Struggle, Adjust, Balance: Parenting in the Pandemic

-by Trina Pruitt, Parent and Go Public Contributor

We are all in this together. 

These words ring true, and they will be remembered as our Covid-19-era mantra.  Thankfully we are able to share our daily struggles on social media and see that just like ourselves, everyone else is figuring this out as they go.  Everyone is adjusting to kids being home all day, every day.  We are all balancing our time trying to manage a household and work remotely while also keeping up with our children’s online classes, distance-learning schedules, turning in their schoolwork on time, joining class Zoom meetings, scheduling virtual playdates, planning outdoor physical activities, and constantly cleaning up after them. It is nonstop, from morning to night.  And I didn’t even mention the snacks.  SO. MANY. SNACKS.

My friends and fellow parents seem to have faced similar hurdles while transitioning into this new at-home life.  We thought at first it might be a nice change, and we welcomed the extra time to spend with our children.  Then the distance learning started, and we not only had our own jobs and deadlines to manage but we also had our children’s online classes to supervise.  I was not the only one who thought I had a solid plan.  We had daily schedules and organized workspaces set up for us and our kids.  We stocked up on school supplies, crafting materials, and healthy, convenient foods.  In our minds, it was all going to run so smoothly.

Here is how its REALLY going.  Some days we sleep until 9:30 am.  Some days we wear PJs until noon.  Sometimes we follow the teacher’s lesson plans; sometimes we don’t.  Sometimes my 7-year-old interrupts meetings, and sometimes it is embarrassing.   At times we sit in my bed, side-by-side on laptops, learning and working and clicking away in silence.  There are days I cannot find the energy to be creative or inspiring.  There are days we are guilty of too much screen time. There are SpaghettiOs days.

And that is ok.  We aren’t doing things according to our plan.  But what we are doing is working for us, at least for now. We are turning schoolwork in and learning together.  We are playing outside and enjoying blowup pools, sprinklers, gardening, and fireflies.  We finally had time to teach my little one to ride her bike.  We made a cooking video, and she learned to make chicken soup.  We drew colorful chalk art with happy messages at the end of every driveway on our street.  We sent homemade cards to grandparents and friends.

I am so thankful for these little things.  I am very aware that we are fortunate during this time.  I have a job.  My oldest daughter is in high school and doesn’t need my constant assistance with her online classes, schoolwork or daily responsibilities.  My youngest is in first grade, so I can actually understand her math lessons.  There are so many parents that are struggling with many more serious obstacles. And there are tons of examples of resources in our public schools to support our children’s’ mental health, but tools for parents’ mental health are harder to find.  The most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone.  It is suggested that we make time to take care of ourselves as caregivers. Lean on others for support, and show ourselves compassion.  I gravitate toward online support groups because I can ask questions freely and see how others are coping.  This Facebook group, Coronavirus Parents, is described as “a group for parents, by parents, who are committed to supporting each other through the coronavirus pandemic”, and this Facebook parents group is a support system for parents of children with special needs.  Social media groups like these help to remind us that there are thousands of other parents that also need answers, advice, suggestions, and laughter.

There are also resources like TEA Covid-19 Mental Health Services with links to useful materials, as well as informative blogs like Stuck at Home from U.S. News that provides suggestions for dealing with spouses and teenagers while maintaining sanity.

Some helpful strategies for parents’ self-care during this time (TexasStateofMind.org) :

  • Limit exposure to news and social media.
  • Make time for activities you enjoy.
  • Eat regular healthy meals.
  • Make time to exercise.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Connect with others- via video, call, or text. 

Playing and learning about time
PRO TIP: switch up the colors so you don’t have to draw a thousand clocks

  • Yoga and practicing time – she’s 3:45

  • Cooking and knife skills – all fingers intact!

  • Art appreciation in PJs and blankets, and shocked that this Van Gogh has been printed in two books.

I love this quote from a letter to parents from Superintendent Dr. Brian Woods of Northside ISD, “We completely understand that most of you did not go to school to become a teacher. You are not expected to become one now. But I do want to remind you of the resources we have for you as you work with your children to continue their learning and stay connected to the teachers, campus staff, and classmates who miss seeing them dearly.”  It is a reminder that educators don’t expect you to do what they do during the normal school year- so don’t set your goals that high.  Stay up to date with your school and district websites, keep in communication with your children’s teachers, and do your best with the time, tools, and energy that you have.  

We (and our children) will come out of this fine, maybe even better than before in some ways.  Everyone is feeling the same these days- same worries, same self-doubts, same hopes.  Connect with people and share your questions, your fears, and your successes.  We truly are all in this together. One day, one Zoom, one snack at a time.

3D shape activity inspired by her teacher, followed by marshmallow snack reward.

Online classes distance learning parenting in the pandemic virtual teaching