COVID19 Parenting Work

Day 94: Trends & Moods

June 17, 2020

Ending this series at 100 because things are heading back to normal is . . . not looking promising.

FL data via our state DOH dashboard
Yes, deaths are down – but keep in mind there is usually a significant time lag between testing positive and dying!
and in the world (via NYT)

I guess it shouldn’t be terribly surprising but it’s so sad. And we may be (and probably should be!) taking steps to increase distancing again soon, but in this political climate who knows.

Our school board met yesterday. Apparently in our county (Broward):

  • 24% of parents wanted school to continue fully online
  • 36% wanted school facilities to fully reopen
  • 33% voted for a “blended” model (though the survey did not really go into any detail about what that model was and I wonder if some parents that felt ambivalent went for this choice without really thinking it through)

This was based on a survey of ~60,000 parents and they did not attempt to break down these responses by age of child. I would have loved to know if people voted differently in the scenario of K vs 12th grade!

Anyway, there was then a big livestream with our county superintendent who announced the intent to plan on a hybrid start to the school year likely with “staggered days” (ie, your child goes Monday/Tues or Thurs/Fri, the rest online). Then our neighborhood WhatsApp group erupted in fury among the mothers (this particular group is all women) who work and how much this is likely going to suck.

Thinking about an entire school year without consistent physical school gives me hives. It makes me (once again) question the importance of my career. My life choices. I did not feel guilty about going to work prior to all this. Now I do, and I hate it.

I know I’ve been largely positive recently and yes — compared to many many people we have nothing to complain about (NOTHING. LITERALLY NOTHING).

But #(*&#$ I wish this (#*#ing virus would just GO AWAY ALREADY. Okay rant over. I will now hopefully channel some of this attitude into my workout.


  • Reply Sue June 17, 2020 at 6:04 am

    NC hasn’t made a decision yet–I think it is supposed to happen July 1–but my guess is that they’re going to try to do this blended model approach. I have a hard time understanding how that will possibly be the best decision for children or parents. I do contract work but am mostly at home with four children and I will need to hire a babysitter just so I can help the older kids with online school. It was impossible for us this spring with a toddler and 4 yr old needing to be taken care of. Obviously I’m in a privileged situation of being able to afford to do that if we have to, but I don’t understand what is supposed to happen to families who can’t afford that–and that’s with me doing my contract work from 4:30-7am and being a stay at home parent the rest of the day–so I just don’t see how it will possible for families who have full-time working parents and don’t have the financial means for babysitting.

    • Reply Beth June 17, 2020 at 10:54 am

      Hi from NC! I hadn’t heard the July 1 date. That will be nice if they actually decide then. I was thinking they would wait until the last minute. Do you understand what the blended model actually is? I’m assuming it’s that kids alternate days at school but the emails I saw weren’t totally clear…

  • Reply Haya June 17, 2020 at 6:41 am

    We are starting to reopen here too and I keep asking what is the difference between now and march? Not much!
    We still have cases so it’s not like anything has been snuffed out like it has in some areas.
    The only new things we are doing is going back to outdoor trails that were closed. (And we expanded our bubble from 3 to 5 to include my mom and dad) Daycare is now open but we have decided that if we used it that would mean definitely no seeing grandparents this summer and that is bad. As long as we can manage wfh with a preschooler it seems preferable. (Our work places are pretty maximally understanding and flexible)
    We have not heard what kindergarten will be like in the fall but I expect a hybrid. We’ll see.
    So tough!

  • Reply Irene June 17, 2020 at 7:54 am

    YES. My mom guilt is out of control, worse than almost ever before. If there is a blended school model I think I may end up quitting my job, or hiring a nanny. Honestly I’m so tired of thinking about child care that quitting is HIGHLY preferable in the short term but I imagine I’ll regret it later. But how much later? Another year of this uncertainty and ping ponging around? For those of us who are also trying to juggle extra services for our kids remotely or otherwise it’s just…mentally a lot.

    I am also aware of my ridiculous amount of privilege (We would be fine financially if I quit, which adds to my feelings of guilt that I’m just doing this for my “future self”) and I should not complain.but this uncertainty is just a difficult thing for me mentally.

    • Reply Heather June 17, 2020 at 11:11 am

      I’m in the same boat. I love my job, but for my sanity I cannot go long periods without childcare again, and my kids (young elementary) cannot be expected to do Zoom school 50% of the time without any other adult help and actually learn something. I don’t want to quit my job. But where am I supposed to find a nanny that is also a tutor? All the college students are going to be heading back in the fall and we don’t live in a university town.

  • Reply Emily June 17, 2020 at 8:38 am

    Why are you feeling more mom guilt now than you were before? What about the school not opening up more is causing you to rethink the value of your career or things you felt more securely before? Do you think your husband feels the same way about his career? I’m not asking these to be facetious or hypothetical, I am genuinely curious what changed? Look, I am super stressed too. I am an attorney, splitting the day with my partner (very lucky to have two flexible jobs), with three kids, 6, 4 and 1. It’s been challenging. I’ve seen my 6 year old go from social and loving his school to throwing tantrums about zoom and not wanting to socialize (from a distance) with other kids. I am in a part of the country that is just opening up. We have no childcare right now. But… we are all doing the best we can. This is not what we are used to but times are unprecedented. I don’t know if me quitting my job will do anything about a potential school year that will be a hybrid of in-person and online learning. I still value my job, my contribution, and flexible partnership with my husband who also has the same concerns and fears about childcare and what this will look like going forward and the effects on our kids. Hopefully this is time-limited period of time in our lives. We are all just doing the best we can. Like I said, not trying to be annoying but am wondering why, at this point, you are being so hard on yourself.

  • Reply Alexis June 17, 2020 at 8:54 am

    Yes. Never before have I so strongly questioned my work. UGH. This just makes guilt so much stronger!!! Thanks for understanding and articulating that so thoughtfully.

  • Reply gwinne June 17, 2020 at 9:12 am

    Things are comparatively good in my state right now (MI). We peaked very early; we’re now at about 100-150 cases/day (we’ve had under 100 within the past week). I don’t imagine this will last, as people begin to move around and cross state lines more than they have. Our school district has not made a decision. I want my kid in school, at least half the week.

    I’m a single parent. I have no guilt. I have to work. And it will be incredibly challenging without school.

  • Reply Ashley G June 17, 2020 at 9:18 am

    I totally get the guilt and have had similar waves of this lately, too. I realize this is not the popular stance AT ALL but have you considered external childcare (daycare) for the youngest if school doesn’t start? Managing two older kids’ schooling seems much more doable for a nanny when a toddler isn’t pin-balling around the house. Maybe even just a couple days a week and those could be ‘school days’? I know here (Virginia) the higher-end centers never closed, just took lots of extra precautions. Just something to consider for your own sanity (and long-term finances).

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 17, 2020 at 9:43 am

      I’m absolutely planning to send her back to her Montessori school if it’s open (which it may be). She is enrolled to attend 8-3 next year. You’re totally right – if it’s not, another school or day care is something to consider.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 17, 2020 at 9:47 am

        And if they are open for daily school I’m actually contemplating sending Cameron too. I do not think online learning is a good fit for him.

        • Reply Ashley G June 17, 2020 at 11:29 am

          I hear you. I had exactly one online course in graduate school and I found it to be mostly pointless and absolutely not engaging, so I certainly understand why my 6 year old (and yours!) isn’t very fond of it, either. I am pulling a Scarlett O’hara on the fall school situation right now. My brain can’t take the thought of it just yet.

  • Reply Gillian June 17, 2020 at 9:29 am

    So, I have a really different feeling about this. I think we have to reframe or thinking. We are going to be living WITH this virus for a while it seems and I think we need to get comfortable with that (so to speak). The goal of closures was never to get rid of this virus (at least not here in the US) it was to make sure we had the medical resources to treat the sickest patients. Having spent the last 3 months living in NY state and working in NYC, I feel like here at least we are MUCH better positioned to do that now than we were before. Hospitals have plans in place and PPE. We have data to guide treatments at least a little bit. We have a lot more testing capabilities. Shutting down was an extreme measure needed in the short term to deal with a situation we were woefully unprepared for. Now is the maintenance phase. We can’t just hole up at home for the next 18 months waiting for vaccination or herd immunity. We do the things we can do as best we can while protecting those most at risk. I say this as a mother of 4 school-aged children who will likely be doing some hibrid learning situation and cobbling together childcare, but also who plans to eat dinner at a restaurant for the first time in 3 months on Saturday!

    • Reply Ashley G. June 17, 2020 at 9:40 am

      Yes, this!!! I wish more people had this perspective.

      • Reply K June 17, 2020 at 11:13 am

        Hmmm, well actually a lot of families aren’t able to have this perspective and they may in fact be the ones that are making it possible for you to have the one you do…

    • Reply all June 17, 2020 at 10:02 am

      YES to this. I absolutely understood the need back in March to “flatten the curve” and delay the impact of the virus, but it doesn’t seem like the original intent of that was for us to all stay inside until a vaccine is available (which who knows, it may be years away or not even possible since it isn’t like there are vaccines for everything). I very much don’t want to get sick, and I do have several loved ones I would seriously worry for…but I also don’t think we can all go on like this for a year or more. I don’t understand the point of hybrid school either. (Just to clarify, I know the virus is serious and I think the whole approach has been completely mismanaged by the government so I am not a head-in-the-sand person. But I do think there has to be a reasonable balance in our response.)

      FWIW, I took a good bit of the spring off work and was home with my 3. It was pretty terrible. I am now working PT (from home with kids) and am rethinking my career choices daily. All that to say—this is a frustrating position for anyone, and I don’t think it has to do with your career. It is just really hard being stuck at home with young kids, trying to balance work and educating them and not going insane.

      I don’t care if hazmat suits are required, my kiddos will be going to school. They all need much more stimulation that I can possibly provide at home, and I don’t think me trying to teach them at home is a good solution. If our local public school doesn’t open as usual, I’m not sure what I will do…but a repeat of this spring is not on the table for my house. 🙂

    • Reply Anne June 17, 2020 at 10:20 am

      Thanks for sharing this, I agree completely.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 17, 2020 at 11:16 am

      I DO want to live normally but what I care about farrrr more than restaurants is kids going to school. And a steady state curve is one thing … a rise is another. I think it’s a little concerning (but I’m still happy to work in person and send my kids to school).

      It’s a very confusing time. Not sure I even make sense to myself right now.

      • Reply Gillian June 17, 2020 at 11:42 am

        Oh, I agree that school is more important than a restaurant meal (although, I am not going to lie, eating a meal without my 4 kids present has me pretty excited)! If it were an option I would send my kids back to school today honestly. I think in my family’s particular case the benefits of sending them back far outweigh the risks to our family. I guess my point is that the curve is going to rise and fall. There are lots of ways to manage this without completely shutting things down (shut down certain things, like elective surgery etc.) As long as hospitals are prepared for the influx of patients, we need to carry on as normally as possible given the constraints. We assess risk all the time (you have discussed that here), this is just a new risk and people are struggling with how it fits in with all the other threats we face daily.

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 17, 2020 at 11:59 am

          I would send them to school today too.

          • Gillian June 17, 2020 at 2:44 pm

            Oh, and FWIW I think the kindergarten first grade crowd are the least suited (at least K-12) to distance learning. It has been painful for my First grade boy and I have spoken to so many others who say the same thing. I feel bad for him and I feel bad for au pair who did sign up to home school him. Sucky, sucky situation.

          • Sarah Hart-Unger June 17, 2020 at 3:14 pm

            Yessssssss totally agree!

  • Reply LN June 17, 2020 at 9:34 am

    Think of it this way, Sarah. You’re not a teacher (though you may have taken on some teaching/ educational tasks at work). Even if you were a teacher there’s no guarantee you would have the exact skillset to meet your children’s school needs. And that’s fine! It is SO unrealistic to expect that every parent is also the perfect teacher. Quitting your job to devote yourself full-time to their education wouldn’t magically turn you into a combination of Ms. Frizzle and Mr. Rogers.

    I just wish I could take your guilt away (not just you, everyone). Parents right now are being asked to do the impossible. And you are doing the best you can. I hope that by announcing this hybrid model that teachers and administrators will see what has gone well + poorly so far with remote learning, and adjust appropriately. You are making the best of a situation no one could have predicted.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns June 17, 2020 at 9:51 am

    Oof, I am sorry to hear you are still questioning your decision to be a physician. My advice to you would be to not base such a huge decision on such a brief period of time. Eventually we will have a vaccination and school will be back to normal. I think of your response right now akin to how I felt when I came back after maternity leave. I had a super hard transition back to work, even though I took 20 weeks of leave. But I had put alot of time and money into my career so I decided to stick it out and if I was still miserable when we had our 2nd child, I could decide to take a break from the work force. Luckily, by the time my son was 10 months old, I felt very differently and was very happy to be a working mom. The 7 weeks I spent juggling my job and caring for our son (with help from my husband but it was NOT 50/50) only confirmed that I am meant to be a working mother. I am the best version of myself when I am at work and my son is at daycare being cared for by people who are experts at things like teaching colors, letters, numbers, etc. Even if I hadn’t been working during those 7 weeks, I think I still would have been miserable due to the lack of a break. Obviously, this is a very personal choice – some women feel incredibly fulfilled staying at home with their kids and I honestly think that is one of the hardest jobs out there. But some women – like myself – feel most fulfilled working full time.

    I am sorry you are dealing with these feelings. I can relate as I felt very lonely and sad during those first 6 months back at work and I didn’t feel like anyone really understood how I felt. But I am so glad I pushed through and stuck with my career. I would sorely regret it if I had left the work force and I could never have found a job like the one I have right now.

    Hang in there. This, too, shall pass. I think going to the clinic/your office as much as possible is best right now given how you are feeling. Your nanny is great at her job and can handle the kids and will tell you if she’s struggling. .So removing yourself from the house during working hours is probably best for your mental health/career…

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 17, 2020 at 11:07 am

      Definitely not questioning my long term decision. Just having crazy thoughts like “could I take a year off?” And not in any REAL way either. More like a panic reaction …

  • Reply Jamie June 17, 2020 at 9:59 am

    I feel similarly and I permanently work remotely so I have so little to complain about but hot damn I want “my office” back. We are in Broward as well, I assumed this hybrid model would be the direction they would go but I agree about wishing they had broken down the results based on age of child. My son is going into 2nd grade, his ability to jump form school to distance learning on a weekly basis is going to likely be very challenging for him and definitely so for me. My husband works in Palm Beach County but his office has been very responsive and has no plans to return to physical office until a vaccine is discovered or numbers decline dramatically so I recognize I’m incredibly lucky to have him home to help. Our soon to be 3 year old’s daycare has yet to shut down so I am hopeful they will remain open in the Fall which reduces our at home interruptions. I know our county is doing the right and responsible thing (unlike neighboring counties who still haven’t mandated mask wearing, looking at you PBC) but I find myself also going through waves of sullenly cursing this virus and its resilience.

  • Reply Jennifer June 17, 2020 at 10:24 am

    I have also been questioning the importance of my career due to guilt during this pandemic but from a completely different angle. I have a job that lends itself very well to remote work (which I already had done quite a bit before this due to multiple surgeries in the past year), and I do provide value to my employer, and I do think my employer is on the whole a force for good in the world. But it’s very distanced. The world, our community, can get along just fine without my contributions. Meanwhile, the people doing more necessary work – and I would include you in that group – are much less likely to be able to stay as sheltered from the virus as I am, and I definitely feel guilt about that.

  • Reply Omdg June 17, 2020 at 10:31 am

    Can you clarify how this makes you feel worse about working? I know from my perspective I’m seeing more of my child than every before because she’s home all the time. Not saying you’re wrong to feel that way, maybe I’m missing something. Just curious.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 17, 2020 at 11:12 am

      I have mostly stopped working from home bc I can’t really do it efficiently, so I don’t see them. And yet I feel a weird guilt about going about my normal business when they are all home. I feel bad about our nanny attempting to teach 3 kids at home. I feel bad that C in particular does not do well w online learning. I feel like if I were home I could help (esp him) more with school.

      On further reflection maybe the answer is honestly to send C to G’s school IF it’s open daily. But I’m worried I will pay for it and then they will be hybrid or virtual too.

      All such privileged problems I know that ..

      • Reply Omdg June 17, 2020 at 4:24 pm

        Could you hire a tutor for the kids if school is closed? That seems more humane to your nanny, and you.

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 17, 2020 at 4:28 pm

          Yes I absolutely would do that. Either that or if G’s school is open I honestly might send her AND C.

  • Reply Victoria B. June 17, 2020 at 10:52 am

    I think we all need to understand that this may not be OVER for a while. It seems like a lot of parents, not just you Sarah, were hoping that we would be “back to normal” for school this Fall. That is unlikely, so now everyone is trying to figure it out and with that comes a lot of uncertainty, unknowns and grief.

    It’s OK to not be OK with any of this.

  • Reply Heather June 17, 2020 at 11:14 am

    One thing I haven’t seen anyone bring up yet is – I have a lot of friends who are teachers. They are all moms. Many of them are seriously considering quitting because they cannot be in the classroom 4-5 days/week when their children are in the classroom only 2 days per week and their husbands are being sent back to work. They cannot reconcile a nanny with their salary. We’re about to have a crisis of lack of teachers.

    • Reply Sharon June 17, 2020 at 8:04 pm

      This seems like a huge thing lurking in the background. Of course it also applies to millions of other folks who can’t work from home, but if the schools are counting on all their teachers sticking around… Our school district has said they’ll announce firm plans the 1st or 2nd week of August (with school, in whatever form, starting Sept. 1). This seems like a disaster to me — if they announce something that’s unworkable for many teachers, they’ll only have a few weeks to figure things out, during a pandemic, with no teachers to hire! (Often you can get recently retired teachers to return for a year or two in a crunch, but since the pandemic is worst for older folks I don’t see that happening this time…)

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 18, 2020 at 6:33 am

      VERY good point and kind of scary.

  • Reply Michelle June 17, 2020 at 2:22 pm

    I have a 6yr old as well who didn’t do well at all with distance learning for kindergarten. I unfortunately am the major provider for our family, my husband’s salary would not be enough for me to stay home. But if I had the option to take the year off (or however long schools are going to be closed) I would definitely stay home so I could be my son’s teacher.

    I have so much guilt working right now because my kids are being cared for by daycare teachers who have to wear masks. Which is definitely understandable, but scary for little kids. I so wish I had a more flexible job, or could work from home part time, or even that my husband made more somehow.

  • Reply Jordan June 17, 2020 at 2:34 pm

    I am sending my 1.5 and 3.5 back to part-time daycare in two weeks – we also hired a nanny to supplement the rest of the days. Pre-Covid they were both in full-time daycare. This approach helps us hedge our bets a bit about preparing for another possible school closure and limiting exposure to just a couple of hours, a few times a week. Who knows if that makes sense, but it’s making me feel better.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 17, 2020 at 2:44 pm

      It sounds good to me!!!

  • Reply Sophia June 17, 2020 at 3:37 pm

    My kids are similar age to your three. Day care reopened on 6/1 for the 2.5 year old and things are 100x easier at home since though still pretty bad. Distance learning is a farce (pre-k and 3rd grade) and the thought of a whole year of remote learning or a hybrid remote model (seriously wtf are we supposed to do with the kids the other days?!?!) raises my blood pressure. I can’t believe we are talking about reopening bars, restaurants, salons, churches but not SCHOOLS. It’s like the twilight zone.

  • Reply Coco June 17, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    same here. Philippine president announced no face to face class until vaccine is found. I don’t know how is this going to impact our kids life, not academic only but more importantly social skills and emotional wellbeing. we’re exploring options to go to other countries for 6 to 12 months but the hassle of it… oh god. can’t think of how to resolve it.
    feel your pain.

  • Reply Marina June 17, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    Hi Sarah,

    My kids are not quite in K-12 yet (4 and 1.5) but I feel your pain about this whole messy disastrous situation. Just wanted to say that I think “online learning/distance school” for early elementary is kind of a ridiculous concept. Kindergartens are not in school to just learn math or reading (which I’m sure they do learn of course), they are mostly there to learn how to be around other kids, learn more about sitting still, taking turns, etc. I’m not surprised that your K-er struggled and I don’t think you being there would have changed the fact that one of the biggest lessons from K is just not possible in this environment!!

    I hope your and other districts go back to full time in school, but if not, then I would lower your expectations about what the year will be and try not to assume that you being home will suddenly make this situation better.

  • Reply Maria June 17, 2020 at 10:39 pm

    I think I totally understand how you feel and have had similar feelings. It’s just… the balance is totally different now. Before, I would work while the kids were at their loving preschool, playing outside, learning, making friends. Good for everyone. In the fall, I may have a kindergartener who is home half the time maybe doing some zoom calls and worksheets? There is a logistical childcare question to figure out if that’s the case, but also, would I rather be the one to (take time off and) homeschool him those days? Try to make it a great year for our family instead of just making it through? I doubt that is what I’ll end up doing but having those thoughts for sure. (Actually similar to you, we may send him back to his Montessori which will be open, instead of moving to public grade school as planned).

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