As the last days of August 2020 faded away, I was sure that my kids wouldn’t step foot in a school building for the entirety of the 2020-2021 school year. I chalked it up to a lost year, a year where we’d focus on survival, care, and community, but not academics. We’d be fully remote and pin our hopes on a vaccine making the fall of 2021 our goal for returning to classrooms. That feeling lasted all the way to the end of March.
Then science gave us hope (and privilege gave us access), and I found myself enthusiastically sending my daughters to hybrid school for the final quarter of the school year. At dinner after that first day back in the school building, I asked my third grader how her day was. “I wish I could go every day,” she answered. Me too, kiddo, me too. The relief, the joy, the emotions of just letting my kids be kids and feel even semi-normal again was incredible. Not to mention, sitting in silence in my house, absolutely alone for the first time in over a year, was the most glorious luxury I have ever experienced.
A Mom of Many Hats
Don’t get me wrong, compared to many families, we have been incredibly lucky for the past year and a half. We had the resources needed to make the best of remote learning. We had space and supplies and high-speed internet. But most of all, our family had me: a parent with the ability to dedicate so much of her time to supporting two kids through a mind-boggling school year. I was tech support, guidance counselor, lunch lady, custodian, librarian, nurse, teaching assistant, hall monitor, playground supervisor, mediator, and supply closet manager. All on top of my usual mom duties of caring for two kids–in a pandemic no less!–while managing our household.
The Default Parent
It’s undeniable that the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted moms in a uniquely devastating way. Mothers left the workforce in record numbers to provide child care in quarantine. Moms worked more hours than ever trying to balance paid work and motherhood from make-shift offices at home. Moms are disproportionately the default parent, taking on hours of unpaid (and often invisible) labor every day. And women everywhere will feel the lasting effects of this work-life interruption for years to come.
My youngest started kindergarten last fall, albeit not in the way I ever imagined. This past school year was supposed to be my year, my time to reclaim a bit of who I am–who I was–before I spent eight years committed to raising two small children and prioritizing their needs over my own. This was meant to be my year to rediscover myself and my passions and plan my future as the parent of more independent, school-aged kids. Sure, I spent a lot of time pondering the future during lockdown, but more in an existential dread way rather than a ‘what’s my next career move’ kind of vibe.
So here we are now, staring down back-to-school season in the time of Covid. Again. (Or is it still?) It feels different this time, though. It is different this time. Where I live, most residents who are eligible have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The city has fully reopened. Tourists and traffic are back. While we’re still awaiting news on vaccines for our young children, it’s easy to feel almost back to normal most of the time.
Our school district has stated they will fully reopen schools this fall. But like Covid has done to so many aspects of our life, back-to-school still feels very much like a wait-and-see situation. With the Delta variant looming large and our teacher’s union being vaguely non-committal, I’m not heading out to buy school supplies just yet. Nor am I setting up that clunky, cluttered remote learning table in our living room again.
Instead, I’m focusing on the now. Our playgrounds are open. The sun is shining, and we’re making up for lost time. I’m soaking up every last minute of this summer; enjoying all of the adventures and outings that wide-spread vaccination has granted us. School is coming, in some form or another. As we await that first bell that will signal a new year, I am filled with hope. But I’m also mentally preparing to adapt, sacrifice, and make it work because that’s just what moms do.