Long before the days of COVID-19, here is how I envisioned the 20-21 school year starting: Husband would go to work. I would drop my big kids, grades 5th, 2nd, and 1st, off at school at 7:30 am ready for a day of friends and learning and fun. By approximately 7:34am, I would return home to camp out on the couch with my littlest kid, 3 weeks old, to live my best maternity leave life until said husband and big kids returned home again. Having a large age gap between kids 1-3 and then 4 was going to allow me to embrace this maternity leave. I was finally going to do what all the parenting advice suggests! Sleep when the baby sleeps! Ignore the laundry! Rest, recover, revel in endless baby snuggles. Well, at least for the remaining few weeks of my leave, but still, it was going to be MAGICAL.
But as with most curve balls thrown at us March-present time, I did NOT foresee this particular plot twist…
Let me first start by saying, I am SO thankful for the following things:
- A healthy, happy family
- That my husband and I are both still employed full time and for now, are working from home
- Supportive grandparents that we can depend on for literally anything
- The fact that I get paid maternity leave
- Ability to create comfortable, equipped work spaces to enable our kids to learn from home
I know not everyone has this scenario and I truly appreciate how blessed we are so don’t @ me, k?
Now, back to the actual start to the 20-21 school year…because we had anticipated remote learning would be the way we would initiate things, we didn’t completely lose it when the official announcement was made by our district. Sure, there were moments leading up to it – where would we put them all? Can our internet support this? What will the schedule look like? But overall, we accepted it and started to try and plan for what this would look like for our family. Goodbye unicorn maternity leave situation, hello at home school…
The first day, we still got dressed in new outfits, took pictures, and ate a special breakfast just like we would have had learning been in person. The baby slept. My husband started work. The girls sat down to their computers. I patted myself on the back – OMG, I am SO good at facilitating this! And then it started…connection issues, computer issues, microphone issues. I was literally running between kids trying to troubleshoot things, knowing the baby wouldn’t sleep forever and that I physically could not sit with all three of them simultaneously. And just when the mild panic set in, like a little angel, my mom appeared and saved the day. Though, she will be the first to admit that technology is not totally her thing, teaching certainly is and without skipping a beat, she jumped in and just helped wherever help was needed. Between the two of us (and my husband who, while working, stepped in any chance he could), we got through all the challenges of that first day. And we have continued this way since we started virtual school – my mom still graciously gifts us with her presence and patience each and every day. I honestly do not know how we would keep our 1st grader on track (or my sanity intact) otherwise. She is truly my hero! Some days feel successful, other days are exhausting. Tech issues are getting fewer and further between, but when they do come up, are still just as frustrating as they were Day 1. My kids have continued to impress me with their resilience, adapting to change on the daily and still keeping smiles on their faces (for the most part). I also cannot say enough how lucky we are to have the teachers we have. The positive attitudes, creativity, and adaptability we have seen in these virtual classrooms is nothing short of outstanding. I think about how much time and effort has gone into preparing for this scenario, one that is likely (hopefully) impermanent, but the product of that effort is equal to what we would have expected in the traditional classroom setting.
This type of story is certainly not unique to me. All parents out there are doing whatever they can to keep the education train on it’s tracks, all with unique and challenging circumstances. I am so grateful to have been on maternity leave for the start of this school year. Though for different reasons now, it has allowed me to navigate this time with less stress than I would have trying to juggle work at the same time. I feel more prepared as I return to work now that I have seen managing all of this IS possible. It may not be the same as snuggling with a newborn on the couch all day, but it has made this maternity leave special in its own way. Honestly, I can’t wait for my kids to have an opportunity to resume some form of in person learning. But until then, we are doing okay with distance.