We put out stories on Instagram and Facebook to understand how people who are parents and not parents (both) are feeling about back to school. The responses were full of meaning and depth and have contributed to this blog post.
We want to thank everyone for their heartfelt contributions and thoughts in this really challenging time. We all need and deserve to feel seen and be heard.
I also hope that access to other people’s views can be important and help when making difficult decisions like whether or not to send your child/children back to school or to go back to the office.
There were many themes present when discussing heading back to school or the office versus staying at home:
- Single parent
- Number of kids in school and daycare
- Is working remote even a possibility?
- Support from family, friends, neighbours and community
- Cost of technology to Zoom remote school - laptops, ipads, etc.
- Space at home to Zoom remote school
- One of the parents is a teacher
- A child with special needs
- Age of the children
- Risk assessment of COVID-19
- Caregiving role for elderly family
- Assessment of the back to school plan and safety by province, by region, by school board
- Public or private school access
Pre-existing health conditions of a family member or one of the children
Our Customer Friends and their well being is so important to us! Being able to discuss and share ideas and feedback about how they’re choosing to handle the decision of the back to school season is something we felt important to organize and share. No one is right or wrong in this scenario. Being able to listen and learn from one another is a vital part of the process. Take a look at what some of our customer friends had to say, whether they are a parent, teacher, neighbour, relative, or friend of those who are heading back to school or the office. Make the best decision for you with no judgement or comparison on others... as hard as that may be.
*Names have been withheld from all responses
Out of a sample size of 91, 57% are sending their children back to school, 25% will support their children with remote learning, 10% are undecided, and 8% are other.
Decision: Back to School/ Back to the Workplace
- Manitoba - “My kids are going back to school but I don’t like it. Our only options in MB are sending them or homeschool them. I am not equipped for homeschool. It would be a nightmare for all of us. BUT I am immunocompromised so I’m scared.”
- No flex learning option - “In Manitoba parents weren't given much of a choice. A lot of places have flex learning options with distance, we do not for grades k-8. We have the no parent inside policy at my work too. It's frustrating for us as educators and for parents as well. It's much harder to share children's activities and growth. We are now sending home biweekly slideshows!”
- job loss during COVID “...here is the situation. I lost my job when Covid started. I’ve managed through the summer, but I NEED the kids to go back to school so that I can hustle and find work. I wish I was in a position to keep them home, not only to keep our family safe but to keep the teachers/workers at the school safe and minimally exposed. It’s one of the hardest, most heartbreaking decisions I’ve had to make.”
Instagram Responses to the Question - How do you feel about kids going back to school?
- office opened up - “I was just sent back to work at the actual office this week. Just getting back into a semi normal routine there again after WFH for 5 months. I really hope no second wave but it would be nice to work from home again. But I do think cases will increase with school being back again. I don’t think the economy can afford another full blown stop like last time. The accountant in me struggles with how we’re going to financially recover from all this CERB $$ going out.”
- grandparents - “My son is in high school which means period one in school, period 2, 3 and 4 at home. And yes he is going. I am conflicted.. while he is at school he won’t be able to see his grandparents... or at least it will have to only be outdoors and socially distant. But I also think grade 11 is important and he needs to spend some time with his peers even if it’s only for an hour a day.”
- a child with special needs - “So here are my thoughts on my situation. We did not do well at all with remote learning before summer. There was little to no learning going on. My eldest son is autistic and needs a distinct separation from school and home and was not open to doing work at home. We are sending him to school in September. His classroom has only 10 other students and was set up for physical distancing before COVID hit, so I’m really not concerned about his school situation. He also has a teacher and 2 EAs to make sure the kids are staying apart and washing hands etc. My youngest is a different story. I’m very leery about sending him. So for now we are, but the school (a different school than my eldest) has not given us a concrete idea of what they are doing to keep the kids apart, what they will do in the event of a suspected case etc. So we may very well pull him once we know more. This is super stressful and there is no right answer here. I’m slightly comforted by the low number of cases here. I’m just not sure what’s going to happen with cold and flu season right around the corner.”
- pressure on women and mothers - “I am so FOR daycare and school. Have seen so many of my female coworkers get reduced hours or stress or even take sick leave because the pressure falls more on woman than man (still even in an office environment and super feminist colleagues). And also saw my nieces be SO SO happy to be back in daycare or camps and now school, to have contacts with other humans etc. They are 3 and 7.”
- teenager back to school and balancing with father figure - “So [my son] is going to school. It's his first year of high school and he is doing trades (auto mechanics). With this we had to make the decision to not see my grandfather which breaks my heart into pieces. He is like my father and very dear to me. But he is the most at risk. [He] is at an age where he knows and i can tell him how important it is to wear a mask and wash your hands. My best friend on the other hand has no choice her work won't let her work from home and she has a 6 year old.”
- Okay, my thoughts are: my kids are going back. It was a long thought out decision. senior year and sports team - At the end of the day, my oldest two would lose the opportunity to be on the school volleyball team (as of now, it’s a-go, but postponed until October) and their athletic development class (which is still running but with masks and whatnot in place) and that was a deal breaker for us. This will be my oldest boys senior year. He’s been on his volleyball team with these boys since grade 9. They’ve fought and battled and clawed their way to where they are, all in the hopes of taking home gold for Alberta in grade 12. And here we are. And they may not get that chance. But if there’s even a 5% chance that they’ll get a shot at it, I HAVE to give it to him. Plus, grade 12... he HAS to be able to try to have some semblance of a senior year. And he learns waaaaaay better in a classroom setting. (continued below)
- Son with Type 1 diabetes - My middle boy.. starting grade 10... he’s my diabetic. THIS is where my apprehension lays. If he gets sick, he will likely be admitted to the hospital to avoid DKA and keep his blood sugars stable. Even a cold throws him into blood sugar chaos. So that’s in the back of our minds 24/7. And he would be alone in the hospital.. no mom staying for the week like when he was admitted at diagnosis.. no visitors to help pass the time. Alone. For however long it takes for him to get better. That breaks my heart. And my little guy. He’s 8. Going into grade 4. If anyone is gonna be covered in germs, it’s him. I worry about his tiny body having to fight this off. But they need some sort of normal. We’ve been home for 6 months. At any point, they could get in a car accident, get hit by a car, fall down the stairs weird, get snatched off the street.. we live with constant threats to our well being every day. So keeping them home “just in case” just didn’t seem viable to me. I’m still freaking out and I will have mom guilt with whatever decision is made, cuz that’s how motherhood works... but we had to try. It’s not “what if they get sick” it’s “what if they get sick... the long term effects will be detrimental to their life..” damaging lungs would destroy any sports in their future (and my oldest wants to play professionally) and increases risk of diabetes (which will increase it even higher for my 17 year old.. my 8 year old has a different dad than the older two) long term damage to the heart freaks me out... but my son had a less than 1% chance of getting diabetes in the first place and he got it... so will sheltering them from the outside really do any good in the end anyway? What’s gonna happen is gonna happen... we are living proof of that. Sometimes s**t happens. So might as well live your life in the meantime.”
- help needed with social skills - “Very much based on the child and their age. As well as the family situation. Very difficult decision for sure. We are all doing our best for our individual circumstances. My daughter has social problems and does not do well with remote learning. She is better to be at school. There is definitely risk but her mental health and social skills need attention. I would choose differently for some of my other children. Each has their own personality and needs.”
- I'm a teacher and I have extreme anxiety and I'm immuno compromised - “I'm a teacher. I started seeing a therapist because the uncertainty of this whole situation has caused me to experience extreme anxiety for the first time in my life. Luckily, I was able to get a medical accommodation to teach online from home. I still don't know what I'm teaching, what the expectations are - nothing. To add to that, I found out I need surgery, likely on the first day of school with a month long recovery. I'm very hopeful that I'll be able to teach without taking time off because otherwise I have to re-establish expectations, build community, etc etc in October instead of just pushing through the pain, and working during the recovery. Like I said - no idea what I'll be teaching or what it will look like so it may be impossible to keep working but it may be possible. The anxiety about surgery is so much less than the anxiety I felt about having to go into the physical building. Both I and my husband are immunocompromised and it was such a huge source of anxiety.”
- “My husband is a teacher. It’s terrifying. We have a 2 yo and I’m pregnant with GD. Lots of nerves in our house. Completely have my heart out for every family making the decision right now.” Husband feeling - “Overwhelmed. I think it’s scary but also a lot of responsibility to protect 70 kids.”
- Elderly parent in long term care - “I’m also a teacher with 3 kids in the system. We are all going back. Also, my dad is isolated in LTC and his mental health has declined dramatically. Institutional settings are a disaster.”
Our hearts goes out to teachers, daycare caregivers and staff (cleaning, child care) who will be called back in the fall.
*Out of the 25 people, some were left - extremely anxious, and some were more towards the right of totally fine. Rarely anyone was all the way to the right of totally fine.
Decision: Staying Home (E-Learning/Remote Learning)/ Working from Home
- children with special needs - “I am keeping mine home until November....I have 3 children, 2 are Special Needs and the anxiety of all the uncertainty around new rules, wearing masks and the teachers being suited up in PPE will crush them!! It seems like things change daily and our Principal and Teachers don't even know what school will look like. I am giving them a couple months to sort it out, then figure out things for mine (EAs, laptops, movement breaks, etc) Believe me, I would love to send them now and get back to "normal" or as close to normal as possible. 8 months of 24/7 with your children can be exhausting!!! I hope and pray there is no second wave.”
- Grade 8 and Grade 9 back to school - “My daughter (Gr8) desperately wants to go. My son (Gr9) is doing online. I think it will lead to another lockdown sometime October-December.”
- back to university - “...My other son will be 100 percent doing his second year of university at home. Which is sad because he is going to miss such an important time of his life.”
- “My husband is a surgeon, he’s been in work everyday, where there is confirmed covid. He used PPE and adhered to the correct guidelines and he was safe. I think this can provide some comfort for teachers."
Other Thoughts/ Feelings
- The stress behind making this decision - "Most stressful decision ever, even if I think I’m doing the right thing, there is added stress on my 15 yr old daughter especially because she is so afraid of getting us sick. So on top of normal high school stress that is added, plus the wearing of masks which causes extra acne for them 🤦🏻♀️ I can’t even ....... I am at a loss right now. I can handle so much work stress, other stress but man being a mom making decisions like this 🥴"
- “I'm Terrified”
- contact tracing in the US - “Not a parent. Have friends like you on both sides. But notice my friends with older kids are less concerned with socialization. Parents with younger kids want to send kids to school IF they social distance and reduce class size. I am volunteering to do case investigations and contact tracing for covid 6 months deployment until the end of year. Talking to ppl all day every day. We are expecting uptick just w university campuses having students beg sept. Think we will be even busier w caseload if schools open back up. Esp here in Cali. Take care be well.”
- How to balance work and childcare during COVID - Kids need an education and it’s a struggle for parents to teach them, work and do daily lives”
- supporting your co workers - "I know a lot of coworkers with younger kids (grades 2-6) are struggling at home cuz their kids attention span has decreased. They don’t find it easy to stare at a zoom call like us and it’s affecting their willingness to study and grow in general. so what I have been hearing is that for the kid's development they’d rather send their kids to school. Either way not an easy decision to make and it’s a tough place for parents rn."
- high school age kids - "older kids in high school or uni it’s less of an issue to get them to study but concerns are all still there"
- no judgement - "And I know I’m not a parent so I would totally support whatever decision parents have to take. It’s a very personal matter and no one should be judged"
Thank you to everyone for responding and contributing to this conversation. We are thinking all the time about how we can support you during this time and I hope this blog post helps to realize so many of our Customer Friends are in the same boat. Please make the best decision for you, and try as best as possible to not judge yourself or compare yourself. We support any decision you make that is best for your family and for the community and acknowledge that this is a difficult time.