By: Sara Colson
Welcome to 2020… The Year of Remote Learning, and of Stay at Home Orders! A winning combination indeed. As someone who started my career as a high school math teacher, and went on to run a small business out of my basement when my kids were small, I feel like I should be better equipped for this. After all, I know how to teach students who don’t want to learn, and how to ignore my children screaming in the background as I work.
But I’ve never had to do both at the same time.
As a working mother of four children - ages 9, 10, 11, and 13 - let me just describe “working from home” in 2020:
It looks like madness. Like chaos. Like an hours-old, cold cup of coffee, sitting sadly abandoned on my makeshift desk.
It sounds like screeches of delight when the kids get to see their friends in Google Chat, and of frustration when they don’t know how to do some bizarre version of new math that not even mom can help with (when did math change?!)
It smells like that hours-old cup of coffee. And dog. And pre-teens who have lost all sense of time and self-awareness and have stopped showering for some godforsaken reason.
It tastes like chocolate. Lots and lots and lots of chocolate. And not nearly enough coffee.
Like many of you, I am in uncharted territory right now. Stay at home orders mean that even sending the kids to a friend’s house – or, heaven forbid, the grandparents – for a few hours, is completely off the table. So they stay home. They ask for snacks. Lots of snacks. They interrupt meetings. They have questions. Lots of questions. Most of the time the answer is “no,” but every once in a while it has something to do with science or history and seems fairly legit.
Meanwhile, I work. I send emails, answer calls, take part in Zoom conferences… Oh so many Zoom conferences… And I’ll admit, working from home does have its perks. I can wear yoga pants and sweatshirts every day. I have a dog at my feet and a cat on my lap at all times. The commute is lovely.
But that whole “work/life balance” thing that people used to talk about in The Before Time…? Gone.
What’s a working parent to do? How on earth do we get through this current situation without losing our jobs, our sanity, our will to live? How do we ensure that all our deadlines are being met, while simultaneously overseeing our children’s education, and hoping that they aren’t murdering each other in the next room while we’re on a conference call?
Short answer: We don’t.
We just have to do the best we can, and try not to beat ourselves up too much when things don’t work out perfectly. Because they won’t. The 9-year-old will barge in and ask to play on the Xbox when you’re on a call with your boss. The dog will start barking at a squirrel outside at the exact moment you unmute your phone to say something on a virtual conference. The normal 9 to 5 routine will be thrown out the window.
The good news? We’re all in this together. We’re all learning as we go. We’re all being patient with one another as we try to juggle more than most of us have ever had to juggle before. We’re getting savvy with technology, embracing ways of communicating with one another that just a few short weeks ago we never would have imagined we were capable of.
My colleagues and I are no exception: We’re getting better at using social media. We started using Slack to send messages (one 60-year-old member of our team makes us laugh daily when he refers to it as “Slacker”). We’ve learned to use Zoom, mastering the conference call on Day One, then moving quickly on to scheduling our first series of webinars. And for those of us who are parents, Google Classroom has become our new best friend.
The laughs we share while learning how to navigate it all is probably a far better form of team building than any of the carefully planned exercises that our leaders have scheduled over the years. We’re learning. We’re adapting. We’re growing by leaps and bounds, despite the world grinding to a halt around us. And – surprisingly – it’s bringing us together in new and unexpected ways.
In the end, it seems that 2020 is teaching us just how nimble and resilient we really are.