Voices: Being a student, mother of 2 during COVID-19

Category:  Opinions
Friday, April 10th, 2020 at 10:27 AM

In this series, staff writer Simonique Dietz will discuss how she’s experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic while being both a student and mother of two.

It’s been nonstop every day. Being at home and doing my own schoolwork, while helping my kids with their work, and assisting my husband with things he needs, it can all be very draining.

I’m married with two girls. The older one is 7 years old and in school after transitioning from homeschool. My younger daughter is still being homeschooled until she’s 7.

On Monday, March 16, after receiving the schedule from my oldest daughter’s school for her assignments and Zoom meetings, I received emails, adjusted assignments and Zoom meeting times from my professors. Anxiety kicked in immediately, as you might imagine.

The daily routine

My mornings during self-quarantine have started at 5:30; I wake up, shower, do my beauty stuff and go back to sleep for a morning nap. Then I wake up again, read my Bible for a bit around 7 a.m., make some breakfast for myself: some “me” time. If my nap goes too long, to help, I taught my oldest daughter how to make breakfast so she’s able to feed her and her sister around 7:30. Sometimes, she’ll go above and beyond, bringing breakfast in bed for their dad and myself.

After breakfast we have worship; I’ve been finding a video on YouTube, or sometimes we sing, read and pray. They’ll also exercise with instructions from a YouTube video.

The school sent home a daily routine of what needs completed, with most of it being online. We’ve been starting out with some Scholastic social studies and activities they may have to do. My little daughter loves to copy what her older sister is doing, so that made my life easier. After that, on this specific day, they did 20 min of reading together, giving me time to put some clothes in the laundry. I stayed close by, just in case she didn’t pronounce a word correctly.

After recess, which was 20 minutes, it’s time for math. By this point, my husband would normally be down to make lunch. Trying to sneak in my own work, or perhaps a nap is tough; my kids are very affectionate and like to play together with mommy and daddy.

Family life

My husband is not a morning person, so we worked to put a schedule together. I take the morning time for the kids. He is a young senior pastor for three churches and the youth director for Western Pennsylvania Seventh Day Adventist churches, so he had to work out the best way to maintain communication with the members during church time and after. This involves quite a few meetings. I’m involved in his work, as well. I’m studying digital media, so I film his sermons, edit them and set them up as livestreams on different platforms so that they’re accessible to the different church members. He also does devotionals digitally once or twice a week.

On top of his meetings and planning, he makes sure to cook and clean. But, as with any couple during self-quarantine, we’ve had to make compromises regarding the children and daily tasks.

I take how my kids are taught very seriously. When they write something and it could be done better, I make sure they do it again. I create a structure so they know the expectations, and there’s no time for play. My husband is more flexible — instead he asks them if that’s their best and says “OK,” and that’s it. If they’re tired, he gives them a break until they feel like finishing. When I get upset with how they’re playing around while he’s watching them, I remember I have my work to do and let it go.

You have to choose your battles in our current situation.

I find my own parenting changing while in self-quarantine, as well. Normally, I don’t like my kids watching TV or being on tablets often, but our current times changed that. I needed more space for myself to do work quickly the second week, when the workload increased.

Sometimes I get a break; the first week when my husband went to the store, he took one of the kids. Those moments of ease ended quickly as the cases in Erie increased and the requirements for the quarantine intensified. Now, I stay home with the kids while he goes out.

Maybe it’s a man thing, but his first shopping trip alone, he bought cookies, candy and water, even with a list. His reason? They last longer than the healthy foods. Since that week, he’s made an effort to get what’s needed (and on the list). He doesn’t like going shopping alone, and he’s never had to since we got married, but now I know why.

Explaining COVID-19

We’ve been keeping up with the news and each time it’s more devasting than the day before. It was hard trying to explain the seriousness of the situation to our kids.

We’ve had to explain every day, “Naomi, you can’t go to school because there’s a virus going around and a lot of people who got it are dying. We want to protect you and your sister from getting it.”

They immediately forget that explanation and ask 5 minutes later.

“Mommy can we go to Chuck-E-Cheese?”

After a similar answer, an hour later, “Mommy can we go to Splash Lagoon?”

At this point, I call them over and ask, “do you love mommy?” They answer, “yes.”

“Mommy and daddy love you very much, and we can’t be without you. We don’t want anything to happen to you, so in order to keep you safe we have to stay away from places where there are a lot of people, like the mall, park, Splash Lagoon — anywhere there is people.”

It’s really sad, but when my husband has the time, he does fun things with them, helping to burn off their energy before bed time.

This week, we also decided to take some long drives around the rural areas, just to give the kids some time out of the house. We also go to the church and have the kids go around the church yard on their bikes.

Unlike other families, with my husband being a pastor, we can go to the church to have fun with the kids outside of the home. Being able to do that has many advantages, since there’s a school attached at the back and a private playground. This made life much easier once we started to work it into our schedule as an outside activity separate from walking. I was able to get more time for myself and able to focus on all my homework (something I really couldn’t do that first week).

My husband dealt with everything pertaining to the kids and the home before; we shared that responsibility if something came up on his end for his work. Meanwhile, I was able to focus on my school and work to push my career forward.

This has definitely brought out a different side of each of us. But we talk about everything and work it out, and once we learned how to better choose our battles, that brought us even closer as a family.

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