Erin Echternach is back at the office now… her 14-month old son, Aiden is once again attending his much-loved family child care program. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
“It felt like living in the twilight zone — very bizarre,” she said.

Echternach, an Assistant Director at an economic development agency in Bemidji, MN, worked from home for 9 weeks due because of COVID-19. She and her husband withdrew Aiden from child care by choice after she had been home for two weeks.

During that time, their child care provider, in an effort to keep herself, her home and the children in her care safe, made the choice to ONLY care for the families already in her care whose parents were deemed essential workers.

The Echternachs continued to pay for child care, even though Aiden wasn’t attending.

We didn’t want to disrupt our provider’s income,” she said. “Especially since she had applied for grants, but was not selected to receive any. Also, we did not want to risk not having a child care slot to go back to after the stay-at-home order was lifted.”

Echternach recalls how EXHAUSTING it was for those 9 weeks.

“Somehow, I had to figure out how to work full time, chase around a 14-month old and keep it together for our family,” she said. “This included getting essential products from the store WHILE taking precautions and cleaning everything we brought into the house from ‘the outside,’ all the while being separated from any other support from grandparents and friends due to the stay-at-home order.”

Echternach called it was a work in progress and said they learned as they went. She said her son is very easy going and seemed to take the sudden change in stride.

“We tried to stick with a similar routine to what daycare did and he was golden,” she said. “We were able to Facetime with our provider and the kids at least once a week during our stay at home so that helped a lot.”

Echternach knows the pandemic has been hard on so many and feels fortunate that it was mostly just added stress to her family as they were forced to adjust and accommodate.

Although there have been few confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Bemidji area as compared to other counties, Echternach says she may still take may still take precautions for her family by choosing to keep Aiden home from child care if it becomes a health hazard to venture out of the house. As a mom, she admits she was a little worried about sending Aiden back to child care when she finally returned to the office.

“We had been living in a bubble for weeks,” she said. But Echternach knows Aiden’s child care provider is taking extra precautions to keep everyone safe. Things like one parent at a time at the door, hand sanitizer upon entry and exit, and keeping backpacks, diapers, etc. at the house to limit transporting them back and forth.

“Aiden transitioned very well back into daycare and the regular routine,” she said. “He missed his friends and missed his daycare provider, for sure. It was nice to be able to have him back in that environment. It makes him very happy.”

Echternach says it is imperative to have high-quality, affordable and reliable child care in order for both her and my husband to work and be productive community members.

“We’re very lucky to have found someone we trust to care for our little boy during the week,” she said. “We count our lucky stars often because we understand that this is not a reality with the scarcity of child care, especially infant care in our area/state/nation.”