The current shelter-in-place mandate due to the Coronavirus is difficult for everybody, but parents of young children have the added stress of helping their children navigate distance learning through their schools, and for essential workers, finding childcare that is still open and taking on children. This is not to mention the burden of additional financial stress many families are facing in light of this crisis. The Community Voice talked to several families, all in different circumstances, to find out how they are dealing with this new situation.
Carissa Anderson, a stay-at-home mother of an eight-year-old, six-year-old, and 11-month-old in Rohnert Park, has transitioned to overseeing her children’s academics, from helping them navigate daily Zoom meetings, to organizing their school day, to supervising schoolwork. She is grateful of the preparation, organization, and supportiveness of both of her children’s teachers. Nevertheless, with her husband being self-employed and working from home, and the added care required of one of her children’s autism, it certainly hasn’t been easy to evolve into this “new normal.” But Anderson tries to remember to keep a positive outlook and simply do the best she can.
“We have to have grace on ourselves as Moms right now, because it is a huge change,” says Anderson. “I’m fortunate that I’m not working on top of suddenly having to homeschool the kids - it’s a huge thing. It was very last minute and we haven’t had time to prepare. You have to have grace on yourself and realize we’re doing the best that we can, the kids are going to get what they need, and everybody is going to be fine and we’re going to come out of this. I feel that it’s more enjoyable for them that way too, if I can keep the right perspective. It’s a big change for them too.”
For Evelyn Asmussen of Rohnert Park, a Registered Dental Assistant and mother of a four-year-old and an eight-year-old 2nd grader, life is certainly different since she was temporarily furloughed from her position during the shelter-in-place orders. When ordinarily she would be working with dental patients most of the day, she now finds herself at home, helping her children with school work.
“I do get to do things that I don’t normally have time to do,” says Asmussen. “It’s allowing me time to catch up with a lot of things!”
She is amazed how her 2nd grader has learned to operate Zoom and Google docs for submitting his homework, and finds that after a chaotic first week, they have settled into a rhythm. Some days are better than others, and there have certainly been many moments of frustration, but she recognizes that the children, as much as adults, have had their world turned upside down.
“I think he misses his friends and his little league was cancelled,” says Asmussen. “It’s been really rough for him, not having the social aspect. His little sister is here of course and they play together, but it’s not the same and then the whole sibling thing happens. It’s tough. It could be worse. There’s always good in something and sometimes you just have to look a little harder to find it.”
Seeing his classmates on Zoom every week, and finally having the time to FaceTime his cousins in Tennessee regularly, has helped her son feel a sense of normalcy and connection.
Nellie Ainsworth, another mother in Rohnert Park of a ten-year-old, seven-year-old, and five-year-old (in 5th, 1st, and Kindergarten grades, respectively), is an essential worker who has continued her
full-time job at a company that handles workers’ compensation claims. Not only has she, as well as her husband, continued working throughout this pandemic, they have had to find full-time childcare since the schools have been closed. Luckily, the after-school care program she was already using, Redwood Country Kid’s Club in Rohnert Park, has stayed open for children of essential workers. The center changed their fees to summer rates to help out those families who are suddenly finding themselves needing full-time care. Nevertheless, trying to juggle a full-time job, parenting duties, and overseeing all the children’s schoolwork in the evenings has been a huge stress. The teachers’ understanding and patience have been a help.
“I actually called all my kid’s teachers and we had a conversation,” says Ainsworth. “I asked them what their expectations were, and how I could best meet those expectations, because it’s hard. My first-grade teacher said basically, ‘do the best that you can and stay sane.’”
Ainsworth worries about her children keeping up, especially her oldest who will be going to middle school next year for which she needs to prepare. However, her biggest challenge throughout this whole pandemic is ensuring the safety of her family.
“My son has medical problems and if he gets sick we’re in a lot of trouble,” says Ainsworth. “Even if he gets sick with a regular cold we’re in trouble – we really have to watch for things. So I’m trying to work from home but it’s not working yet. That’s our biggest challenge, is keeping everyone safe. His Dad works with a ton of people and I’m working, so the balance of keeping everyone safe is a challenge.”
She finds that maintaining open and consistent communication throughout this time is the key to managing the whole situation. Unfortunately her current employer has not had a lot of communication with their employees, leaving her exasperated and worried about the safety of her family.
“It’s frustrating,” explains Ainsworth. “I hope people have a good company they’re working for that is allowing them to stay safe and have good communication with everything. Good communication throughout this whole thing is key. Even for teachers, even for parents. I think we all need to have good communication and be open and honest about what’s happening around us and how we can handle it properly.”
Redwood Country Kid’s Club, which has roots in the county for over 35 years, still has room for children of essential workers and is following a strict set of guidelines to ensure the safety of the children. They themselves have had to lay-off 95 percent of their staff during this crisis, so there are only three staff members that the children are exposed to, with no new people, no delivery staff and no other exposure. In addition, they take added measures to reduce the emotional stress on the children.
“With all the news and stress the parents are under, we’re trying to make their [the children’s] day as routine as possible,” says Nancy Young, Director of Redwood Country Kid’s Club. “We’re not talking about the virus on-site. We’re continuing on as we would on any normal day because the kids are already getting a lot of stress at home from parents talking about it, parents losing jobs, etc. So we’re trying to keep the routine here as positive as possible.”
Redwood Country Kid’s Club is currently still taking on children ages 2 to 14 years old, and can be reached at 707-586-0675.