As I write this, we are just around the corner from the start of a new school year. Store shelves are stocked with back to school essentials and kids everywhere are gearing up to go back. In many ways, this year is almost identical to those of the past.
Despite the similarities, this school year is fraught with controversy unlike any we’ve ever experienced.
I would argue that never in the history of public schools have so many parents questioned whether to send their kids back to school. It’s a tough question without a clear solution.
Both sides have valid arguments.
My husband and I have wrestled with this question endlessly over the past few months. We both work in nursing homes and feel as if we live, breathe, and sleep coronavirus. Between the constant threat of PPE shortages, potential exposures within the facility, and the social impacts of quarantine on residents, work life is incredibly bleak right now.
Our days are spent figuring out how to minimize risk and maximize quality of life for a population statistically hit hardest by the virus.
It’s not surprising that the constant fear and anxiety about worst case scenarios then follows us home at night.
Home where 3 young kids depend on us. And like countless parents out there, we are doing our best to make the choices we feel are the right ones for our family.
The scary reality is that there’s so much which is simply unknown about this virus. We have no idea what the long-term effects are or which treatments are most effective. There is no vaccine yet or even knowledge about whether immunity would last more than a few months. The medical community can give no reassurance on how to know whether you or your loved ones would succumb to the most severe form of the virus.
Statistically speaking, most people, kids included, seem to recover without incident. But relying on statistics when the consequences are potentially fatal is not reassuring, especially when it comes to your kids.
Especially when your youngest was born prematurely and then spent 3 weeks in the NICU. Or when he has had multiple hospitalizations for respiratory illnesses.
And although he has grown so much over the past 4 years, the terror of almost losing him at several points still haunts us.
Not a Teacher
Despite all the unknowns about the virus, there are valid reasons to send our kids back to school. The most compelling is that neither my husband nor I is an elementary teacher. When schools suddenly closed last spring, I felt completely lost and overwhelmed by resuming their curriculum myself at home.
I felt completely unprepared to teach my third grader 50 different ways to complete one math problem. Or simplify science to the point where it was both educational and interesting for a kindergartener.
Don’t get me wrong. I love teaching my kids a wide variety of useful life skills and knowledge.
But my kids see me as mom. They see me as the person who meets all their basic needs. I’m the one who buys their favorite snacks, does their laundry, and tucks them in at night.
And although our house has boundaries, I’m also the one they behave the worst around. Between the tantrums and the talking back and the fighting, my days are often exhausting.
But as my husband reminds me, it’s a good thing that they feel comfortable enough at home to let it all out. They are typically very well behaved in most other settings which means they have to get it out somewhere. I’d rather have them fall apart at home than anywhere else.
Being mom and teacher adds a level of stress to the relationship which I simply don’t want. And much of this has to do with my own perfectionist tendencies because I know the added frustration would be on me. Although I am working on these tendencies, doing so with the burden of being solely responsible for the education of my kids is not a positive situation.
My sanity and the preservation of my relationship with my kids demands they learn from their highly talented teachers.
Check out this hilarious video for another mom’s take on homeschooling!
Another incredibly compelling reason to send the kids back to school is their socialization. They need interaction with other kids their age for their own development.
My parents kept me home until I was in first grade and I’ve always felt that this impacted me negatively. Interacting with other kids who weren’t family members was terrifying by that point! I can completely understand the financial aspects of keeping me out of day care and don’t blame them however do feel it stunted my social growth.
To this day, I feel that my natural introvert tendencies were greatly enhanced by the delayed introduction to socialization.
I would hate for my kids to be in a similar position.
Although my kids have been in day care basically since birth, our center closed down back in March when the schools closed. The center did open back up about a month later but we opted to keep them out due to our anxiety over the virus.
Because let’s be honest. If there’s one place where you’re sure to pick up a communicable illness, it’s day care. I don’t care how clean the center, kids are kids and put their mouths and hands on everything.
Our kids have therefore been their own playmates for these past few months and are eager to expand their social circles. I am also eager to get them interacting with others again.
Back to School or Bust
My husband and I both work full-time. I’ve never envisioned myself as a stay-at-home mom or had any desire to be one. I give all the credit in the world to the moms who are able to make it work but I would struggle without the challenges work provides.
Work challenges are admittedly a bit much at times but I love making a difference in the lives of my patients! And having only graduated as a nurse practitioner a year ago, I’m still eager to learn and grow when I walk into work each morning. I’ve worked tirelessly to get where I am and wouldn’t want to lose that even in the midst of a global pandemic.
It’s funny to think back to when I chose this career path over 10 years ago. Beyond a strong desire to help others, one of the reasons I chose healthcare was for job stability. My young and very naive mind felt that even if the world came to an end, people would still need nurses.
It’s been more than a little unnerving to watch nurses and other essential healthcare workers laid off. The world has changed dramatically overnight and there’s not much any of us can do about it but hang on tight and see what happens next.
All this to say that I’m so thankful for my job and the opportunity to do what I do. Voluntarily walking away at this point is not an option.
Beyond the fulfillment work provides are the student loans I’ve accrued over the past 10 years.
Our budget relies upon two incomes. And I’m not confident I can excel at both working full-time and homeschooling my children.
The Working Mom Dilemma
Unfortunately the pandemic has thrown so many other working moms in the same dilemma. How do you continue providing for your family without sending your kids back to school?
Yet another example of the constant pull between work and home.
Working moms are unfortunately all too familiar with the juggling act required to keep all the balls in the air. But in this situation, the stakes are much higher.
Families everywhere are being asked to choose between health, education, and economic wellbeing. And unfortunately, the current situation makes it extremely difficult to have all three simultaneously.
It’s especially problematic for those of us who are unable to work remotely. And even for those who can work from home, I can only imagine how productive working from home is when you have young kids. Now throw the added stress of schoolwork on top of everything else and it’s one big recipe for disaster.
But if there’s anything I’ve learned from being a working mom, it’s that I can do hard things. I can make tough choices and provide for my family while being an engaged and supportive mom.
It can even be argued that I’m a better mom because I work. And somehow, in some weird way, everything will work out. Today’s tough decisions will turn into tomorrow’s blessings. We will pull through this.
Check out this post for the secret to making working mom life work.
Make a Decision
There is not a one-size-fits-all decision in this incredibly complex situation. You have to seek out the information that you feel will best assist in your decision-making and move forward.
And just because you make one decision now, it doesn’t mean you can’t later change your mind. Maybe your situation changes in a few months and you have to pivot. It’s not a big deal! Life is always changing which means we have to change with it. We don’t have the luxury of staying where we’re at for too long.
Change is difficult, especially when there are so many unknowns. But all you can do is make the best possible decision based on the information immediately available to you.
Take the time to find the most useful information and filter out the rest. Although admittedly apprehensive about sending my kids back to school, my husband suggested we meet with the school to learn more about their precautions.
And do you know what? I felt so much better about our decision after doing so. Our school is taking the health department guidelines seriously and has implemented so many changes to make everyone as safe as possible.
I’m feeling much more encouraged about their new learning environment and the many benefits that come with these changes. Reaching out for help was all I needed to confirm our decision.
Check out this post for tips on finding peace despite chaos.
We Will Get Through This … Together
Do you want to know what will make getting through 2020 nearly impossible? Blame. Division. Wishing things were different. Spending too much time on social media. As moms, we need to gather together and support each other in our very personal decisions about going back to school.
This has been a tough year for all of us. But maybe one thing we can take away from it is how much we need each other. Maybe this is an opportunity to set a new course, learn, and grow as moms and as women.
After all, there’s nothing like a global pandemic to force us into re-evaluating our priorities. The old normal is gone, never to return. But we have an amazing opportunity to create something new.
This is our time to seize the day! We can create a better world for our kids.
And it starts with shutting off the news, stopping the social media scroll, and truly connecting with our loved ones. Have confidence in yourself and your decisions. The back to school dilemma is a tough one but deep inside, you know what’s best for your family.
It also starts with taking care of ourselves, mind, body, and spirit. Do what makes you truly happy and stop caring what anyone else thinks. Work toward acceptance of any situation. Realize that so much suffering in life is self-perpetuated by failing to accept what we can’t change.
We have no way of knowing what the future holds. But we can’t possibly have any inner peace if we are constantly assuming the worst. Happiness comes from acceptance of that which we can’t change.
Choose gratitude and look for something to be grateful for in even the worst circumstances because there’s ALWAYS a silver lining. Let’s all embrace the positive, band together, and start this school year off on the right foot!
And if you’re the one heading off to school this fall, check out this post for authentic advice on going back to school as a mom.
It’s Your Turn
Are you struggling with whether to send your kids back to school this year? Or have you made a decision but question whether it’s the right one? Maybe you made the decision months ago and are feeling incredibly confident about your decision.
Drop a comment below and tell us about it! I’d love to hear your perspective on how the pandemic is impacting your life. We’re all in this together and maybe your story can help someone else on their journey. As always, thank you so much for reading and I hope you have come away motivated to live your best life!