I am Sue. pic.twitter.com/j0Gbr4BbtD
— Georgie Dent (@georgiedent) March 24, 2020
I was at Sue status only 1.5 days in to having our three daughters aged 4, 7 and 9 home. In three and a half more days your guess is as good as mine. Lots of other parents suddenly thrust into a world of keeping their children home indefinitely, related. Funny memes along the same lines are everywhere. They are funny in many ways. But in lots of ways this situation isn’t funny. It is really really hard.
Before I elaborate on parents struggling let me acknowledge the ways this particular pandemic isn’t hard.
It isn’t hard because I am being required to front up to my job in a school or preschool or childcare centre at a time when staying home is the advice everyone is being given to stay safe. It’s not hard because on top of that, I am also being expected to fulfil a totally new brief for teaching, potentially with reduced access to the hand sanitiser and soap we are constantly being told is critical.
It isn’t hard because I am turning up to work genuinely fearful about whether I will be able to access adequate protective gear while being exposed to an infectious virus.
I am not a health professional staring down the barrel of a terrifying curve while considering the number of ICU beds and ventilators that will be needed. And comparing it to the numbers available.
I am not one of the several hundred thousand Australians who has lost their job in the past week who is now having to navigate access to social services at a time when the system is completely overwhelmed. (Though certainly as a gig economy participant my income for the remainder of the year has been slashed.)
I am not one of the hundreds of thousands of Australians whose business, in which they have invested blood, sweat and tears, is on the verge of going under. Or has gone under.
We have food. We have shelter. We have jobs.
Against that backdrop, the reality of home-schooling shouldn’t be hard. I know that, and, I guess, that’s what makes it even harder. Because it is.
Because we can keep our children home we’re following the advice of the NSW Premier and doing that.
Home-schooling is not hard because I am desperately seeking to replicate a formal education in this setting, and certainly not in just a few days.
It’s the totality of the situation.
It’s not just that the routine of school itself isn’t happening for them, it’s that none of the associated activities that keep them occupied and entertained are happening either. And they haven’t for several weeks now.
I can't tell you how much my patience with homeschooling is fraying. Aside from the psychological toll and in-fighting between classmates, I'm also now grappling with IT stuff too. I AM NOT QUALIFIED.
— Georgie Dent (@georgiedent) March 24, 2020
No one in the family unit gets the welcome break that friends, sport, activities, music, a class room, playdates, an office and a different physical setting usually provides. The kids are, understandably, bored. The parents are, understandably, worried.
Siblings of a certain age, ah, rarely extend each other the same patience they may offer more willingly to their classmates or friends, certainly not as consistently. Parents too.
Perhaps in a particularly sprawling home these tensions might lessen, but for the bulk of Australian families, certainly ours, houses mean being in close physical proximity. Around the clock. It is testing.
Trying to juggle what remains of my paid work, always a salvation and more so now, while being physically present and visible at home is tricky. Certainly not a concept a four year old can readily grasp.
There is so little to punctuate the days, not in a substantive sense. A routine matters hugely and there is certainly to scope to create at least the illusion of some variation but let’s be realistic – at the end of the day – there isn’t much variation possible. It’s the same four walls and the same characters.
No one is unaffected right now. Certainly the extent to which these worries apply varies but between financial stress, business collapse, health anxieties, the inability to see family members, friends and relatives, plans being changed, being confined to our homes not as saints but mere mortals with limited patience, there is no end to the factors conspiring against our collective sanity.
So to any parents struggling with the way your lives have been turned upside down, I hear you. I see you. I am you.
This won’t last forever. Staying the course is mandatory. There is no alternative. But, also, it’s hard and it’s ok to admit that.
Angela Priestley has published an excellent piece today sharing ideas to entertain and educate kids at home.