- - Tuesday, May 12, 2020

“Not again,” I mumbled to myself as I awoke from the third morning in a row of screaming and fighting. This time, the two cats of the household were growling and hissing at one another as they fought for the small territory just outside my guest room door.

This was the first morning animal fight of the week of the Cohen household, the generous family in Dallas, Texas that let me stay with them. The other mornings, it was typical stubborn and inquisitive children, each incredibly intelligent in their own way, pushing boundaries by arguing over, well, kid things.

There are a lot of things that I don’t understand in this world. Of those things, one is being a parent — another is being a parent during a pandemic that coupled stay-at-home orders, the shutdown of non-essential businesses and the shutdown of schools. I am envious of neither of those burdens, yet have gained a deep respect for the level of energy, intelligence and love that it takes to manage and cope during this time.

The Cohen family consists of two working parents, four children (5,7, 12, and 14), two dogs, two cats, a lizard and a fish. A typical morning would be an uphill battle getting the kids dressed and off to school, while both parents get ready and head off to work, but since stay-at-home orders started two months ago, things got even more stressful. If you’re a parent, you already know all of this, but if you’re me, a late 30s bachelor who collects bourbon and talks for a living, you don’t get it until you experience it.

Parents with just one or two children must have it relatively easy compared to the Cohens, but relatively easy is — well — relative. It’s one thing to have to get up and work for yourself five days a week, but then to have to do that, with children at home, in a contained environment, while those children also have to sit on a computer or work on assignments and need your help, is nearly impossible.

I haven’t even covered what it would be like if either of the Cohens were furloughed or lost their jobs due to their jobs being labeled as “non-essential” by the government. Every night, both parents cook work together to cook what looks like a meal large enough for a small army, because they literally have a small army to cook for. That’s not only not cheap, it’s not easy.

The food and basic supplies they need to keep a reasonable status quo in the household is immense. Their garage looks like they’re hoarding paper products, but that amount is necessary when you have a small busload of people to provide for. I don’t want to know how much money it takes to keep their family afloat, but if you’re a parent of any amount of children, you know.

So where am I going with this and why did I write this piece? Mother’s Day was this week and for a lot of journalists, pundits and government officials who don’t have or forget what it’s like to have raised children — they simply send flowers, a card, or take their mother to lunch if they’re able to with their state’s current regulations — but they don’t truly understand how a normal family functions or how much money and energy it takes to raise children, especially during stay-at-home orders.

While they think it’s a great idea to shut down schools or keep people stuck at home after the curve was flattened for weeks, it just isn’t. There are families less fortunate than the one I got to stay with who don’t know where their next meal is coming from — they don’t even know if they’ll have a job when things re-open. Further, after things re-open, I couldn’t imagine being a single parent, having to work and somehow find childcare (that isn’t even remotely cheap). It’s easy to forget that schools not only provide education for children, but they watch them during the day so that parents can earn a living.

The COVID-19 shutdowns are going to have a much larger impact on the United States than we can even begin to imagine. Some families lost everything immediately — and with some states saying that schools won’t return to normal even in the fall, it will introduce an entire new wave of Americans to levels of poverty and stress that they’ve never encountered before.

Politicians and my fellow unmarried pundits and journalists who have lots to say about keeping everything shut down don’t understand that. The Cohen family does, and so do thousands of other families around the country.

• Tim Young is a political comedian and author of “I Hate Democrats/I Hate Republicans” (Post Hill Press).

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