Let’s rewind the clock and go back to March for a minute. My kids came home for spring break from school. The day before our planned cruise had been canceled. We had no idea at that point what was to come. When spring break came to an end and toilet paper began to disappear from shelves we were told it would be 10 days of learning at home. Then we were told it would be a month. Then we were told we would not be coming back at all for the rest of the year. The next few months were chaos. Stay at home orders and navigating school without really a map. Oh how I looked forward to summer. I didn’t know what summer was going to look like but I knew I needed a break.
There would be no summer camps. There would be no play dates with friends or at least not that many. There would be no trips back to the lake as we usually do in the summer. We made the best out of it and swam a lot! I still did themed days with the kids because it’s their favorite but early on in the summer I did wonder what school was going to look like in the fall.
When it was time to choose we were given two options. Commit to 18 weeks of e-learning or return to in person. 18 weeks seem to be a pretty insurmountable number but I just wasn’t comfortable sending them back to in person. So we charged ahead and signed up for e-learning.
For six weeks I never sat. I actually never sit now but that’s another story. I was back-and-forth between both sides of the house. We had set up one child up in our dining room with a classroom and one child up in our guestroom with their own learning space. Back-and-forth I went always looking at the clock to see who is supposed to be doing what when. There is only a half hour of overlap where they were both not doing something and that was the time for lunch. 10:30 every day I needed to make sure that they could eat and then the afternoon would again be chaos. I’ve never been one to believe in zombies but I was one. I was like a walking zombie.
When you are an e-learning mom your schedule is not your own. Your thoughts are not your own. I venture to say your life isn’t even your own anymore. You are full in if you’re an e-learning mom. Your house will fall by the wayside and so will your appearance. There are some days when I was still in my pajamas in the afternoon. There were some days when I didn’t shower until 6 PM. Do you want your usual dinner well you’ve come to the wrong place because I didn’t have time to cook it or shop for the ingredients for it. I wrestled with exhaustion and guilt. Am I enough for this? Have a made the right choice? Am I failing?
My son seem to jump into e-learning with both feet. Besides some technical difficulties and learning how to use PowerPoint for the first few weeks he was mostly thriving. My daughter however was not. She loves school very much but it does not always come easy for her. She has challenges but she also has drive. Despite being assigned to one of the best teachers we’ve ever had the privilege of having (and another teacher who does not fall into that category) she was not doing well. There were tears. There was misery. E-learning was not meant for this little girl. I struggled and so did my husband with what to do.
The answer was clear that she had to go back to in person. What was that going to do to our already unbalanced dynamic? I was barely holding it together as it was and to add this new change well I wasn’t sure if I could. I had a long talk with her about it and her gut told her she needed to return to school. The opportunity arose for her to return to in person learning with her current amazing teacher and even though we only had a week’s notice that this would be an option we jumped at it. But what would this do to our already unsteady dynamic?
Before I answer that question let’s talk judgement. When this process began everyone had opinions, opinions I never asked for in most cases. I was a bad parent not to send my kids to school. They need to socialize. You are not a teacher. Don’t you want a life of your own? Aren’t you worried they will fall behind? They percentage sending back and e-learning was 50/50 at our school. I was divided into a camp without my consent. The quirky helicopter mom camp. Many just didn’t understand me and made it known.
When we sent our daughter back but not our son I was grouped into a smaller percentage. I believe this group is called “you crazy lady”. Why not send him back now? She’s going!! The first reason is that I can’t. There is not currently no room in his grade for any more in person learners until another teacher returns. The second is he has grown to love his teachers and he doesn’t want to return to any other teachers at the moment. a recent saw an acquaintance while walking with him during the day. They asked where my daughter was and then when I explained the situation I was met with “that’s an interesting choice. Are you sure he’s not lonely?”
A family member had the opposite view and informed me they would “pray for my daughter” because they felt she would get sick going back to school. They asked if it was fair to my son to subject him to her possible contamination. Nothing heavy to bring down on me or anything.
So yes I currently have 1 foot in and 1 foot out of the school building. I now wake up at dawn. I am dressed and ready by 5:30. I pack my daughter’s lunch while making her breakfast, put on clothes presentable enough for the bus stop and then I wake her at 6 and we are together for an hour while my son sleeps. I walk her to the school bus with her mask on reminding her to wash her hands and use sanitizer and to not let her mask slip. ￼I then return home and make the second breakfast of the day for my son and wake him. I am still the mom who is on call for whatever he needs while he is e-learning. I will say that I shower a little earlier now with only one kid to monitor and it’s a little easier to do all the work that is my responsibility within the house and my job with only one kid to help during the day.￼￼
I still watch the clock although not as much because he is very responsible to get himself to his meetings. I also watch the clock to make sure I’m there when the school bus arrives back home. He finishes his work about the time with the bus arrives and then I start all over again with hers, her homework. If you’re keeping track that means my school day starts at about 5 AM when I get up and doesn’t end until about 4 PM when she’s done with her homework. I’m pretty sure this is the longest school day on record. So why did I choose to do this?￼￼
Here’s the answer in a nutshell. If we want our kids to trust their instincts then we have to trust them too. Her instinct was that she belonged in school learning in with a teacher. She knew that she needed that in person experience. It turns out she was absolutely right! Not only is she happier than I’ve seen in weeks but her desire to learn has only grown. Her confidence is also growing. She knew what she needed and we listened. As for my son he’ll return but it may not be until January-but he will. When he does I know he will be returning to two wonderful teachers who have creatively done the best possible job teaching him so far this year. They have managed to form a relationship with him over the computer and they have managed to guide him and guide him well over the last few weeks. He trusts them and so do I to do the best possible job this year educating him.￼￼￼￼
The schedule certainly is not for everyone nor is our decision. I think part of the reason I am sharing this is to talk to the moms who have gone on their own path. The moms who have listened to their hearts and their kids to formulate a new learning experience this year. We know that each one of our kids learn in a different way and maybe one plan doesn’t work for all of them. It may not be a one size fits all situation. I am frazzled! I am being completely honest about that! I miss my me time! But one thing I know I will look back on is that I was here for them in the way they needed me to be. There will be time for me time another time.
Some of us are silently judging our friends decisions. Maybe they’re not even our friends maybe they’re just people that we know. What I say out loud to all that read this is that there are no right or wrong decisions right now. maybe we will try some thing out it won’t work! Maybe we will try some thing out and it absolutely will! What we need to do is support each other more than ever right now! No one needs judgment or maybe even the two cents that you wanna share without being asked for it. there is an easy sentence that every mother needs to hear. “I know you gave this a lot of thought and are doing what you think is best.”
So I hope now that you’ve had a window into what it is to be divided as a parent that you will not be divided as a friend. Call your friends both educating at home and sending to school and see how they are. Have a driveway drink with them. Set up a happy hour zoom call.
LISTEN!! They just need you to listen. And you mama need to be listened to as well. You need to get things off your chest. You need to say what’s going on in your head. You need to lighten your load by doing so. We will get through this but we need to get through this openly and with the support of our people! I’m sending big hugs to each and every mom drinking her coffee and gathering her courage. You are my people and I am so thankful for each of you!￼