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Parents: How Are You Coping With Pandemic Home-Work-School Life?

Parents: How Are You Coping With Pandemic Home-Work-School Life?

Juggling work and parenting is challenging. One day you feel like you’ve got it all together, and the next you find yourself pouring bowls of cereal for dinner at 9 p.m. while yelling at the dog.

As statewide stay-at-home orders were issued, working parents across Brevard County suddenly found themselves scrambling to make arrangements to work alongside their kids, who would be virtually schooling. Some parents joyfully prepared their new shared office/ learning spaces with freshly sharpened pencils and bulletin boards. Other parents opened a bottle of wine, and secretly stress cried in their closets. 

All kidding aside, regardless of which of these approaches you identify with, simultaneously adapting to so much change while sharing a small space isn’t easy. Sometimes just knowing you’re not facing such parenting struggles alone can be comforting. So in the spirit of shared support, here are the stories of how a few local working parents are managing. 

Parent: Emma Reynolds, community impact manager at United Way of Brevard

Kids: Isaac, 10, and Evie, 8

Emma says: “I’m someone who tries to be good at whatever I do, but I’m not good at this. I feel lucky to have a job that allows me to work from home right now, but working from home while homeschooling two elementary-aged children has been really challenging. Trying to give them the attention they deserve while also meeting the expectations and demands of my job has been nearly impossible. I know I’m giving this my best effort and yet, at the end of each day, I’m still overwhelmed with all the ways I came up short in both areas. (And don’t even get me started on the dishes!) 

Knowing that other families are struggling as they adjust to their new normal makes me feel like we are all in it together. I know that this, too, shall pass.”

Parents: Adam Lowenstein, director of media communications at Florida Tech, and Mara Bellaby, executive editor at Florida Today

Kids: Joshua, 11

Adam says: “My normal breaks when I’m working at my office consist of a stroll to the water cooler or maybe onto campus. These breaks now revolve around my sixth-grade son and his virtual education. Instead of walking across Panther Plaza, I am leaning over Joshua’s shoulder, trying to help him hash out the difference between ‘median’ and ‘mean,’ or contrast oligarchy and democracy in ancient Greece. More so than getting a closer look at what Joshua is learning, which I value, I just love these little connections and moments we get to share. I find they help keep me grounded, too. We are living our lives, doing what we do, growing and learning together. That’s pretty powerful, and something to be cherished.”

Mara says: “I’m learning I might not do so well if I had to retake sixth grade. It’s been fun to work alongside my 11-year-old and watch him navigate this crazy new reality. I know he misses his friends, and I miss the ease of working in the newsroom. Home is no longer a release from work. But I enjoy being able to take a break and give Joshua a hug or play a quick game of Uno with him. I’m grateful we’re all healthy and employed. I know we’re some of the lucky ones.”

Parent: Flo Mandus, owner of Fairythimbles, a creative space offering sewing and art instruction in Palm Bay

Kids: Matthew, 15; Kevin, 13; Rachel, 11; Samantha, 10

Flo says: “Both my business and my family have had to adapt quite a bit these last few weeks. As a brick-and-mortar studio built around interaction and socialization, we recognized it was in everyone’s best interest to shut our doors pretty early in the game. I had literally just signed a new, one-year lease days before we closed on March 13. With four kids, two adults and one senior citizen (my mother, 73) at home, it was clear safety was our new priority. Our children are already homeschooled, so the transition to virtual learning wasn’t difficult, but the demands of my new work schedule definitely was. 

“Right away I recognized the dire need for facemasks was a problem I could help solve. I started sewing masks immediately, and didn’t stop. My students and volunteers got onboard, and suddenly, it became a full-scale operation. Within days, we were selling and donating masks faster than we could make them. I don’t think I slept more than three hours a night between mid-March and mid-April. I’m literally up all hours of the night sewing. (As of mid-April), we’ve donated at least 235 masks, and sold more than 300. The masks we’re selling are helping to pay the studio’s rent. It’s pretty much the only business income I have at the moment. 

“My kids have really stepped up in a big way around the house. They’re cooking, cleaning and helping each other with schoolwork. My son Matthew (15) said “it took a pandemic, but I’ve learned how to cook pizza!”

Parent: Katie Parsons, self-employed writer, content and branding specialist 

Kids: Ferris, 13; Emilia, 12; London, 10; Erinn, 7; Teagan, 5

Katie says: “I wish I could say it's all about routine, but we've been trying to listen to the demands of our family from one day to the next. We try to wake up and eat breakfast together and get outside right away but the rest of the day is fluid, based on mine and my husband's work and the schoolwork needs of each child. We would have never picked this scenario, especially since so many people are ill and dying, but we've adjusted as a family unit well. The most important thing is staying safe and making sure we keep our friends, family and neighbors safe, too.” 

Parent: Myself, Michelle Mulak, self-employed marketing & public relations specialist.

Kids: Tyden, 14, and Kai, 18

Michelle says: “Please send more wine.” 



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