Confused and frustrated with parenting during Covid? You're not alone.

The collective screams of mothers — including me — were heard around the country this week when the Food and Drug Administration paused action on a Covid-19 vaccine for children under the age of 5. Parents who had hope, many of whom had pinned that hope to the exact date when vaccines would be shipped to doctors’ offices, were abandoned as usual with no safety net.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have consistently shortchanged and minimized the health of children.

At the same time, almost all states are dropping mask requirements for indoors and in schools. So where does that leave millions of parents who thought that the advent of safe and highly effective vaccines would be the beginning of normal? It leaves us feeling punished and isolated and angry — as we should, because we did what they told us to do. We removed our children from in-person learning, wore masks (cute fabric ones at first), avoided holiday celebrations because Tony Fauci said so, declined birthday parties — only to now be told that our concerns are not important because, haven’t you heard? Covid-19 is no big deal in kids.

More than 1,100 children have died from Covid — the equivalent of seven 737 planes falling out of the sky — and all their deaths were likely preventable. But life is back to normal. “Living with Covid-19” is the new theme song of the season, brought to you by B&P (bureaucrats and pundits).

Pfizer delays FDA request for COVID vaccine for children under 5

Feb. 12, 202200:34

Sarcasm aside, since the beginning of the pandemic, we have consistently shortchanged and minimized the health of children. Decisions to keep bars open while shuttering schools, forcing many working women to choose between a paycheck or their children’s education, was just the beginning. It would have been OK if all our employers had collectively said, “It’s OK, we understand that you have a hard time teaching your children full-time while also participating in Zoom meetings with the camera on. We will work with you on a more flexible option.” In reality, even finding time to go to the bathroom required tremendous manipulation and negotiation. The result is an entire nation of women who were more underpaid, overworked, constipated, stinky from not showering and at greater risk of getting urinary tract infections.

Confused and frustrated with parenting during Covid? You're not alone.

Forcing many working women to choose between a paycheck or their children’s education was just the beginning.

The next insult came when vaccines started to trickle out for kids under the age of 12. Hope was within sight! Then omicron reared its ugly head, prompting many experts (who I'm guessing didn’t ever have to put a mask on an angry child with snot dripping down their face in 2 degree weather) to tell us to upgrade our masks to N95s. Good luck finding one anywhere that fits a small child. And when you do, be prepared to pay a hefty price.

Mothers are at a loss. We’re crowdsourcing info on going to other countries like Germany, where younger children can be vaccinated. We’re asking one another what we should do to keep our children safe. Some of us are terrified that our child with an immune condition or a family member with cancer, chronic lung disease or any one of dozens of other conditions will get a call that our child is infected, and be left to the mercy of a health system that is burned out in all directions. Long Covid is real. MIS-C, or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, is real. The anxiety of how to make sure you are not actively screwing up your kids for life is real. Minimizing these fears is not only arrogant and elitist but severs the fragile safety net that most parents have in the United States.

States across US prepare to end mask mandates as COVID-19 cases drop nationwide

Feb. 19, 202202:05

Mothers come through my clinic every day telling me that they’re scared — scared to do everything and nothing. So here is the real advice about what to do when our country, yet again, has let us down: Advocate for your child. Don’t hold back on social activities but make sure the people around your child are vaccinated and boosted — ask and don’t apologize. If you have no choice in the matter, get some masks for your young child to use indoors that are comfortable — even if it’s a fabric one. Something is better than nothing. When you are asking about vaccines, ask the parents in the care group/drop-in/classroom if they will also help advocate to make sure staff is vaccinated. Ensure that there is a way to not allow kids with symptoms (even if it’s yours) into the class or care area. Get two or three of your girlfriends to be your emergency care backup in case you need it. Keep windows in the classroom open where possible or ask about air filters.

These steps, and the dropping numbers of omicron cases, can help your family stay safe. If you have a child with a condition that worries you, talk to your pediatrician so she can help you assess risk and talk to you about additional ways to keep your kids safe. Buy home tests and use them to help you have confidence that you are safe even when you get a sore throat or sniffle.

Meanwhile, it’s OK to sit on the toilet a little longer, run the water and scream. I do.

Dr. Kavita Patel

Dr. Kavita Patel, a primary care physician in Washington, D.C., is an MSNBC columnist and an NBC News/MSNBC contributor. She served in the Obama administration as director of policy for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement in the White House. A Brookings Institution nonresident fellow, she is the former managing director of clinical transformation at Brookings' Center for Health Policy.