Dear Parents, Caregivers, Stepmoms, Stepdads, Grandmas, Grandpas, and Every Single Person Who Has a Hand in Raising a Child in 2020,
Today is the first day of virtual, online, not-in-person, at-home, electronic, whatever you want to call it, school for my fifth grader. Yes, parents across the country are now clumsily working their way through the finite details of where and how to log in to their kids’ online schools. And quite frankly, I’m exhausted. Are you?
I have to admit, the education community came together fairly quickly to create a decent facsimile of a typical school day. Is it perfect? No. Is it easy? Again, no. Is it simple for a working, time–stretched parent? Of course not! (And oh my goodness, what if you have multiple children? Bless you if you do!)
On top of that, how do you deal with the despair, the guilt, the anxiety-inducing 7 p.m. emails with one more piece of instruction from the principal? (Gasp!) And don’t forget, you have your own set of deadlines and expectations from your job or life in general.
But it’s the best we’ve got right now, and guess what: We’re going to make it work!
We’re adjusting to the “new normal.”
Annoyed at that phrase yet? Sorry.
Everyone’s world was turned upside down in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic started rolling across the world. For many parents, there wasn’t a choice in child care. Kids stayed home while you worked from home, if you were lucky.
If you were working at a place where that wasn’t possible, you shielded your kids with masks and hand sanitizer and asked intrusive yet necessary questions of your daycare provider. (“Are you absolutely sure the counters are cleaned every two to four hours?”) Just like always, you did your best.
And that was just to get through the summer.
Since then, I’ve watched my co-workers balance their kids on their knees during video calls. I’ve heard the timid voices come through my laptop while discussing an urgent email. (“Mommy, can I have some juice?”) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to look at multiple video game screens to respond with, “Oh, yes, that is soooo COOL!” before smoothly returning to my boss’s conversation.
I’ve seen children playing in the background while mom or dad made a decision between option A or option B of a webpage design. I’ve also read about how many caregivers were forced to choose between being a parent or having a job. Reportedly, ultimatums came down from some companies to their workers that they must silence and ban their children from calls at all costs because it is “not professional.” Thankfully, though, this has not occurred in my workplace!
Must we redefine professionalism?
Aside from the fact that some companies actually thought this was something they should do, I have to ask … unprofessional? Really? What is unprofessional about a mom, dad, grandparent, or stepparent balancing their work with taking care of a child?
Is it because caregivers have the ability to fluctuate between breaking up fights, cooking grilled cheese sandwiches, and giving forecasts and eloquent explanations of strategic business decisions? Is it because these amazing parents are able to mute their calls at the right time, still listen while tying a tiny shoe and giving a kiss, and return with an answer as if there was no distraction at all?
I say, let’s give it up for the caregivers, parents, and people taking care of our little futures — and working at the same time! Let’s also give it up for the companies and organizations who are human enough to understand the plight of the working parent. It’s never been easy. And now, as I sit across from my 10-year-old attempting to understand beginning algebra, I realize it may be downright impossible.
But that’s what we do. We do the impossible.
Parents, we are united this year. So, here’s to being human, to being clumsy and confused, and to feeling lost. We are all in this chaos together.
Let’s not forget those little voices coming through our conference calls. Those little voices are our future. Our kids may not realize that when mommy works from the dining room table every day, it’s stressful. They only see mommy making an impossible situation as fun as it can be.
So, are we having fun yet?
Need some parental inspiration?
You’re not alone in this struggle (not at all!). Want to find out how one working mother led a revolution in the health and wellness industry? Kathy Coover may be the co-founder and executive vice president of Isagenix, but she’s also a loving, motivated mom. She raised her son, Erik, while running a company that shaped the way we live. Read her book, “Resilient: Lessons Learned, Lives Changed,” to get some inspiration that you can bring into your own life.