My alarm wakes me before the sun has even come up and the first thing I do is reach for my cell phone, silently bracing myself for the 57 emails that are sure to greet me. 

I’ve come to hate Mondays. 

I now despise Tuesdays. 

Wednesdays are awful. 

These have become the three days each week when my children are doing their remote learning and I get to be there to help manage the chaos.

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The truth is, I’m one of the lucky ones . . . still. My husband and I have been able to continue working throughout the pandemic, easily able to shift our work schedules in order to adapt to the ever-changing needs of our family. We’ve been incredibly fortunate throughout the whole lengthy shutdown.

We are grateful but yet, we are struggling.

I am lucky to be able to be 100 percent available for both children on their remote days. On those days, I run around my house switching between the roles of IT director, guidance counselor, principal, 9th grade geometry teacher, 6th grade science teacher, Google classroom support, lunch lady, and overall taskmaster/alarm clock. 

Yesterday I got to relearn slopes and angles so I could effectively support my 9th grader in geometry. Then I got to develop a tracking system that would work for my 6th grader to help him better manage the sometimes too subtle details of his class assignments. Later I got to help with a story map and reviewing point of view vs. perspective. 

It is a luxury, for sure, to be able to spend this time with my children without having to worry about working at the exact same moment. In my younger days, I actually taught 6th grade math and study skills for middle schoolers. I loved my time as a teacher so this should be my jam. It’s not.

The truth is, I hate teaching my own children. 

I love being their mom but I hate being their teacher.

We are grateful but yet, we are struggling.

Their remote days fill me with an impending sense of doom, as I am constantly wondering when the other shoe will drop. 

Will someone hack into my son’s email again? 

Will the internet fail again?

Will I need to help my 6th grader problem solve with another teacher about why the web-based program incorrectly gave him a grade of an F when it should have been an A?

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Will our printer decide to be finicky again?

Will I be able to understand the content myself?

Will my children see and complete all their assignments even though every single teacher posts them differently and has different submission guidelines?

Can I voice frustration, sadness, or a desire for things to be different without getting an angry message in my inbox or posted on my news feed?

Will I have any energy left for my afternoon and evening sessions with my clients and to teach my college classes?

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Will I be able to fit in a workout?

Will I just say forget it all and enjoy an apple cider donut or two?

We are grateful but yet, we are struggling.

By the time the now glorious days of Thursday and Friday roll around, I feel like three days have been three weeks. I am empty. My brain is fried. My anxiety has been activated and on high for three straight days and all I can see is the promise that those two final days of the week represent for me. 

I wake on Thursday mornings like a little kid on Christmas Day because for the next two days, our lives get to feel normal-ish. My kids get to leave the house for two whole school days. They get to be in the same space with peers. They get to be taught by actual teachers, not by their stressed-out mother.

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Perhaps even more exciting is the notion that I get to throw myself fully into my work on Thursdays and Fridays. My clients on those two days get the best version of me as I didn’t spend the morning teaching biology or arguing about the benefits of writing about the geographical features of our town or solving internet connectivity issues. I just get to be one person. 

We are grateful but yet, we are struggling.

Every day I find myself wondering how it must be for others if I am struggling this much and I have so much for which I am grateful. How on Earth are single parents doing it? What about parents who can’t flex their schedules? What about parents with younger children? What about the parents with more than two children? What about parents who work full time as teachers, too? What about parents of children with learning needs? What about parents with mental health needs or addiction or who live in abusive environments or who have lost their jobs? What about parents who face many of these challenges?

So many are struggling.

Yes, we’ve been here before and survived. Last spring when the pandemic initially hit, many of us pivoted into the role of teacher/parent. Yet, somehow it’s different this time around. Last time there was grace in the fact that everything was happening for the first time. We all were scrambling. We all knew we were trying our best. Somehow we all were there to support each other — to commiserate and to hold space for each other. We believed it would be temporary and could look forward to next school year for it to be better. It was OK to admit then that it was hard and admit that we were struggling. 

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That permission and space to feel our feelings has shifted somehow at a time when we need it most.

Sometimes we just need to feel our feelings and talk about the hard stuff, knowing we are not alone and that our struggles are seen.

We, as humans, can hold two opposing thoughts and feelings at the same time. We can be hopeful and also be fearful. We can be thankful and grateful and also be frustrated. We can appreciate the efforts of everyone right now and also desire something better.

We can be grateful but yet, also be struggling.

Jenni Brennan

Jenni Brennan, LICSW is an author, podcaster, college professor, therapist, and mother. Her work centers around the topics of grief, health and wellness, relationships, and parenting.