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There Are No Right Answers

For the working mom, the current times are a no-win situation. There are plenty of dads, I’m sure, in the same predicament, but I’m going to speak from my perspective.

(Note: I’ve written this without re-reading it so I have no idea how many grammatical mistakes may follow.)

Before I begin, I have an amazing husband. He does laundry, takes the trash out, will run to the store for the one ingredient I’m missing for the dish I’m already cooking, calls himself my sous chef, willing to help me prepare most meals, more so since COVID life began. During our tutoring life he did all the shuttling for our son (for four years), has managed soccer practice and attended every game our son has ever played.

I work full time at a paying job, manage a non-profit which does not pay me, study all I can about dyslexia, neuroscience and the science of reading, study teaching materials related to writing instruction, advocate for my son, advocate for others when I am able, co-host a live show / podcast during the school year, cook, take showers, brush my teeth, and here and there try to sprinkle in some sleep.

Pre-COVID, I balanced the above quite well, impressively so if I may be so bold.

Yet, COVID introduced an additional element, which is trying to monitor my son’s school schedule, working his supports, answering his questions, teaching him what he’s not being taught, all the while trying to balance that with everything else.

Well, it damn near broke me.

While I generally manage my stress levels to enough of a degree that my migraines are not overwhelming, the stress of the above got to where I was averaging three migraines a week. It got bad enough that my husband had a “Come to Jesus” meeting with me one day while I laid in bed, trying to find darkness in the midst of the afternoon sun determined to make it’s presence known in our bedroom. He said I had to give up something, and since I couldn’t give up my paying job and I couldn’t give up supporting our son, then the obvious choice was dyslexia.

Well, I refused. What I did instead was crawl to the end of the school year, hobbled by the stress, but determined to survive.

Summer, needless to say, was the most welcome of respites. My only child, who has turned into a total gamer, was left to his own devices and happily so. He immersed himself in Japanese Anime cartoons, gaming, and watching YouTubers talk about his favorite games, a past time I will never comprehend.

The strange thing is I haven’t slept well for over a week. I wake up anxious and angry. I don’t know if my dreams are leading me to awake with those emotions, or if it’s my general frame of mind. The impending “FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL” has been shaking its ugly head at me, and I’ve been completely dreading it.

Last night I went to bed at 8:30 and slept until 7 am. I woke up feeling amazing! I was finally rested and ready to tackle the first day. I made a partial, big, first day of school breakfast, but didn’t get too far into it because a) my son wanted toast instead and b) I hadn’t yet spent the time necessary to ensure he could log on, because, well, I work full time, and I work 12-14 hour days most days.

I spent almost two hours trying to figure out his schedule, figure out his passwords, make sure he could log on, etc. The school district in their infinite wisdom doesn’t give parents their kids passwords, because “the kids know what they are.” Yeah, sure, uh huh, fine. MINE DOESN’T!!! Oh, and I can’t reset his password because my son needs to set up his cell and personal email address in the system because that’s the only way to get the verification code to reset the password. Yeah, sure, uh huh, fine. I’ve got some choice phrases for you people!!!!!!! He’s a minor and that’s just…well, I can’t say how it’s wrong because my parents read my blog! But, sure, I’ll plow through.

I then pull the bell schedule from one source and the schedule from another source and actually make an actual schedule that possesses all of the necessary information, you know, like we had when WE went to school. In this fancy technological world apparently it’s the norm to need to access multiple systems to answer basic questions. Us old people, aka Gen X, must be Cleatus the Slackjawed Yokel, but I could design a much more intuitive, logical system with pencil and paper and hire a programmer to write it and sell it and make billions of dollars, but it would be simple and logical and for some reason, that’s just wrong, and I’m stupid for having such logical protests. So, insanity it is.

But, I still created the schedule, in a Word document of all places, printed it, and my son is effectively using it.

After the first class, for the most part he’s been pretty self-contained, but here’s the rub, 1) true content has yet to begin and b) for some reason I am the gatekeeper of all things in my household from technological troubleshooting, all password knowledge and when that fails how to reset all passwords, to buying all the needed things, to being the dictionary and thesaurus for all things, to the knower of all facts, figures, statistics, know how’s, etc.

In a nut shell, this has been my side of the first day of school:

After spending 2 hours trying to trouble shoot how to get him online for the first day of school.  Do I know his password?  No.  Why not?  Parents aren’t given the passwords.  Only the kids.  Got him online.  Jump onto work computer and try to address unread email.  Mom?  Ok. Coming.  Fix.  Back to work.  Phone rings for work. Take call.  Mom?  Ok. Coming.  Sit back down at work computer.  Reply to 1 email.  Mom? Ok.  Coming.  Honey?  Go away!  But…. Go away!!  Mom?  Ok.  Coming.  Phone.  Email.  Meeting.  Teams message.  Mom?  Ok.  Coming.  Finally go take a shower.  Barely get wet.  Mom?  

Insert mammoth desire for wine bottle here.

My husband asked me to calm down. I shot him a look from hell and he went away.

And soon actual content will begin, and the ante will up significantly. On top of managing his zooms, and questions, we will add in his need for explanations, supports, etc. Yes, mom is the easy out for assistance, but he’s dyslexic too and a product, within the school system, of an deeply entrenched balanced literacy curriculum which has a) assumed that all children are born readers and b) assumed all children are born writers, which those of us who actually KNOW how the brain learns to read know what BS that is.

Anyway, here I sit, with a huge headache, knowing what’s in front of me, wanting to cry. I’ve hardly done the things I need to do for work, which means I’ll work extra late tonight to get those things done.

I saw an article the other day that said “COVID is the death of the working mom” and I couldn’t bring myself to read it because it’s true, and I didn’t need an article to tell me how true it is. We are the hub of our families, of our homes, and this is a nightmare, yet we (read: my family) refuse to submit our son to a great social experiment and send him back to school. Whether COVID is real or a political game isn’t up for debate here., the fact is regardless, we are not submitting our child to the social experiment that is COVID. Our job as parents is to protect him.

Which leads me down the path of whether or not I should homeschool. I think I’ve written about the lingering question before, but some friends persuaded me to give virtual a try, saying Jr. High had it down better than Elementary, so we shall see. Homeschool, if I end up making that decision, will bring two benefits. The first is I can correct his education on writing and further his reading knowledge more than anyone else, I have a math expert hired to be his tutor, and I can fill in the other subjects as needed. The second reason is purely for the sake of my own sanity.

We are at a time where the ask on the family is perhaps greater than it has ever been, and some how we are all being expected to just cope. The multiple pulls on our attention have not lessened or balanced each other, but in a time of great lay offs, the demands have just increased, as well as our gratefulness for simply being employed.

There is no right answer. There is no balance to be had. As for me, my head is pounding, my stress levels are where they were in the Spring, maybe even more so, and this is just the beginning.

Is it 5 o’clock yet?

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