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New report unveils pandemic’s impact on parent confidence, fears and expectations

March 22, 2021

KinderCare’s 2021 Parent Confidence Report conducted by The Harris Poll shows parents are concerned about pandemic’s long-term effects on children’s academic and social development

Over half of parents say ‘Pandemic Parenting’ has been the most stressful time of their lives

Portland, Ore. (March 22, 2021) – As the world crosses the one-year anniversary mark of COVID-19, one group of individuals acutely feels the stresses and unexpected joys of pandemic life: parents. In the 2021 Parent Confidence Report, conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of KinderCare Education®, parents confirm that “pandemic parenting” is relentless, isolating and is the most stressful time of their lives. Parents, especially working parents, are issuing a collective cry for help and looking to their employers and government for support. Yet despite it all, parents say the last year has brought them closer together as a family.

“The pandemic has brought a unique set of challenges for parents, and many have been constantly balancing concerns for their child’s health and wellbeing with the need to work and provide for their family,” said Tom Wyatt, CEO of KinderCare Education. “Our 2021 Parent Confidence Report tells us parents need quality child care now more than ever and highlights clear opportunities for employers and the government to step up to support them when they need it most.”

Balancing Health and Safety with Long-Term Educational & Emotional Impact
Simply put, parents are concerned about the long-term educational and mental health impacts the pandemic will have on their children. While parents are primarily concerned about their family members contracting COVID-19, almost two thirds of parents (61 percent) constantly struggle with the choice of isolating their child for the sake of their physical health or risking illness in order to encourage their child’s social-emotional development. Seven out of 10 parents (71 percent) with school-age children are worried about learning loss and the long-term educational impacts the pandemic may have. Two thirds of parents (67 percent) worry that the pandemic will have a long-term impact on their child’s mental health.

Work-Life Balance Takes on New Meaning, Especially for Working Moms
For working parents, the boundaries between home and work have blurred as they’ve navigating pandemic parenting. Parent-child time continues to be interrupted by work, with nearly half of working parents (46 percent) say they rarely have quality time with my child that is uninterrupted by work.

Work time also continues to be interrupted by children. Pre-pandemic, parents estimated their children interrupted roughly 9.5 hours of their work week. By November 2020 that number increased to 13 hours, nearly two whole working days. Parents are concerned about the long-term impact that pandemic parenting will have on their careers, with nearly half (46 percent) feeling that their career growth will be on hold as they navigate child care needs. In addition, almost half of working dads (47 percent) believe they will be overlooked for promotions because their child is at home and is interrupting work.

For working mothers, these challenges are exacerbated. As economic reports have shown, working mothers are leaving the workplace at staggering rates. The Parent Confidence Report shows that one in five working mothers are worried that they will have to quit their jobs in the next six months to take care of their children. More than one in five of working moms (22 percent) are dissatisfied with their work-life balance, compared to one in eight working dads (12 percent).

Working Parents Expect More from Employers
While many employers have stepped up to support their employees during these unprecedented times, the report shows there is more to be done. A majority of parents (76 percent) say being confident in child care allows them to excel at work, yet nearly four of 10 parents (38 percent) give their employers’ child support policy a C- grade or lower. This is especially true for working mothers with almost half (47 percent) giving their employers’ child care policies a C- grade or below compared to 29 percent of working fathers. Nearly 6 in 10 (59 percent) of working dads say they would “take a pay cut to work for an organization/company that provided quality child care.” And one in four parents are not aware of their employer offering any child care benefits, let alone increasing those benefits as a result of the unique challenges they face while parenting during a pandemic.

At the end of the day, both working moms and dads agree: their employers can do more. Nearly half of parents say their employer doesn't understand the needs of parents today during COVID-19, and six out of 10 parents (62 percent) believe employers or government should offset the cost of child care.

Parents Find the Silver Linings
For all the challenges pandemic life brings, it has also brought small wins for many families. According the data, parents report that they are learning to appreciate the smaller things in life and have developed stronger relationships with their children and have become closer as a family due to the pandemic. Even amidst all these challenges, the majority of parents are still feeling confident in their parenting skills, showing incredible resiliency.

Full results from KinderCare Learning Centers’ Parent Confidence Report are available here.


About the Parent Confidence Report 2021
Before the pandemic lockdown, KinderCare asked over 2,260 US parents with children ages 12 and under about their parenting confidence, work-life balance, and satisfaction with employers between January 30, 2020 to February 15, 2020 through an online survey conducted by The Harris Poll. Last fall, KinderCare and The Harris Poll surveyed 1,004 US parents with children ages 12 and under to see how the pandemic has impacted them.

About KinderCare Education®
KinderCare Education is America’s largest private provider of early childhood and school-age education and child care. KinderCare supports hardworking families in 40 states and the District of Columbia:

  • In neighborhoods, with KinderCare® Learning Centers that offer early childhood education and child care for children six weeks to 12 years old;
  • At work, through KinderCare Education at Work™, providing customized family benefits for employers across the country, including on-site and near-site early learning centers and back-up care for last-minute child care, and
  • In local schools, with Champions® before and after-school programs.

Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, KinderCare operates more than 1,500 early learning centers. In 2021, KinderCare earned its fifth Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award – one of only four companies worldwide to win this award for five consecutive years. To learn more, visit KinderCare Education.  

To learn more visit us online at KinderCare, on Facebook or on Instagram. For resources, information, and activity ideas for parents and teachers of young children please visit