Rock & A Hard Place

As I sit in my backyard while my kids run around soaking up the 8 o’clock summer dusk I’m taking in several shaky breaths. The calm of my backyard view is doing very little to tame the incredible amount of anxiety welling up in my chest.

These are the tabs open on my phone, “Return to Learn” update from our local school system, our county-wide COVID-19 case update, sensory kits to keep toddlers busy, several “homeschool while working full-time” YouTube videos, adaptive chairs to increase attention span, and many pages of remote work searches.

I, like many parents, am looking into the fall with fear and trepidation. Part two of distance learning will commence next month, and though the spring was challenging, is was ultimately doable due to my ability to work remotely. Now I will be going back to the office and my children will remain at home to do their schooling online. This is the reality for many families, and I see them on social media scrambling, posting for help, and some have been lashing out in anger and frustration. I get it. Childcare centers are few and far between, utilized mainly by essential employees and accepting fewer children in order to maintain any sense of social distancing. Asking grandparents who serve as babysitters to navigate online learning platforms may be too tall of an order, and many families still struggle with internet and device access.

In our area, it has been promised that online learning will be very different than what was presented in the spring. Words like rigorous have been associated with this new version. And if I’m not home to be able to see what’s going on, the idea of increased rigor is intimidating and adds another layer of stress.

Yet at the same time, I breathed a sigh of relief when our local board of education made the distance learning call. I’m worried about exposure and illness with regard to my immune-compromised son and keeping him at home seems like the safest, and most comfortable option, but if he stays at home, and I’m not here to work with him, then what? Yet if the school system said that he could go to school and attend in person, I think I would have a hard time with that too.

The school district’s control of my sanity is too much and I’ve had an intense urge to run in the opposite direction, which is why I’ve been seriously considering homeschooling and praying for a miraculous way to earn income from home.

Many people are being forced to choose between going back into their workplaces, which feels pretty unsettling after we’ve all become accustomed to sheltering in place and walking away from careers that took years to build. The health and safety of our families are paramount, but our ability to earn income to support them is also crucial. These two things are being treated as if they are mutually exclusive, and for many, they are not.

The lure to purchase a shiny new homeschool curriculum is certainly there, the draw to jump off the public school crazy train is strong, but the reality is we rely on my income to support our family, and the pressure to provide their education, services, and therapy is a heavy burden, that I feel too fatigued from months of uncertainty to carry. In recent weeks I’ve realized that homeschooling them while working outside of the home during the day is possible, but feeling the way I do now, which is tired, and anxious, means there’s little left to pour into my children.

So here I stay, waiting between a rock and a hard place; waiting for the latest from the school system, my job, and for this global pandemic to be a thing of the past.

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Angie Auldridge

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