March 18, 2020 set in motion a series of events that had me fumbling on hands and knees down uncharted territory. Our Dragon’s school closed one day before spring break and she would not return. Our Monkey would also not return after this day. My husband and I had been waiting cautiously to see what would become of this COVID-19 situation, we had no idea how it would upend our lives.
Let’s back up a bit. When I first set out in my professional life, it was as a therapist serving in community mental health settings in generalist practice and treatment of trauma. My most recent years saw a shift from the micro-level work to more macro work in health promotion focused on alcohol and other drug risk reduction. All this to say, while I enjoyed teaching when I was younger it was not something I had planned on doing as a career, much less with my own children. The pandemic changed all of that.
Initially, my husband and I tried white-knuckling it while attempting to work full-time from home. At first, we found joy in things long lost due to the hectic schedules of a two-parent working household. We spent lots of time outside, cooking at home, and really seeing our children in a way we hadn’t been able to in some time. Simultaneously, we were struggling on weekdays to occupy our children’s attention. We half stared at our computer screens while absently nodding at whatever request they made. It made for some long and stressful days. Our naive hopes at the start of all of this was that if we buckled down and made these sacrifices, things in the future would improve and return to a flavor of normal. Obvious spoiler, it didn’t get better.
Come summer, I would be notified that my remote, (somewhat) flexible work situation would change significantly. Dragon’s school opted to go back to in-person school with a (7-hour on-screen) virtual option and Monkey’s preschool planned to open back up as well (with some heavy modifications). Cue our long, drawn out conversations about next steps. As is not uncommon to find in other households, between my husband and me, he makes the higher salary by a significant margin. We both have post-graduate degrees but his holds significantly more value being in the STEM field. We’ve had many conversations expressing our frustration at this inevitable inequity in our current society; however, this time was different as we were having to make difficult decisions impacting my career.
Obviously, given the previously stated facts, my husband leaving his job was out of the question. What was in question was whether we would send Dragon and Monkey back to school full-time (hard no), do the virtual option (with Monkey acting wild all day on the loose) with me “working” full-time, or if we went with a whole other alternative. In the end, we opted for the other alternative.
I agonized over this choice. I value my work and my career. I also value my two children seeing a hardworking mom using her education. And if I’m really honest, I value being seen as a working woman. I had to confront my reflection and all the harbored biases and pressure while making a significant life decision. I’d like to add here that there is inherent privilege in us being able to entertain these decisions at all. I recognize that our specific situation was such that an option for me to change my current status in my career was because of our financial situation which is certainly not afforded to most.
After talking it over, my husband and I decided that going back in-person for either of them was out. The thought of our preschool-aged Monkey running around wild while Dragon attempted to stare at a screen for 7 hours seemed unrealistic. And if I was planning to be home to wrangle Monkey all day, then why not just tackle homeschooling both. Phew. How did we get here?!
In the end, we made the decision to cut back significantly on my working hours to quarter time. My supervisor and their supervisor were supportive and understanding during this time, a tremendous weight off in moving forward with this decision. My grief about this loss hasn’t yet been fully realized emotionally. I have processed it, to a point, cognitively but attending to the full emotional ramifications has been difficult given the demand to take on the new challenge of homeschooling.
So August started this homeschooling adventure I never dreamed I’d be taking. Along with my education and training in social work and health promotion is my passion for equity work. While it was part of my graduate program, it’s also something I’ve actively sought out in any place I’ve worked and in my own personal life. In my early years, it started as clubs and organizations in K-12 school and I believe a lot of this was driven by my own adoption and identity experience. When I opted on this new adventure, I endeavored to do so using curricula I value such as Social Emotional Development and the Montessori Method but also through an antiracist lens that addresses and combats a lot of the misinformation of the curriculum the current public school system dictates be taught. In addition, this provided a prime opportunity to infuse Korean and Spanish language learning in a delayed attempt to realize our goal of raising multilingual children. So while the choice was not ideal, it did open a door to providing the kind of education for which I had hoped for our children.
We are well into semester two and I’ll just say, I knew there was a reason I stopped teaching when I did and didn’t make it my career. Thank goodness for the amazing teachers out in the world. I am ever grateful for your work and time.