People often say to me, "I don't know how you do it..." I guess it's a complement? but it doesn't feel like one. I do it all because I have to. I have three kids with a huge age range - 16, almost 13 and 6 - it's a crazy combination that requires a lot of juggling. Oh, and they go to three different schools, one on a year round schedule. Oh, and I work "part time" but with Covid-19 my job pushes the edge of part time hours every week. So I fit in work hours in the midst of driving to skate parks, the beach, buying tons of food daily, and trying to take care of myself as well. Because for years the other thing people have said is " You really need to take better care of your self so you can take care of others." It happens in fits and spurts but this year I was on a roll. Therapy on Mondays, Yoga for an hour on Thursdays and an Al-Anon meeting on Friday morning. I gave up sugar, dairy and grain. I walked and biked as much as possible. I was "doing it all!" and then Shelter in Place hit in March. And suddenly I was doing it all with everyone home. And working more than ever.
Well, we have made it through almost six months of this with some loosening of restrictions so we can go out a little more and we even went to Monterey to visit our very close family friend and have a week of sand and surf and no work. It was delicious. Summer is wrapping up and this is the week, the final lap before they go back to school. Normally, parents are collectively holding their breath, waiting to exhale on the first day of school when we feed them, take a cute picture (if they will still let us) and drop them off at school. Sure, there's a ton of paperwork and back to school night and more emails that we can handle but they are gone, at school for at least six hours a day. It's worth it. But what are we doing this year instead? Setting up desks at home, preparing to "homeschool". Wow! due to extreme incompetency at the highest levels we are actually doing worse than we were in March and I think we can all agree it's not going to get better as we roll into fall and winter. So what we are really facing, after months of "maybe they'll go back part time? or full time by the spring?" is a school year of online learning. I had another finish line that I have been looking forward to for years. First Grade. When my youngest child would be in school until 2:50 five days a week. No preschool tuition, no aftercare to make up for the gap between 12:30 and 3 a few days a week so I could work. Instead I'll be sitting with him, in our living room, supporting his "distance learning" while I cram in work where I can and make food all day long for the hungry hoards that will be home all day long.
So here is my question. Why is this not a big deal? Why are parents not protesting in the streets? We are just being left to figure it out on our own. And there is only a whisper of the racial equity and social justice part of all this. I can't afford a tutor and most of our close friends from school don't feel comfortable with a pod right now. But I still have some flexibility with work and enough space in our yard that we can play and jump and run. But I can't afford not to work. I can't "pull back" while my partner steps up. I make more than half of our income and it's just to pay for the basics. So I'm also wondering how are people who don't work from home supposed to do this? And what happens to the kids who don't have anyone home with them. Do we, as a society, even care? Because if we cared, there would be an emergency fund that pays a real amount (2/3 pay when you are pay check to pay check does not cut it) that one parent could tap into so that they can be home as long as schools are closed. That is the only way this thing could work and not drive us all crazy. But it's not happening. So we get to do it all...and MORE.
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Sometimes I wonder if I was born in the right time... I long for a bygone era and yet I dream of a future that holds the best of technology mixed with the “old ways” that are so much gentler on us and the earth.