How many balls are we juggling?
Parent, Teacher, Partner -Oh My!

I have this amazing friend. She’s warm, generous, funny and creative. She’s a mum, a teacher, a wife and the kind of friend that comes around once in a lifetime. We don’t have everything in common, I mean I have no idea why anyone wants to ‘scrapbook’, but there’s a friendship between us built on love, shared experiences and a lot of laughter and tears over our respective families. I decided to interview her about what it has been like trying to ‘juggle’ life during COVID.

How would you describe yourself?  I am a forty something mum and wife. I’m fairly (read ‘heavily’) involved in my community. Generally, I am a positive person.  I am also a primary school teacher.

What’s your family like? I have 3 boys (15,14 and 10). I’m married. We live in the burbs and I love the burbs. My boys are a range of ‘nerdy’ and ‘sporty’ heads. We are a loving family and we also regularly get on each other’s nerves.  Sometimes intensely.

What is your job this year?  I am a Year 6 teacher. It’s my first year 6 class and it has turned into something quite different. I also lead the 3-6 choir and run the Environment Warriors club. It helps with recycling, awareness, gardening, compost etc. I apply for grants for this with the local council. My boss calls me his rain maker.

What did COVID mean for you and your family? As a mum my greatest concern was my oldest boy. He is immune compromised due to an auto immune disease. It seemed like COVID was on the horizon for a long time for us getting bigger and bigger. It’s better now that we are all home but for a while, he had to be at home on his own. We just wanted to protect him.  I couldn’t help reading articles about the teenage boy (in UK) who died from Covid. Same age. So many decisions. Do we keep him isolated? What about the other boys? What if I brought it home from school and he got sick? If he went to hospital, he would have been alone. That would have been heartbreaking.

What’s it like being a teacher and having your boys home-schooling? My boys have always fought against me when I tried to teach them, so this has been a big adjustment. The eldest only needs some assistance with specific assignments and his tutoring has been via skype, so that’s great. The other 2 are another story. One is a ‘work avoider’ who says he was doing all his work. Of course, we discovered that wasn’t happening and now we are being more involved. The youngest needs a lot of help. I was meeting my class online at 10am to connect with my students, but that meant he was not being supervised during this time, so not a lot was getting done. I am making changes to my routine in Term 2 to juggle my class teaching and time when I can help him.  To be honest, at the end of Term 1 I kind of landed in a heap. I had to fight to stay positive. Exhausted. There was so much work still to finish at school. We worked hard over the Easter weekend so we could all have a ‘holiday’ from it all.

What are your priorities for now? It’s still holidays right now, and I am trying to make sure we all get along with each other. No easy feat. Actually, this time is precious. We won’t get it back, spending time without outside ‘pulls’ distracting us. To parent well and not be distracted by sport, social activities and the things I normally can’t say ‘no’ to. I am enjoying this moment. Making the most of it. For my family, we are doing craft and taking (forced) family walks. The middle one is going through a ‘change’ and expressing himself in anger. We are all copping it. The boys are limited in screen time but doing the things they want to do. Making sure everyone gets some exercise.

For myself, I have started creating a diary for each week for goals to achieve. Practice and learn bass guitar. Do some art. Connect with friends or family. Praying. Jigsaws. Board games. Made up games. Have lunch on the back lawn as a family.  I am trying to take a break and not think about work until next week but ‘the voice’ to start planning Term 2 is getting louder and louder.

Professionally I have a few priorities. They introduced 4 or 5 online programs for students in a short period of time. I need to upskill and use the holidays to get my head around them and feel more competent. I also need to produce a few videos on school material. Every other day there are announcements from the PM and the Department of Education. It is still unclear what Term 2 will be like. Some kids will need to stay home and some need to go to school. Some parents aren’t coping with either. I don’t know how many kids will turn up and what portion will still be at home. It’s tricky trying to cover both from the classroom. No one seems to know what the right thing to do is. We are all just doing our best. Like most teachers, I am not in charge of decisions and if the school tells me to do something different, that’s what I must do even if I have put hours and hours into planning already. It may just go out the window.

What have your boys learned about life right now? I guess they have learned how to manage themselves. They have chosen their own routines, more so during school term.  Every day they have a phone date with their grandparents at 2pm. I want them to appreciate how others are living in different situations to them and rely on us to stay connected. They have learned the art of daily small talk rather than the weekly catch up. I overheard one of them talking about the weather yesterday. Hilarious.

What have your children taught you?  Communicate. Patience. Deep breathing.

What advice would you give to parents helping their kids with school at home? First, take the pressure off. It’s not going to be perfect. If you can work out a way to be happy then you will ensure the best learning can happen. Communicate with the school and teacher.  Don’t think about 9-3pm in terms of a full school day. Get a few hours in and that’s it. Find other activities they enjoy rather than doing schoolwork for the sake of it. Try to let go of the idea of ‘no screen time’. There is so much good stuff for kids online. ABC TV has school programs. Live zoo feeding streams 2-3 times a day. Maths programs. Set them up so they are safe with a few good places to go, and don’t be concerned about how much time they are online right now.

Anything else? My advice is to lower expectations, find joy in the small moments and turn them into big moments. Enjoy what the day brings as best as you can!

I hope you enjoyed ‘meeting’ my friend and perhaps gleaning a few pearls of wisdom to take away especially if you are also juggling multiple and competing priorities at this time.

If you would like to organise some over-the-phone counselling with one of our counsellors, please email enquiries@ransw.org.au or call 1300 364 277. We are continuing to offer our usual counselling services for couples, individuals and families over the phone and via video link.

 

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