This is a brave new world we are living in.
Working from home has become the new normal for a majority of us during the coronavirus crisis. For parents like myself, this requires adjusting to parenting while working. And with the virus spreading every day, it looks like our children may not return to brick and mortar school for the rest of the year.
We could be in this for the long haul, folks.
I’ve got two teens at home, and while they don’t demand the attention of younger children, they still need Mom from time to time. It helps to know that many parents are in the same boat right now.
“No one expected this,” said Leanne Frederick, a mom of three and manager for Robbins Rehabilitation, an Easton-based physical therapy network. “Everyone is feeling it. It’s difficult for working parents.”
Frederick has two girls ages 14 and 13, and a boy aged 7. The kids understand that when she is in the office, they have to find something to do, she said.
“Still, there are times they need my attention, and rightfully so,” she added. “If they need mom for a minute, I’ll be there.”
Frederick rises earlier to start work before the kids wake up and works later in the evening than she normally would, to allow for more flexibility during the daytime. While her workload has slowed a bit due to the coronavirus, she is still busy doing what she can to support Robbins’ patients and staff without going into the office.
“We are taking precautions,” she said. “We try to do what we can via telehealth. It’s an uncertain time for everyone.”
To keep things as healthy and normal as possible at home, Frederick has a tutor work with her son twice a week to keep his education on track. She also makes sure her kids get at least an hour outside every day. She takes her son on long walks to help him burn off some of his 7 year old energy. Exercise helps her maintain her mental and physical health as well. She keeps up with regular online workout classes, and runs outdoors at least three times a week.
Andrea Coyne, marketing and communications manager with Gross McGinley, an Allentown- based law firm, is also trying to keep up with her 4-year-old son Declan’s education while working from home.
“I have been creating mini lesson plans each day,” she said. “I taught him to use a camera this week, and this is now a new learning tool. I plan on teaching him to hand sew as well.”
Coyne’s husband works for Bucks County and is considered essential personnel and cannot work from home. She tries to avoid over using screen time for Declan, but sometimes needs to use it during work calls.
“We break up the day with long “soccer” walks during which we kick a ball back and forth with our 11-year-old dog in tow, who kicks the ball too sometimes,” she said.
As a mom working from home myself, I know that it’s easy to compare yourself with other parents, and feel guilty for not providing the educational time, or hours outside together that other parents might be able to.
Lindsay Woodruff, an art teacher at the Moravian Academy upper school, cautions parents not to be so hard on themselves.
“Everyone go easy on yourselves,” she said. Woodruff is cyber-teaching her students during the mandated social distancing. Her own sons, Sampson, 7, and Elijah, 5, are also being virtually schooled by their Moravian Academy teachers.
“My husband is working from home, too,” Woodruff said. “We tag team. He will make them breakfast while I’m teaching and so on.“
Woodruff and her husband have to get used to a lot of interruptions. In fact, as we were conducting our phone interview for this article, one of her sons needed a bit of attention, something even my teenagers can demand when I am on the phone working.
I’m lucky that my older son will help care for my younger daughter while I work, something Woodruff often sees happening with her students whose parents are also working.
“Collectively we are in a state of trauma,” she said, “I see people supporting each other through it and adding to the collective good. My general mood is that I am in awe of our ability to be there for one another as a community and a school. It’s hard but beautiful. That’s how a community works. We do tend to rise in these moments.”
As for the Mom or Dad guilt we can all feel as we try to balance working at home and parenting, Woodruff advises that sometimes something as simple as taking a quick break to hug your kids is enough.
“It’s the power of pause,” she said. “Take a deep breath. Give the kids a hug. Sometimes connecting with your kids doesn’t look like you expected it would.”