August 13, 2020
NACA Experience & Events Director
2020 has been difficult for so many reasons and while I can handle most of the things that have been thrown at me, balancing being an employee and a parent has been the hardest part. I keep thinking it would so much easier if I had either toddlers or adult children, but I know that is not true. I have two-school aged children that need so much right now and like parents across the country, balancing work with their needs is difficult at best.
Three weeks ago, my kids went back to daycare, which might have been the hardest decision I've ever had to make as a parent. Any type of group setting inherently comes with risk and putting my children's health at risk is certainly not something I felt comfortable doing. On the other hand, after a solid three and a half months of isolation my five-year-old was having daily temper tantrums, nightmares, and not sleeping well at all. My nine-year-old has been drawing pictures of kids dying in hospital beds alone. The emotional effects of being locked up with their family and the pandemic itself are apparent. Over the last three weeks, we have seen the little one bounce back to her normal cheerful, loving self. She has had one meltdown, is sleeping well, and generally seems happy again. Our oldest also seems less worried and anxious. However, we get almost daily emails from our daycare about positive cases or exposures in the classroom, through teachers or classmates, and that adds an entirely different stress level to the situation.
As we enter the fall, we are being forced to decide between a full year of virtual learning or a hybrid face-to-face model that does not seem to have the proper safety precautions in place. My five-year-old should be entering kindergarten and learning to read. My nine-year-old needs in-person learning with a real teacher. She already lags behind in reading due to eye issues and the gap has only widened since March. Another terribly hard decision to make that will likely impact them for years to come.
In the absence of in-person school they really need a full-time parent, but that is just not possible. There is no end in sight of this pandemic and working parents all over the country are going to have to juggle parenting, teaching, and working full time. It is overwhelming to say the least and will likely result in many families choosing to have one parent leave their careers, which itself comes with a lot of privilege. Showing up for work every day and shelving the weight of the world for 8 hours is difficult, if not impossible. I do not know what the other side of this pandemic will look like, but it is clear that our kids will suffer significantly from the lack of education, socialization and support resources. In the meantime, employers will also have to learn to be empathetic and flexible. And we as parents will have to learn to give ourselves grace and know that we are all doing the best we can for our kids, ourselves and our employers.
Toire Vince is the Experience & Events director for the National Association for Campus Activities.
Related Professional Competency: Professional Development