Pandemic, Covid-19, Coronavirus, Jobs, Careers, Gender

Pandemic, Covid-19

Mothers Share What Happens To Working Parents When The Schools Are Shut Down

Here is how some mothers are managing their jobs and taking care of their young children during the forced school shutdowns.

11/28/2020 2:58:00 PM

Here is how some mothers are managing their jobs and taking care of their young children during the forced school shutdowns:

Here is how some mothers are managing their jobs and taking care of their young children during the forced school shutdowns.

“During the spring shutdown, I had to slow my business down to be with my 5-year-old, while my husband worked from home. He is the breadwinner with benefits. However, I was in the process of writing a book that could help my business. It was hard for me to ask him for help and he was concerned about keeping his job—lots of anxiety, plus some jealousy.” Brandstetter added, “I was jealous that my husband got to work and [anxious about] trying to do everything, including enduring my daughter, keeping up the house, [cooking] healthy food, plus writing my book, planning zoom events for my in-person events and keeping clients happy.”

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Rachel Forester Duran—Head of Global Talent Brand, Texas “I’ve worked from home and my husband has been a stay-at-home-dad for a few years now. So, I think a lot of people assumed it would be normal for us. We did too, at first. But it’s not. I can’t focus well on projects because the kids often need help with technology, lunch or random minor injuries—usually at the same time. Normally, that would happen at school with teachers.” Duran said, “Everyone being home all day means lots more dishes and clutter around the house. The kids are bored and they’re craving more creative outlets and activities. It’s certainly much harder, and I say that knowing we had an easier transition than most.”

Amanda Cole—Vice President, Florida “My two sons were [in pre-k and kindergarten] during the spring shutdown. As a single mom running a global HR tech company from home, it was a huge adjustment, which took a virtual village via Zoom, a lot of weekend prep and many late nights.” Cole online purchased locks for her refrigerator and pantry because the kids were wreaking havoc in the kitchen every time she would jump on a call. “It's like they had a sixth sense of when I couldn't excuse myself from an important sales meeting or webinar—where I was presenting—to pour an entire box of cereal on the counter, while attempting to do it themselves. I learned to make [morning and afternoon] snack bags every Sunday for the entire week, plus schedule a lunch into my day. When the pantry lock I ordered didn't fit and I had to reorder, I walked into the living room one afternoon to find an entire jar of peanuts was used for a battle of sorts.”

Cole improvised by implementing impressive systems. “The weekend was my time to catch up on sleep. I'd put the house alarm on instant, so if the kids tried to open a door, the siren would wake me. I had a red hat I would wear for"Don't Bother Mommy" calls because my headset was always on and they didn't know when they could speak to me, sit in my lap or call across the room for help with their own laptops. When the newness of the hat method wore off, I began to pay a quarter for every meeting I went undisturbed. The ‘new norm’ at home and in business required a lot of creativity. It's not like the kids or my team needed to see me melt down, so I just kept inventing new ways to cope with what the pandemic threw at me.”

Kara Heath—Managing Director, Texas“Everything became more difficult to manage for us. My husband has been staying home the past year, while I work. With younger kids, you literally almost have to sit beside them and implement everything as a teacher and teaching assistant the entire school day. With our middle schooler, it was much easier, but he was literally sitting in front of the computer going from class to class virtually and it became isolating for them. It was not a positive situation for us or our kids. The kids become frustrated, the lack of outside-the-home socialization becomes mentally taxing and they miss school desperately.”

Jessica Miller-Merrell—Chief Innovation Officer, Texas  “We opted to enroll our kid in a virtual-only school—moving outside of our school district—because we wanted a school that knew how to do this online schooling with teachers who were comfortable with it. It’s a commitment, but, luckily, we have been able to tag team. My husband works from home and I run two businesses—with one of them growing very quickly. 

We’ve set up a Google Drive for our family and have our own Slack channel to answer questions quickly. I’m in the office three times a week. My daughter comes with me one day a week to switch things up. It’s been a transition for her to learn how to be responsible with her time. She is really thriving with virtual school, but it is an investment of one to two hours between me and my partner.”

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Robyn Siminske—Resident Services Director, New JerseySiminske, a senior-level health professional with a son in high school, said that the educational experience has been terrible and negligent “on the behalf of the schools.” She wonders if the “unions and teachers want the schools closed, as they seem to care more about themselves than the students.” Siminske adds, “Parents in our community came up with a number of plans and suggestions to make it safe for children to attend classes in person, but they were all denied by the district school superintendent.”

“It's awful. It's worse than any virus. My son, like many kids, has some challenges with learning. He’s home all day long by himself. He logs onto the computer in bed at about 7:30 a.m. and stays on until the early evening. His eyes are red and he gets headaches. I don’t think that people really know what's going on with these children. It seems obvious that the teachers and administrators only want the schools to remain closed, despite complaints from the parents and students.

When the school had a blended schedule, it was only two half days in the classroom. When they went into the classroom, the teacher was terrified. His teacher didn’t want the kids to approach her. She didn’t allow the students to talk with one another. The students ended up hating going into the classroom. Then, the administrators used this to show that online classes were preferred. It's not that they like or want only online classes—it's that the teacher made their lives miserable. The whole thing makes it feel as if they are trying to keep the schools shut down. I worry that my son and thousands of other children will fall behind academically and socially. The kids have all become very apathetic in the district. [School has been closed] down through January with no extracurricular activities, so things will get worse. We have tried working with the district and getting involved, but keep getting denied. I fear that many young people will feel alone, isolated and develop mental health issues. My concern is suicide and addiction are up—and being alone and socially isolated all day contributes to this.”

A couple of respondents wanted to remain anonymous.A mother living in the research triangle of North Carolina shared, “My daughter is a first grader enrolled in the public schools. Our schools announced early that they would not be reopening for the semester (and have no plans to open next). I got together with five other families and hired a first grade teacher. We outfitted an apartment to simulate a classroom, created an LLC and, essentially, started a pandemic school.

We have a full-time teacher in the classroom, a “teacher coach” that we hired for a small fee to help the teacher with any issues or lesson plans and each family volunteers one hour a week in the classroom to give the teacher a break, since we don’t have specials.

There is a Facebook group for pandemic pods with thousands of members. Pandemic pods can look different—some are parent led, some are part time and some are just social groups for kids doing virtual school. Our pod completely opted out of the virtual public school option and we are doing our own school curriculum.

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It’s been amazing. We did virtual school. I homeschooled in the spring and I was drowning and my extroverted daughter wasn’t flourishing. The kids all wear masks and the families are committed to not taking risks. My daughter loves school. And at the end of the day, that was the goal. She looks forward to going to class. We bought a curriculum for the kids to use. Because there are just six kids, it’s been very individualized. It’s also been much cheaper than private school.”

To bring levity to the situation, unnamed respondent “A.C.” wrote, “I have started drinking. I swear, I'm going to fail second grade. And by the way, this is the first time ever that an art teacher likes my work.” Read more: Forbes »

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