Think It’s Hard for Parents Right Now? Try Being a Parent *and* a Teacher

parents and teachers on the pandemic right now

Test shortages. School closures. Vaccine delays for the under 5 group. A lack of government support. Mixed messaging. No wonder parents feel like they’re losing their damn minds right now. But however difficult you feel like your current parenting setup is these days (and, trust us, we know it’s not easy), consider that parents who are teachers are even more exhausted than you. We spoke to three moms and educators to get a sense of how the start of the new school season has been going for them so far. Spoiler alert: It’s not great.

1. The Math Teacher/Single Parent Who Has PTSD

The current teaching and childcare set-up: “I teach mathematics at a private school in New York City. We returned to in-person learning in January with rapid testing for all students and both PCR and rapids for teachers. I have one child aged 2 who is in school with strict protocols.” 

How she’s coping: “I am exhausted and depressed. I’m struggling to feel positive or optimistic, and sick of isolation and lack of things to look forward to. I’ve had to draw on old resources and new ones after feeling like I’m all out of strength and resilience. I hit a real low last week and am doing everything I can to turn it around. The surge has definitely triggered some PTSD-like symptoms from earlier in the pandemic right after I thought things were finally improving.”

What she wishes that other parents knew: “That we are doing our best but are absolutely depleted and all need to be extra kind to each other!”

And one more thing: “Your single parent colleagues/acquaintances/friends are not OK!”

2. The Visual Arts Teacher/Mom-of-Two Who Is Totally Burnt Out

The current teaching and childcare set-up: “I am a high school visual arts teacher in Massachusetts. My school has been “all-in” since spring 2021. We are currently in-person, with all students and staff masked daily, and most students and staff participating in weekly pooled testing. We have just recently, as we returned from the holiday, returned to old protocols, such as no eating in hallways or classrooms, and spacing out lunch tables again. I have two children, ages 2.5 and 8 months. Both stay home with a nanny three days per week, and are with grandmothers two days per week.”

How she’s coping: “Juggling two children and a full-time job is a challenge in this climate. I am breastfeeding/pumping for my infant, which is an added and time consuming part of my day. There is very little ‘downtime,’ as all moments in my day are intentional and filled. Recently, I worry about my young children getting COVID, and needing to protect them and dealing with the repercussions of quarantine and care. My current worries and struggles lie in keeping my boys safe from illness and trying to get it all done.”

What she wishes that other parents knew: “What teachers are struggling with right now is burn out. Because of the time away from school, some of the younger grades of students are having a hard time adjusting. There have been a lot of behavioral issues, which for a teacher in a pandemic, feels a bit like babysitting/one more thing we wish we didn't have to worry about. There is also burn out as it relates to a return to old protocols. We all want to move forward, instead of two steps backwards.”

And one more thing: “I love my students and will continue to show up for them. I want to be a light and example, despite so much of our world being unknown. I want my classroom to be a place they can feel safe and tap into their creativity to tune out the noise around them. Although some days are hard, I will keep doing my best to put on a brave face for my students, and also my children.”

3. The Middle School History Teacher/Twin Mom Who Feels Dismissed

The current teaching and childcare set-up: “We continued in-person learning immediately after the break. Home-testing for both staff and students has been the only noticeable added safety measure. Although the numbers are skyrocketing, I don’t foresee change. I have twin 8-year-old boys in public school. Similar to myself, they are currently in-person, but I do see my kids’ school pivoting to remote if necessary.” 

How she’s coping: “I am so grateful to work in an excellent and very organized school, but it’s the system that is frustrating. My biggest worry is that my kids will go remote, and I will continue in-person all while my husband is completely WFH. That situation would create such difficulty: I would not be home to help; he would be stretched between work and helping the kids; and honestly, my kids are not happy learning from home. I know how fortunate I am and although the pandemic has changed the way I thought my kids would grow up, we are still able to give them (and ourselves) a happy and comfortable life. I know—and I see on a daily basis—how the last few years have deeply hurt families on so many levels and it is truly heartbreaking.” 

What she wishes that other parents knew: “We are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe—your kids, our kids, others’ kids, your friends, your family and on and on and on. Plus, smack together that learning thing!  We care for everyone, but no one thinks about us. We just go, go, go, and it’s become such a societal expectation for us to do so. We don’t want or need recognition but it’s so very disturbing that we are constantly asked—no, told—to put our own physical and emotional well-being aside.”

And one more thing: “The vast majority of my students’ parents are so very appreciative.  The same is true for my friends and our children’s collective teachers.  But…us wanting to be safe and healthy doesn’t make us selfish, overpaid or spoiled.”  

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