Much has been written about the need to acknowledge the pressure and often the exhaustion faced by caregivers of the sick and elderly. But COVID presented us with a new sub-category of caregivers: the moms and dads who wrangled young children and teens through the past semester while having to either go to physical place of work or work from home.
Getting young children, age 4 to 10 to engage in an online class is like herding cats. First, they do not want to do it. Sitting in front of a screen that is not TV or a cool game is just not going to cut it. They are at home and the temptation to get up and do something else is much more inviting. Parents know. They are fighting, cajoling, bribing on a daily basis to get their child to sit down and pay attention often with the outcome being that the parent attends the class as well, losing paid time for paid work at home and in some cases losing their jobs entirely because they cannot physically report to work.
Teenagers bring in the additional dynamic of “attitude.” If you are or have been the parent of a teenager you know exactly what I am saying. Yes, I am sure there are many “perfect” teens. I just don’t know any. Parents that struggle with their teens to awaken them in the mornings in non-COVID time find that instead of making them get dressed and praying they will brush, they have to drag them to sit in front of Zoom. Mom and dad are exhausted before the class even begins. Teens find ways to text their friends endlessly during online class, to play games with their phone or a second computer. Parents are running in and out of rooms checking up on their teenagers. You can imagine how that cements the already fragile relationship parents negotiate with teens. So you stay with them during class. Sitting through Algebra 2 is not stimulating to most kids and more so to most parents, unless you are a rocket scientist.
My major salute goes to a couple who has five teenagers at home and mom is a teacher. They live on a limited income so I have no idea how they were able to hook up six people on individual computers and get through this educational crisis.
And then comes the homework — another battle to be waged online. There are many parents who are not familiar or comfortable with computer programs. Just figuring out how to get online for class and then find the computer-based homework and then turn it in can prove to be a full-time and hair-raising occupation.
An interlude. A GIANT SHOUT OUT TO ALL THE TEACHERS WHO HAVE HAD TO NAVIGATE THIS ACADEMIC NIGHTMARE AND DONE SUCH A REMARKABLE JOB.
As states relax, some prematurely, parents are required to go back to work while wanting to keep their children safely at home. How are they supposed to do that? Where is money for childcare? Not everyone has Grandma living in the back house. Not wanting a stranger to care for your child, especially one that eats up your paycheck, makes no sense. So many parents are opting to forego work and take their chances down the line.
Sadly, this scenario is due to continue despite what our President says, threatens, or orders. States make the decision. Colleges and universities make their decisions. Graduates looking forward to heading off for freshman year will, in many places, be right where they are now, taking courses online or hoping for the medical miracle that will have them packing their bags post the New Year. Their disappointment and anger are not soothed by the necessity of safety. Who will they take that out on? Mom and Dad.
As parents, we did not sign up for this. We knew having kids would bring any number of challenges, but was COVID-19 in anyone’s imagination? You need your chance to vent and whine and maybe figure out how to do less battle with your kids. The link below lists a number of online groups for parents struggling with this juggling act. Or you can start an online or socially-distanced group in your community.
We have heard the phrase again and again, “You are not alone.” You are not alone in coping with the harsh realities of this virus, but you are also not alone in coping with parenting in the times of COVID.