Biosystems we’ve always been in the business of helping facilitate research - either because we have the capability to perform an experiment that another lab may not have (the expertise and zebrafish / C. elegans facilities), or because we can get results to a lab faster than if they performed the experiment themselves - speeding up a project’s timeline.
Dr Dan Starr, a professor at UC Davis, a partner of InVivo Biosystems, who has spent the last 20 years studying nuclear migration in C. elegans explained why he has chosen to work with InVivo Biosystems saying, “if you don't [have the capability within your lab to perform an experiment, nor a collaborator within your organization] there're companies like [InVivo Biosystems] that can collaborate really well with you.”
Our research partners have described us as ‘a temporary post-doc,’ with Ellen Gregory, a PhD student in Starr’s lab explaining that working with InVivo Biosystems enabled them, “to speed this project along much faster than we [the Starr Luxton Labs] could have done in the lab ourselves.” And Dr. Valeria Vásquez, Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, saying that InVivo Biosystems was how she, “kept my project going while I was on maternity leave.”
Now, our company objectives haven’t changed, but we want to let scientists who are parents know that you’re not alone, we can help mitigate the delays that your research may face thanks to this pandemic. As many of our team voiced - work mixing with life is unavoidable right now, and we all must pull together to achieve our goals.
Gao, J., Yin, Y., Myers, K.R. et al. Potentially long-lasting effects of the pandemic on scientists. Nat Commun 12, 6188 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-26428-z
MADHUSOODANAN, JYOTI (2021). The pandemic’s slowing of research productivity may last years—especially for women and parents. Science. https://www.science.org/content/article/pandemic-s-slowing-research-productivity-may-last-years-especially-women-and-parents
Halkidis, Anna (2021). Child Care Costs Have Risen More Than 40 Percent During the Pandemic, Report Finds. Parents. https://www.parents.com/news/child-care-costs-have-risen-more-than-40-percent-during-the-pandemic-report-finds/
Thompson, Derek. (2019). Why Child Care Is So Ridiculously Expensive. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/11/why-child-care-so-expensive/602599/
McKinsey & Company (2021). COVID-19 and burnout are straining the mental health of employed parents. McKinsey & Company Website. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/covid-19-and-burnout-are-straining-the-mental-health-of-employed-parents
The Washington Post (2022). ‘I’m barely clinging onto work’: Exhausted parents face another wave of school shutdowns. The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/01/08/omicron-working-parents-schools/
About the Author: Alexandra Narin
Alexandra is a Content Marketing Specialist and Grant Writer for InVivo Biosystems. She graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2020 where she earned a Joint MA Honours Degree in English & Psychology/Neuroscience with BPS [British Psychology Society] Accreditation. She has worked as a research assistant, examining the LEC's (lateral entorhinal cortex) involvement in spatial memory and integrating long term multimodal item-context associations, and completed her dissertation on how the number and kinds of sensory cues affect memory persistence across timescales. Her hobbies include running, boxing, and reading.