Off Script: An unsustainable lifestyle for families

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A Winters Express op-ed column

This whole thing: working full time from home, while managing distance learning, attending meetings, working nonprofit volunteer tasks, cooking meals, and cleaning all of the things—is exhausting.

A lot of people say they’re trying to balance the “work at home, learn at home, be at home” lifestyle.

In my eyes, there’s no balancing it. There is no way that any of the different components are equal enough to balance into a smooth zen-like flow.

Last year at a PTA meeting I attended, Greg Moffitt hosted a Parent Tip where my world was forever changed. He shared that his graduate professor told the class that there was no balancing of all the things. It was a juggling act, and you had to learn to put things down for a while when it got to be too much.

I must admit it took me a few days to digest this. After all the years of trying to find balance, it finally made sense as to why I just never could seem to make it work. It was impossible to achieve, and I was only continuing to set myself up for failure by continuing to follow that mindset.

I adapted and adjusted to the thought of putting a ball down to juggle the rest. It’s not easy when you have children who each seem to come with their own schedule of additional things to add into the juggling act. And I stumbled around with the idea that at the end of the day I had to just shut my computer down, work finished or not, and walk away from it to cook dinner or help out with something around the house. I would pick it up again tomorrow.

With school winding down, I’m not feeling any less pressure. Not because I will greatly miss the guidance and digital presence of educators (because trust me, I miss them already), but the unknown of what the upcoming school year looks like. Released guidelines from the CDC on what schools and daycare centers should look like is infuriating. I don’t know who made them up, but I doubt it was an educator, much less a person who was keeping working parents with young children in mind.

Posts from friends in Vacaville shared screenshot posts of their districts distance learning survey which asks them their thoughts of a few scenarios ranging from AM/PM classes to a few months on and off block scheduling. My anxiety shot up when the Winters school district sent home their own survey, which was nothing like the one Vacaville sent out. Although I did appreciate them asking about our current distance learning experience.

I must admit, however, that during the school board meeting when an A/B block type hybrid school model was announced I involuntarily made the most sour face ever. It was followed up with my toddler needing a hug mid-meeting. And with one hand I snuggled her up close and tapped out notes with the other until she had her fill. 

I currently have three children going to school, at three different school sites in Winters. I’ll be adding on a fourth this fall when my youngest is supposed to start preschool. I have been in this situation before, and as maddening as it was, it was made easier by the fact that all the children were at least on a stable schedule.

The thought of having four children, on different schedules and trying to figure that out makes my stomach roll. Especially when I add in trying to work, and get errands done, and tasks around the house. While my high schooler is completely able to independently handle a schedule like that, my elementary and preschool aged kids are not.

This lifestyle is unsustainable. Parents (working or not) are already burned out. And our children deserve better than this. They should be allowed to be children and experience the opportunities that help to shape and mold them into the person they are going to grow to be. Even the experiences for children as young as preschool have an important impact on their social emotional development.

I don’t have the answers of what school should look like right now. But, we can do better than what the CDC has suggested. We all deserve better than that.

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