ST. LOUIS — The COVID-19 pandemic has hit everyone in different ways. For parents, there’s the struggle to balance work with child care. For many essential workers, there’s stress, risk and longer hours. For those with loved ones or family members in the hospital, there’s fear and a fight to stay connected.
And for Cherita Washington, there’s all of the above. Washington moved to St. Louis in late 2019 with her 5-year-old daughter, Carmen, to work as an area manager at Amazon’s sortation center in Hazelwood. Less than six months later, she was hit by back-to-back personal crises, and things only got worse as COVID-19 spread. Washington’s story, shared below, is one of grief and anxiety confronted by unexpected strength and support.
What challenges did you face prior to the pandemic? In January, I got the call while at work that my grandmother passed away. I came into work the next day, and my daughter’s dad let me know that he wasn’t feeling too good, so he went to check into the ER. He thought it was just something minor. And while my mother, myself and my daughter were all in Detroit (for my grandmother’s funeral), I got a call a couple of days later that it was actually a lot bigger of a health complication, and that he was going to be in the hospital for a while. That impacted everything. We’re not married anymore, but we’re awesome co-parents. That was like my other half of the rock star parenting team. So everything we split was on me, instantly.
What was your initial reaction? Normally, I’m the person who tries to work through and pretend like nothing’s wrong. So I actually started to come to work more. Daycare was still open, so I was just like, all right, I’m just going to work from home after I get off, and I’m going to come in on my off days. After a couple of weeks of that, some of my teammates sat down with me and were like, “Hey, are you OK? It’s OK to not be OK.” There was one day where they were just like, “Hey, take the rest of the day off and do something fun with your daughter.” I sat for a second before I went to get her and I realized, you know, I finally have an atmosphere where I don’t have to pretend like life isn’t happening.
How did your daughter respond to all of these challenges? I didn’t understand how strong my daughter was until this happened. You know, my grandmother passes — had to tell her why we’re going to Detroit and what a funeral was. And then her dad’s in the hospital — had to explain that. Then the coronavirus pandemic started really becoming reality for us, and the hospital was like, “Hey, no more visitors.” And that was the Sunday before her fifth birthday. So it was explaining a bunch of real adult scenarios to a 5-year-old. And she’s like, “Okay. All right.” She has the most beautiful big brown eyes you’ve ever seen, and she’ll tear up, but it’s just like, “What are we going to do to make right now better?” She was always happy with the right now. So I’m just thankful for that. It was hard to explain to her, but it was so much easier to get through because of her.
Click here for the full interview.
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