Moms pivot, juggle to balance work and child care in pandemic

Two local moms were among the thousands of parents in the Dayton region who juggled work and parenting young children amidst the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kate Vriner, 38, of Centerville, and Erica Blaire Roby, 38, of Yellow Springs, found that the ability to quickly pivot enabled them to keep working, even as child care fell through or school closed.

Vriner, vice president of Sunbelt Business Advisors of Southwest Ohio, and Roby, an attorney and entrepreneur, both said they are grateful to have the workplace flexibility and resources that enabled them to make it work.

“You have people that are making that $10 to $15 an hour range. They have to make decisions that I don’t have to make,” Vriner said. “I wish there were more options out there for families.”

Vriner and her husband, Mike, have two daughters, Rita, 7, and Evelyn, 5, who attend Incarnation School. Vriner said she can work from home or the office.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Prior to the pandemic the girls were at Holy Angels School, then at home with their parents once everything shut down in March 2020. During the last school year, Evelyn went to Primrose Child Care Center and Rita to Centerville Schools.

“We were very lucky nobody in Evelyn’s class had gotten COVID, so we never had to quarantine her or the family,” Vriner said.

But Centerville did not have full-time in-person classes.

“Finding care for one day a week for your kid can be challenging,” Vriner said. “I was very fortunate that my mom was able to help out one day a week.”

This summer a college student took care of the girls at Vriner’s home, but when school started Vriner switched both girls to Incarnation School, where social distancing and masks are required.

“For us it was because Incarnation never closed last (school) year,” said Vriner. “Yes, there’s a chance that they’re going to have to quarantine at some point, but for our work, even though our jobs are flexible, they’re not that flexible.”

Roby and her husband, Josh Stehr, have one son, Austin Roby Stehr, 3, who goes to Mini University in Fairborn.

Roby works from home and Stehr is in flight school in Texas. Roby relies on her parents, Wendell and Michelle Roby of Dayton, to help out.

“It’s just been a lot of setbacks, trying to be a working mother, trying to be an entrepreneur and having a child at the same time during this pandemic,” said Roby, who founded Blue Smoke Blaire’s Roadside with her dad.

They are doing pop-up restaurant locations now because they are awaiting a smoker and parts for their food truck. In August, Roby won the Food Network’s “BBQ Brawl” and was named Master of ‘Cue.

She said her son’s child care center closed during the pandemic just as she was trying to start the food truck business and doing government contract work at home.

She set up an in-home preschool for Austin during the day, and then when her parents got home from work, she went to their house and worked in their basement while they cared for Austin.

Then it was back home, tuck Austin into bed and continue working into the night.

“Tired is the only thing I know,” said Roby.



In November she got Austin into Mini University, and said the masking and safety protocols there have allowed it to mostly stay open. But not always. A COVID case recently sent everyone into quarantine for 14 days.

“It’s not just the staying home. It’s getting him tested every time we get a school email that says there was a possible exposure. The whole family has to get tested, too,” Roby said.

She said it sometimes feels impossible to manage everything, especially with her husband out of state.

“But we keep going forward because we don’t have a choice,” Roby said.

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See all our stories on the impact of child care challenges on local families, children and businesses:

Child care crisis: Costs, shortage of workers leading to ‘a situation that is untenable’

Mothers pivot, juggle to balance work and child care in pandemic

PHOTOS: Kids persevering in the pandemic while playing, learning

Local child care can cost up to $15,000 for one child

Enrollment dropped for many Preschool Promise providers during pandemic

Child care responsibilities hindered work

Record numbers of women left labor force in 2020

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