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Overtime: How Sherry Pratt Filled A Need For Affordable Child Care After Struggling To Find It For Her Own Family

Sherry Pratt

For NHPR’s series Overtime, we’ve been following six women to see how they’re doing with the struggles brought on by the pandemic and all the additional labor they have been forced to take on.

Sherry Pratt lives in Belmont. The first time we talked with her we learned she was facing several barriers in her search for employment, after losing her job in print and marketing right before the pandemic hit.

As she was searching for jobs from home, she was also balancing taking care of her youngest daughter Mya and her granddaughter Bailey. NHPR’s Morning Edition host Rick Ganley called Pratt to check in and see how she was doing. Below is a transcript of their conversation.

Rick Ganley: Back to school season is starting, and I know your daughter Mya attends a special needs school most of the year. And last week you experienced what I think a lot of parents are probably worried about. Mya's school had to close for a week because of rising COVID cases. Can you tell me what it was like to get that notice?

Sherry Pratt: It was gut wrenching. It brought back all the old emotions from the last, you know, year and a half when I was having to remote teach her. But, you know, I understand why it had to happen. It was unfortunate that it had to happen. And we were able to help Mya adjust as best as possible. We just kept things fun and light and made it through.

Rick Ganley: So what was her reaction?

Sherry Pratt: She was a little out of routine, you know, a lot out of routine. And the first couple of mornings she would wake up and ask for all of her teachers. She would just run down the list, and we would just let her know that she would see them next week and we were on vacation. A lot of repetitive conversations, but she's back at school this week and happy.

Rick Ganley: Good to hear. But, you know, it may happen again. Do you feel prepared for the next time the school might have to close down for COVID?

Sherry Pratt: Personally, yes. I mean, we've put ourselves in a situation right now where we can sort of roll with the punches a little better. I'm not sure if I would be able to remote teach her effectively, because I have a little bit more of a noisy home right now with a couple of littles that I'm watching. But, you know, if it has to happen, I suppose we're okay.

Rick Ganley: You know, tell me a little bit more about having those little ones around. After you lost your job last year, you refocused your entire career to be at home full time, and now you've made that happen. I know you're taking care of other children. How did that come about?

Sherry Pratt: Out of necessity. I was unable to find or afford one-on-one care for my daughter, Mya, who needs a specialized care provider. So I wasn't able to get a full time job. You know, in trying to pivot myself, I just put myself where there was a need. I love babies. I love kids. And I just put the word out on social media that I was willing to take a couple kiddos into my home and the universe provided.

Rick Ganley: Does that offer you the income that you need?

Sherry Pratt: It does not offer me the income that I used to have, but we can make some adjustments and make it work.

Rick Ganley: So last year during the pandemic, Sherry, the state was offering additional unemployment benefits. You were able to collect unemployment while Mya was doing school remotely. Now that those benefits have ended, how has that affected you?

Sherry Pratt: I have to say, I feel like our government here in the state has left parents like myself a little high and dry, because I still had not been able to find employment along my goals and career. And I just think a lot of families are in the same boat. And it's scary that others may not have been able to pivot like I was able to.

Rick Ganley: With opening your home to some services for other children, I know one of the reasons you wanted to do that was to help with families who maybe couldn't afford care. How is that going and how do you make that work?

Sherry Pratt: Honestly, it's going wonderfully. The families that I found are a fantastic fit with my family in our home, and we're becoming like families ourselves. I love having the littles scampering around the house. I'm a semi empty nester. My 21-year-old daughter hasn't lived at home for a while, and my 19-year-old son just moved out a couple of weekends ago. So it's nice having those noises back in the house.

Rick Ganley: But it's still a lot to juggle, isn't it? I mean, you know, you're providing care for Mya, obviously, for these other families. You've had to make some big decisions around your career and what that means going forward. Do you feel like you've had adequate support?

Sherry Pratt: No, not at all. I feel like the state should be providing, whether it's additional financial assistance like the federal government had in place, there should be additional training services or guidance. And I still have a little bit of that emotional heartbreak over losing my career and what that means for me, being 48-years-old, probably never being able to go back to it at this point. You know, and I still mourn that a little bit every day.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
Mary McIntyre is a senior producer at NHPR.
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