Nova Scotia

A problem looms for some business owners eager to reopen. Who will take care of their kids?

Some business owners, especially those with young children, say a lack of child care will force them to delay restarting regular operations or will likely prevent them from taking advantage of opportunities when COVID-19 restrictions lift on Friday.

'It's vital that I be able to access child care,' says Truro store owner Andrea Munroe

Andrea Munroe is the owner of Enchanted Forest, a toy store and children's clothing shop in Truro, N.S. (Submitted by Andrea Munroe)

Friday looms large for businesses the Nova Scotia government ordered closed two and a half months ago to try to limit the spread of COVID-19.

It's the day restaurants, bars, hair salons, barber shops and fitness clubs are allowed to reopen. It's also the day many others who closed their businesses voluntarily, to do their part to keep people home, also plan to open their doors.

But some business owners, especially those with young children, say the return to normal will take longer because of a lack of child care.

"I can't start my business and open up my storefront to customers without it," said Andrea Munroe, owner of Enchanted Forest Natural Parenting, a toy store in Truro, N.S., and the mother of three children, Alden, 11, Ruby, 6, and Ira, 3.

"I'd say it's vital that I be able to access child care."

On Tuesday, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil announced daycares will reopen on June 15, but only at 50 per cent capacity. Day homes can be at 100 per cent capacity.

Further complicating things is that many summer programs for school-aged children have either been cancelled or postponed.

'It's a little frustrating'

Pascal Atkin is in a similar situation to Munroe. She started a consulting business last July, providing companies and groups with onsite stress management and burnout workshops.

Although the pandemic forced the cancellation of work scheduled for March and April, Atkins expects her expertise to be in high demand as a result of the pandemic.

The trouble is the mother of three is a single parent and without someone to look after her children, Denver, 10, Sierra, 7, and Silas, 3, she won't be able to capitalize on the opportunity.

"It is a little frustrating," she said. "It is very confusing. I also am sympathetic to the fact that I'm not the only one. We're are all confused and frustrated right now."

The Nova Scotia government was working to lift the restrictions on daycare operators and other child-minding services by June 8, but Nova Scotia Chief Medical Officer of Health Robert Strang had said the plan put forward by the province was not detailed enough.

He told reporters Friday the plan needed to provide operators with enough information "to open a daycare in an appropriately safe manner."

Juggling for a bit

Atkin is reaching out to friends with children to try to find a way to barter and share child-minding time.

"We're kind of teaming up and talking about ways that we can support each other," she said. "'On my days off, I'll watch your kids. On your days off, you can watch my kids.' We're just kind of trying to juggle back and forth until things go back to normal, whatever that looks like."

Andrea Munroe is going to continue to juggle her family obligations and the online business she put together during the pandemic to try to keep her store afloat.

"I can continue with this, sort of, status quo business as unusual," she said. "Working evenings and weekends and doing deliveries. But for actually having customers come into my store and having set hours, I definitely need child care because my husband works full time, as well."

Women in the workforce

Like Atkin, Munroe feels fortunate she has been getting help from friends and others in the community to keep her business going while she looks after her children.

Both women worry about others, struggling alone or in more dire circumstances.

"The implications of women being edged out of the workplace are huge, especially low income mothers. I'm thinking a lot of low income single mothers at this time," said Atkin. "They're all going to lose their jobs.

"There hasn't been enough recognition for the struggle that women and single parents are facing right now with reopening businesses. I think the current government really does need to recognize the struggle and [provide] support, in some way."