COVID with Kids

A collage of family pictures

By Erin Anderson, Arts & Humanities Class of 2020 

Photo Credits: Erin Anderson

While being a student-parent and facing a global pandemic are inherently challenging situations in and of themselves, being faced with the two simultaneously is a whole new realm of role conflict. After stretching myself thin over the past four years as a full-time undergrad, I have to admit the first few weeks of extended “March Break” provided a welcome respite from my studies, as the world scrambled to move life online. My home was filled with giggles and the smell of freshly baked cookies, I finally was able to catch up on my Netflix watchlist, and all of a sudden, it felt like I had time to complete my remaining coursework at a relatively sane pace.  

The novelty of staying home wore off pretty quickly. All of a sudden, I realized my family was spending more time on screens than we were interacting face-to-face, something we always prioritized before when our quality time together was limited. Guilt trickled in like water in a cracked foundation, until I was flooded. Never mind that I was nearing the finish line of the greatest goal I had undertaken to-date, or that I had just landed my first job in my field, I became bogged down in the minutiae. My self-talk turned negative, criticizing myself for prioritizing my own education over my children’s (they’re 6 and 8,) and outlining all the ways in which I was failing them. Things didn’t improve when classes resumed—for them or for me—especially given the remote learning contexts we were all faced with. The increased demands of finishing my last undergrad courses, while working and co-parenting two busy young children—from home, where I am least productive to begin with—were challenging enough. Then, Learn at Home was launched. Don’t get me wrong, I value education and our teachers immensely and I am glad to the provincial government seems to finally be acknowledging the importance of the role they play, but it has definitely added a whole other layer of challenges. We’ve all had to adapt to a new way of learning and interacting with class materials, new technological tools, new routines. We had purchased our own workbooks and were doing our own homeschool thing, which the kids seemed to love. Now, it’s a daily struggle to get them the do the work assigned to them. Add another notch to my mom-guilt belt.  

That’s not to say it’s been all hard. It’s not been lost on me that this time I’ve been able to spend with my kids is sacred. After the last four years worth of sacrifices we’ve all made for me to be able to pursue a degree, we’re making the most of it as best we can. Do my kids spend way too much time staring at a screen most days? Probably. But, to be fair, so do most of us. And this isn’t forever. I would rather them be able to look back and remember the memories we made, not that their mom was a stressed-out hot mess. So, sometimes we spend the entire day in our jammies. Sometimes we bake muffins at 7 a.m. and sometimes we don’t eat dinner until 7 p.m. Sometimes, on magical mornings, I get in some yoga before anyone else wakes up, and sometimes I sleep in with enough time to make coffee before settling in to work. And those things are all okay! 

If this global pandemic has taught me anything, it has been to really cherish my loved ones and the time we have together, but also that my own well-being is just as important, so I shouldn’t feel selfish for taking time out of the day to focus on myself, and not just my role as a student. Above all, I’ve learned that, while uncertainty is scary, I am capable of handling it. But that doesn’t mean I need to do it alone. I have built myself a solid support system over the past four years at Western, in addition to my family and long-time friends, and I’ve tried as much as possible to take advantage of the opportunity to re-connect with people whom I might not have had time to under normal circumstances, or with the people who I went from seeing everyday to not at all. By nurturing these relationships, as well as the relationships with the people I live with, I’ve been able to approach each challenge that comes my way with courage, determination, and above all, hope. 

This week, I started the master’s program that I found out I had been accepted to on the same day that would be the last time I ever attended a class at Western. It’s too soon to tell the impact this transition will have on our family, if any, but I have proven to myself that I can do hard things, so what makes this any different? Or so I keep telling myself, anyway.  

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