The Evening Before
It was a warm Wednesday evening and I was sitting at my desk, planning to engage an additional clean-up crew for our company. My assistant and I had just gone on a quick outing to find cleaning supplies. The cell phone rang, and it was a message from the school. I am used to getting pre-recorded messages about upcoming events and activities, but this one was different. This message would change the onset of my entire year.
The message from my kids’ local school sounded something like this,”Due to the spread of coronavirus, school will be postponed indefinitely. Please schedule care for your child as doors will be closed on this upcoming Friday.” At that moment, I felt a small knot in my stomach. Not because of schools being closed, but this amplified how serious this outbreak really was. I remember going to my manager to explain my situation and requesting to work from home until further notice. Of course, it was approved and I packed my laptop and all major supplies and prepared to work remotely for the next few weeks.
Juggling the New Hats
The news of schools and daycares closing across the states came in. After hearing nothing for a couple of weeks, the school reached out about virtual learning. The first process of virtual learning included sites that my children could use for practice and encouragement to complete a few hours a day. Here is where things became hectic. Keep in mind I am now a full time Human Resource Manager working from home. There were two computers and three of us that needed to be online for three to eight hours a day. Because of my job, my phone rang at least every fifteen minutes. I did my best at juggling unscheduled computer study, cooking, and working within those first couple of weeks.
Let’s Get Organized
I remember waking up early one morning and realizing we needed a schedule; I needed a schedule. Up to this point, I had only worked remotely a few times while my kids were in school or during business travel. I sat down at the table to create a schedule for breakfast time, computer times, lunch, and even an outside break period. At that moment, I channeled my inner teacher, who ultimately didn’t exist but hey, I was trying. This worked really well for the next couple of weeks. I would put on my professional hat, take it off and throw on my cook hat, snatch that off and put on my teacher hat, pull it off and place my mama hat on snuggly. I changed hats throughout the day until work and schooling ended.
The Exhaustion Set In
After a few weeks of juggling like never before, I was one tired mama. Not necessarily physically, but the mental aspect had caught up with me. My hats were tattered and worn. I reevaluated our daily schedule and decided it needed some adjustments. During this time I remember having a conversation with a dear friend, who also had two children but was taking on two additional family members for virtual learning. We shared our difficulties and moments where a glass of wine after dinner was our only moment of solitude. It was wonderful to know that I wasn’t the only one struggling with this “new normal.”
As I was thinking of a new plan to tackle virtual schooling, information came over from my children’s school. Virtual learning would now be face to face via Chromebook. This changed everything for us. Now there were four teachers, and different schedules for two kids. My initial feeling was apprehension. However, once I reorganized an entire space into a classroom, the light in the tunnel looked a little brighter. I rearranged the classroom three different times before I found a setup that worked. No different from the real classroom. I had to figure out how to minimize distractions. After moving the room around several times, we were ready to do virtual face to face. The next few weeks were obstreperous. We now had virtual PE in our home daily. Imagine the sound of elephants running and jumping in the next room, that’s what my house sounded like during PE time.
Our Mental Health
Summer came and went. Due to COVID-19 case numbers, we were still virtual at the start of the new school year. My kids met their new teachers virtually and introduced themselves. I created a sign so they could take pictures on their first day of virtual school. The new not so normal school year was starting out pretty smoothly. The past few months had been so chaotic that I had to recollect myself and my thoughts. At that moment, I focused more energy on our mental health. It hit me like a ton of bricks. This was one of the most dramatic changes of my kids’ lives. How did they feel about these changes? I sat them down the same night to ask questions about what they were feeling. They had formed thoughts on how long COVID would last. How it started and spread to where we live and what we should do to keep from spreading it further. This was an amazing conversation and a turning point on how we mentally viewed our “new normal.”
I now place mental health at the forefront of our daily routine. I began incorporating daily walks through our neighborhood, ice cream evenings, pizza lunches, and celebrating even the smallest of victories. Successfully conquering another week became a reason for cookies or ice cream on Friday. Honestly, it was more about giving my kids something to look forward to at the end of the week. What seemed like minor changes, changed what felt like defeat into a moment of conquering our new, “not so normal, normal.”