Revisiting Being a Stay-at-Home Parent

I am revisiting being a stay-at-home mom since the pandemic and brazenly quitting my job. I haven’t done this since 2007, and I have to say it’s interesting? Well, first off, looking for a job, particularly now, is fairly rotten. I hit up all the job sites, like Indeed and Glassdoor, in addition to going to actual websites of places I might like to work, and I have not had much success. It takes forever, and you have to enter a lot of search filters, leaving you eventually tired, exasperated and cross-eyed. Plus, I don’t even know what I want to do. I clicked on a wide array of positions, including being a Door Dash delivery person, an online social media designer, a development director, and a reporter. I freaked out that I’d get murdered with being a delivery person, so I opted out of that search.

But, then, I stumbled upon what may be my real talent and niche: Camp Counselor Philanthropist! Since school has yet to begin here in our town (first full day is October 13 #brutal), I started Camp Alex: Endless Summer. It’s essentially impossible for working parents now when kids are home all day, so I am helping them out while simultaneously entertaining my own children by having them over for camp. Win-win!

Here’s a look at Camp Alex. First, we have Puppy School, in which the dogs do math and get grades. The kids do “drop-off,” bringing the dogs upstairs with treats, and I do “pick-up.” At this time, I am versed on how well they behaved. For example, today, Poppy got an A+ and Winnie struggled with some addition and got a B+

Didn’t make Honor Roll

Around noon, we have lunchtime, which consists of whatever I can find in my fridge that they might like: edamame, french fries, grilled cheese and gummies.

Healthy!
Questionable

Next, we have play time on the trampoline and on the slide. One of their favorite games, which I created a long time ago as a disciplinary method, is “The Crab.” It’s really quite simple: find some tongs, and chase them around with the tongs biting at their ankles (gently, of course) and their knees. This is the crab! They absolutely love it, and it only costs a pair of tongs! Cheap, officious and fun. Next, we have pool time, in the baby pool, and finally quiet time with puzzles and crafts.

It’s interesting how we fall into things and unknown talents, like me being a camp counselor, during difficult times. I’m making the most of my staying at home during COVID, because I know it could be short lived. I don’t miss being in the office cubicle even one bit. The paycheck? Er, well, that’s another thing. For now, though, these kids laughing is a pretty good payoff.

My kindness rock garden

(My) School is in Session! And, Home Ec Returns!

I have officially taken matters into my own hands, and I began homeschooling today. I needed some sort of routine, not only for myself but also for my children. Here was the situation: I was on the couch with coffee, thinking of maybe turning on Bravo to waste away the early morning hours while the kids were asleep, and, lo and behold, they were awake! And again on their iPads.

I started to feel pangs of guilt and was torn between Million Dollar Listing and being a good parent. It was a tough one… Ha! But, I am proud to say, I yelled up the stairs, “Kids! Get dressed! Brush your teeth! We are having school today!”

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Breakfast is served (Dannon smoothie), and pencils are sharpened!

They were confused. “Wait, what?” That’s right, peops. Make the bed, pull your act together, and we are done with this lackadaisical, sedentary, gluttonous behavior (I was sort of talking to myself). I had them each pick out a chapter book. She picked Junie b. Jones, and he picked out something about sharks and walruses, one of those “Who Would Win?” books. You know who is winning today? ME! I kicked it into high gear, created some math worksheets, and I taught her about carrying over and subtraction. (Oh, and I had to use my fingers to count once. That’s kind of embarrassing? Shhh).

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She even got dressed in a glitter headband. I think she was excited!

We did reading, wrote an essay (okay, a few sentences about the problem in the book and the solution), math, and then…get this: I had them do laundry! That’s right. This school brought back Home Economics. Remember that? That’s kind of old-school. Well, it SHOULD be mandatory curriculum, because my children are seriously lacking in the folding laundry department, and I could use some little elves to help around here.

Remember when our parents had kids just to do chores? I feel like I was born with an apron and a dusting mitt on. (Sorry, mom. No, you did a good job, but I mean so did I…with cleaning).

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Cursory folding job. Grade: B-

It’s only 11:00, though, and they are done with school. Next up: recess outside. I guess this is a half-day. Contact me if you’d like to sign up for my school. There will be an (A) cohort and a (B) cohort, scattered drop-offs, mercurial schedules, lots of emails, and no remote learning. Mmmkay? Oh, and have them dressed ready to do chores!

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To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool? That is the Question.

Who here is struggling with whether or not to homeschool in the fall? I am raising my hand virtually, because I can’t decide! I mean, on the one hand, I am totally in fear of the fact that I will have to be their teacher again, and I’m gonna be honest…I wasn’t that great at it! Not only did I lack some real patience, but I also let them have recess too long, and I skimmed over some stuff, and I totally let them take advantage of me, like we used to do when we told the substitute we were never given homework on Tuesdays.

On the other hand, I don’t want to send them to school and worry each day that they’re carrier monkeys who didn’t wear their masks, or didn’t wash their hands, and did not keep their distance at recess. I can say now from my observations this summer, that when kids get together, the distance seems to go out the window. So then, I think, “Okay, let’s just bite the bullet, and I will step up and be a good teacher. I will have a curriculum, and I will stick to a schedule and I will forgo my life for the school year, even more so.”

Then…I sit on the couch and stare out the window, frozen, and think about making a run to the liquor store.

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Fact: I didn’t look like this. I was not smiling, and my hair isn’t that short.

So maybe I won’t make a decision. Isn’t that a decision? I just want people to decide for me. I remember going to therapy, and I’d ask the therapist, “Can’t you just tell me what to do?” And she’d be all, “No, that’s not my job! You have to figure that out for yourself. I can lead you in that direction, but I can’t make a decision for you.” Well that made my decision: not to go to therapy anymore…

Also, don’t our decisions constantly change? Or is that just me? For example, today, I implored my children to go to the beach with me. See how messed up that sounds? Like, I have to beg someone to go to the BEACH? How ’bout y’all get a job, and then we can talk about how painful the beach is… Anyway, so my daughter says to me, “No! I’m not going so you can sit on your can in the sun and not swim!”

SIT ON MY CAN!

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What I sit on

Can you believe she said that to me? First off, where’d she get that expression (#guilty?). Second, I had to not laugh (even though it was kinda hysterical) and tell her that she better shape up and stop disrespecting me.

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So we decided not to go to the beach and instead to go to the Vineyard on the ferry boat. Good plan? Okay, maybe. So I go get dressed, walk the dogs, get ready to roll, and the kids are not moving. They’re now settled in with their devices, playing Adopt Me and Shark Hunt, and now I’m pacing back and forth like a rabid hyena telling them we “NEED TO GO!” so we can find parking and get on the hot, COVID ferry only to ride over and be hot in a mask. They didn’t respond.

So I decided not to go to the Vineyard.

Now I am doing this.

See? I can’t make a decision. Can you? Homeschool or no? 

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As the School Admins Consider Next Year…

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My day unofficially starts at 5:30 when, half-asleep, I hobble down the stairs carrying one dog in one hand, while the other is nipping at my bare feet to take them outside. I then go upstairs and try to get some sleep for another hour or so until my youngest child rises at 7.

“Do we have school today?” she asks, leaping to get dressed.
“Yep,” I say. “But let me get some coffee first.”
I make the coffee, log into my work email, log into my personal email to see if the kids have mandatory Zoom meetings, and then…BEGIN.

Over the course of the next five hours, I have an anxious stomach, combined with a feeling of harried frenzy and drowning.

“How do you spell Memorial Day?” my daughter inquires. I’m in the middle of typing out a case statement for my job.
“Huh?” I say, still focused and typing on my laptop.
“How do you spell–”
“I don’t know, honey,” I snap. “Ask Siri.”

Then the guilt seeps in.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “Can you just hold on for a few minutes while I finish this?”
She agrees and stares at me while I finish typing. But I’m nowhere near done with work. I have to pause to help her with her assignments, as she can’t do them herself at age 7, but I’m half-present. One half of my brain is concerned that I have to finish work for my job, and the other half is trying to be a good mother and teacher with patience

This conversation repeats itself about five more times until 1:00 p.m.

In the interim, my son is on my other laptop (since I was never given that promised Chromebook we were supposed to get) wailing about how “stupid” this all is and yelling, “It’s too much! I need help.” I go to him to help him understand a passage, which, truthfully, I have to reread about two times myself, because I don’t even understand it.

My body is now a raw nerve, an axon without myelin sheath. I am the definition of stress.

By 1:30,  I realize no one has really eaten much, including myself. Well, there was the Oreo ice cream she fed herself, and some cereal, but he denied any food until now. So now I have to make meals. Sh*t, I haven’t gone to the grocery store other than to get a few items here and there, and I think we have, like, nothing.

It’s now 2 p.m., and I continue to do work for my job, all the while wondering how I can entertain the children. They can’t be on their devices all afternoon, because that would be bad parenting. And, they can’t really play with any friends in the neighborhood, because of the pandemic.

So, I am stuck.

I let them play on their ipads for a bit and then tell them they have to play outside in the back, or that I will pay my son to entertain my daughter until I finish work.

This is how every day goes until 5. I just try to get through it, and then it happens again the next day.

I write this today, because conversations are swirling back and forth on text between me and some mothers as to the plans for school next year. There are ideas of: (1) going back half the week, an “A” group and a “B” group, and, (2) continuing to homeschool.

How about (3)–something else, because neither one of those works for me, or for any full-time, single parent.

I realize this is unprecedented, and no one knows what to do at this point in time, and the school administration is trying to factor in everyone’s needs and wants. I just hope mothers and fathers in my situation are considered. It is not possible to continue in this way. Something has to give, and right now, it’s just me.