Divide and Conquer: Working and Parenting During a Pandemic

 

This article was written by Jessica Goodwin.

2020 was supposed to be an amazing year, full of new beginnings. Our son was supposed to start kindergarten and I was going to finish grad school in the fall. Once I finished my thesis, I would start my job search – something in writing or social media, maybe patching together a couple freelance gigs to keep me busy while I figured out what was next.

In early March, my husband learned that he would be working from home indefinitely. He vowed from the start that he would make time in his schedule to spend afternoons with our son, whose preschool teachers offered a few Zoom meetings during the week. This would also to give me time to work on my thesis and do what I needed to do.

2020 did not go the way we thought it would. Our son started kindergarten – virtually. And then went in person for a few weeks. And then schools closed again, so he was back at home with his Chromebook. I graduated with my master’s degree in November and received my diploma in the mail. I’m working on the job search, which feels like a job in itself.

While the year wasn’t full of the excitement and fresh starts that we had been hoping for, we managed to survive with our senses of humor and sanities (mostly) intact. I think it’s because, from the start, my husband and I made that our goal: not to be perfect, just to help each other survive. Our plan was to divide and conquer whenever possible.

I know that I am super fortunate to have been in the weird, in-between position that I was in. Aside from school, I, didn’t have any full-time professional obligations, so I spent each morning with my son, at first trying to keep some structure to his day by coming up with some “mom” school activities (I’m a former elementary school teacher) and then, once kindergarten started, supervising virtual learning. 

My husband made good on his promise to be present. Since he was home, he was going to make the most of it. We split our days into mornings and afternoons, with him in the office downstairs, and me upstairs in our playroom/virtual classroom. We met downstairs and had lunch together as a family every day. Our son would take a break and play on his own for a while, or we’d go for a walk or a scooter ride. Then in the afternoon, my husband would take over and hang out with our son, helping with homework and other projects.

We split up the housework. Together, we came up with a chore rotation that had us doing something different every day. Sunday – wash the sheets. Monday – sweep and mop the floors. Tuesday – take out the garbage. What felt like every freakin’ day, somebody would start a load of laundry in the morning and on our lunch break, we’d sort, fold, and put away.

We split up our mornings. When it was warm, and the weather was nice, my husband, the super-early-bird, would get up and go walking before plugging in for the day. When he got back, I’d head out. As it got colder, we bought an inexpensive exercise bike and did the same thing to keep moving and to make sure we had some time for ourselves.

And we split up our evenings. While I made dinner and the kid kept himself busy, my husband would take his shower. I’d do mine after dinner and my husband would supervise our son’s bath time. Then we’d relax and unwind together as a family. After our son went to bed, we’d finally have some quiet time together, just the two of us. Exhausted, but pleased to have survived another day. Another week. Another month.  

We divided our days. We divided our duties. It’s not how we usually work. It’s not how we usually parent. But 2020 was an unusual year. (That’s putting it mildly.) So we divided and conquered. And we’re ready to conquer whatever 2021 throws at us, too.  

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