The following is a personal essay by a contributor mom and opinions expressed are not necessarily reflective of the Truly Mama brand.
As talk is turning to discussing what will happen in the fall for schools re-opening, I admit that my strategy up until this point has largely looked a little something like this:
* sticks tongue out, places hands over ears, chants “I can’t hear you!” over and over again, just like my 5-year-old *
Mature, I know. But seriously—I have purposefully avoided thinking about or making any long-term decisions about school until we all had more information about what the fall would look like.
And now that fall is approaching and we still don’t really have all the information we need about what’s best for our parents, our kids, and our teachers, the decision-making over returning to school is largely falling to us moms. You know, the ones who have primarily been managing our kids’ virtual school schedules and scouring the ends of the earth for toilet paper?
It’s moms like me who have to decide in school districts that are offering in-person or virtual classes, what we believe is best. It’s moms like me who are faced with the impossible decision of gauging what could actually be a life-or-death decision. It’s moms like me who have already borne the brunt of the added workload when society shut down. It’s moms like me who are asking ourselves if we can really voluntarily sign up for yet another round of managing school at home, full-time childcare, and our own jobs, all without any outside help?
I admit, when this all started, part of me went into Supermom mode, because that’s what we do, right? I made the schedules and kept up with work and planned meals and made it happen, because that’s what I had to do. But I also thought it would be temporary. And now…things aren’t looking so temporary.
The fact that schools are essentially leaving it up to moms and parents to figure out what the heck to do feels reminiscent of becoming a mom in the U.S. No maternity leave? Figure it out. No affordable childcare solution? Figure it out. No way to afford insurance? Figure it out.
It could be my emotions rubbed raw talking, but I’m a little tired of society leaving moms to pick up the pieces and keep us going when we don’t know the answers.
The truth is, I don’t have any answers. And I honestly have no idea what the right decision for our family is.
Our situation, like many families, is complicated. I have 5 kids, ranging in age from 1 to 12, I work from home, and my husband is a high school math teacher. So far, in our district, a plan has not been released for parents, but the options are looking like either full-time virtual or full-time in-person. However, all teachers will still have to work at the school.
So, my dilemma is: even if I keep my school-aged children home and do virtual school, are any safety risks lessened for our family? It feels like, because my husband will be there anyway, if an outbreak occurs, he will get it. In my mind, like many teacher families, it’s not a question of “if,” but “when.” I’m aware that the studies up to this point show that the health effects of COVID in children are mild, but I’m also aware that the studies aren’t as conclusive to how much children can spread the virus to adults and if any long-term health effects will be seen as well.
Then there’s the question of what’s best for my children—with a school situation that will look very different than what they are used to, with face masks and no lunchrooms and less interaction, is the school environment what’s best for them right now? Not to mention what if we start school, only to have it shut down again? Would it be better to have a virtual plan in place right from the beginning?
And, then of course, last on the list of my questions because #momlife is: what’s best for me? Can I handle full-time work and 5 kids, including a very active newly-minted toddler, and virtual school at home by myself? Can anyone? The situation feels like an impossible one, and I know I’m not the only mom facing these kinds of questions right now.
I wish the answers were clear.
I wish I felt more confident in my decisions. I wish that I had a magic 8 ball that I could shake that would tell me exactly what to do. I wish I knew that my kids would be safe. I wish I knew that my husband would be safe. I wish I knew if I would be safe, because what happens to my family if I get sick? Not to brag or anything, but I’m kind of the captain that keeps this ship steerin’, if you know what I’m saying. If mom goes down, it feels like we all go down.
I wish I knew what to do, but my truth today is that I have no idea. So, to all the moms out there just winging it and hoping for the best—I’m with you.
Hopefully, we can all figure this out together. Only this time, let’s hope, with plenty of toilet paper.