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Pandemic productivity: Working from home and virtual learning don’t mix

Initially, I thought social distancing could be a blessing in disguise for our family. I was smacked back into reality on day one.
Lynn Cristina is a Wesley Chapel momma with two girls and works full time as a marketing manager. [Courtesy of Lynn Cristina]

As soon as we heard the news that spring break was going to transition into virtual learning for almost four weeks, we had a bit of a panic attack. After the shock wore off, my first thought was how in the world would I pull this off? Teachers are very special people. There is a reason I am not one.

How will I remain productive at work and teach two kids at different education levels? Ella is in second grade and Adriana is still in preschool. Not to mention my husband is working from home indefinitely and requires his own space.

Normally, I channel my anxiety into task lists and strategic plans, but this time I chose denial. I grabbed an adult beverage and we soaked up the sun during our last few days of vacation.

I decided to shift my mindset for the greater good. Social distancing could be a blessing in disguise for our family. We could have a nice healthy breakfast without rushing out the door. We could get some exercise and fresh air on our breaks. With extracurricular activities canceled, we would all be home at the same time for an early dinner and decent bedtime. Yes, this new quarantine campaign would really normalize things for us.

Until it didn’t. I was smacked back into reality on day one. I set up my office at the kitchen table with the girls next to me. My husband set up shop in the playroom because he is in back-to-back meetings and needs a workspace with a door. I stressed to the girls the importance of being quiet while we are on the phone, but the little one doesn’t understand. She wakes up every morning thinking it’s Saturday. How do you explain the coronavirus and being mandated to work from home to a 4-year-old?

We tackled math first. Ella worked on her laptop and I helped Adriana count ladybugs and practice her numbers between emails. This worked for about 10 minutes. Their attention span is short, and they are home surrounded by all their toys and creature comforts. Not to mention the snacks.

The girls were tearing apart the pantry like hungry bears. “Use your school stomach!” I yelled at them. “You don’t eat all day long at school!”

Once they were up from the table it was tough to get them to sit back down. Mommy watch this, Mommy, where is my iPad, Mommy, I need a drink, Mommy can I go ride my bike. Keep in mind they were screaming these questions and tearing through the house like Tasmanian devils.

I am constantly redirecting them as I try desperately to answer emails, be on calls and draft contracts. I find the little one on the patio chatting up the neighbors, then realize the dogs need to go out as I reheat my coffee for the fourth time.

As I settle back at my desk and reassign their homework, Adriana has a minor potty accident. Flipping great, I am up again. After getting her cleaned up she went streaking though the house and right into her Daddy’s video conference. I hear his coworkers asking questions. She sounds so cute, what’s her name, how old is she, put her on the screen Anthony we want to see her face. He just laughed and had to confess that she wasn’t dressed appropriately for a work call.

My hubby was in charge of lunch, which gave me a break to concentrate on work and jump on a call with my boss. I hid upstairs to take my call in peace, but they found me. The girls busted through the bedroom door in princess gowns and raided my jewelry box for dress up hour. I finally made a distress call to the neighbor who watched them the last few hours of the day.

Perhaps you are wondering why I didn’t get help from our babysitter in the first place.

We took Adriana our of preschool as a precautionary measure. Her school is still open, and we must pay her tuition to keep her enrolled, which is over $250 per week. Hiring a nanny in addition to that is not in our budget. So, what do we do? Send her back to school early, so we can work while we keep her sister safe at home? That doesn’t seem right. But I don’t know how anyone with young children can work and teach at the same time without a wrangler.

I am praying that by the time we figure it out we will get the call that it is time to send them back to the classroom. Teachers are very special people. There is a reason I am not one.

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