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Seattle parents torn between jobs, caring for kids as pandemic forces remote start in fall

New research shows women are more likely to stop working in order to meet the increasing childcare demands brought on by the pandemic.

SEATTLE — New research by the U.S Census Bureau and Federal Reserve finds one in five working-age adults are not working because the coronavirus pandemic disrupted childcare. 

Women are almost three times as likely as men to not be working because of childcare demands, according to the research.

Cheryl Jenrow is among the parents making difficult decisions about work as school districts prepare for distance learning this Fall.

"I just had to realize that, no, I can't work," Jenrow said.

The final days of fifth grade for her son, Tristan, were frustrating in spring.

"Part of the reason it is hard with autism, there's especially internalized behavior. He will hold everything in all day," Jenrow explained about Tristan, who attends Salmon Bay K-8 in Seattle.

RELATED: In-person or remote learning in fall? Check this list for western Washington school districts

She said she could see how difficult distance learning was for him. 

When the pandemic initially slowed down her workload, she was able to spend time helping Tristan through the process last year. Now as fall approaches, she sees a new reality around remote learning. She knows she will have to work less.

Jenrow, a sustainable designer in Seattle, calls scaling back a hardship, but her husband is still working. She sees how this dilemma is more daunting for single parents.

Shatay Proctor, a single mother of three, works full time in downtown Seattle.

"I have to continue to work to provide for them," Proctor said.

Her co-worker, Kushma Chetty, has two kids and also works full time.

"It is a struggle every day," Chetty said. "It is getting worse and I think sometimes our system is failing us, especially single-parent homes."

When asked about the concerns parents are raising, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said, "We've challenged our school districts to take a leadership role in connecting families who need care with community organizations who supply that care. And I think it is certainly better than the Spring, but it is not without some gaps still." 

RELATED: As more colleges stay online, students demand tuition cuts

When it comes to balancing jobs and school, Jenrow says her family can be flexible for now.

"We just have to cut back on a lot that and hope that things change in January," she said.

RELATED: Tacoma schools provides laptops for students in grades 6-12 ahead of remote learning