Unexpected Stay-At-Home Dad – How Virtual School Can Change the Family Dynamic



Life moves quickly. Blink, another year is gone. There are many families with two working parents. Kids have to get to school, do homework, sports, church, and whatever else they like to do. We manage to eat dinner together when we can and we keep it all moving forward. It works (most of the time). We juggle, we stress, we manage, and it works…until everything comes to a screeching halt!

No one could have anticipated how we would all have to alter our lives when a pandemic set in. Even the most flexible among us was thrown for a loop! Everyone (on earth) had to regroup.

In our family, the only logical choice was that Mom would keep working (because there was really no choice, no flexibility, and no work-from-home option—hello healthcare!—and Dad would stay home (because he had a lot of options). A man used to building things, fixing things, making old, decaying things beautiful again and working with his hands all day…this guy would now be house manager, drill sergeant, teacher, homework overseer, technology guru, encourager, cook, and so many other things. What could possibly go wrong?

The kids, 17 and 13, might have thought this would be a vacation of sorts. Boy, were they in for a rude awakening!  Their Dad, used to running on a tight schedule, learned quickly to get them up an hour before classes start so they can have breakfast, finish any last-minute work and get their computers set up for the day. In Dad’s school, they must be up at their desks (kitchen and dining room tables) dressed and ready to work.

A typical day at school:

9:00 am – Dad comes in the living room to find eldest son wrapped in a blanket lying on the couch with computer propped up on his chest. “I’m on a zoom call,” he says. Nope…Dad motions him back to the table. No lying down at school!

10:15 am – Dad comes in to find eldest son googling sports cars while zoom call is visible in the small window at the top of screen. Dad eye rolls heavily. Situation corrected, Zoom call reprioritized.

11:30 am – Younger son takes lunch as scheduled, spills chocolate milk on new couch. Clean-up ensues by all. Mom none the wiser (or so they thought).

12:00 pm – Asynchronous learning…husband calls me because he can’t remember Canvas (virtual school parent portal) password and can’t retrieve assignment. I spend at least 45 minutes solving the problem.

12:45 pm – More asynchronous learning…kids struggling, Dad assisting….realizes they don’t do math like we used to do it. Urgent call to elder son’s girlfriend, who is math genius.

12:45 – nighttime – 100 calls and e-mails from school, trying to figure out what teenagers have completed and what is still due and why they were marked absent when they were clearly “there,” wistfully longing for a time before virtual school and completely appreciating teachers for the millionth time since March 2020.

Truth be told, we are very fortunate to be set up to handle the pandemic and virtual learning this way. Not everyone is so lucky, and I stand in awe of the parents with younger children, the parents who both have to keep working outside the home and thus outsource their child’s or children’s learning to a relative or babysitter, and especially of the parents who are out of work and dealing with that stress on top of trying to ensure their children stay educated. None of it is easy!

However, in our case, I have to say it has been a blessing in many ways for the kids and their Dad. Talk about quality time! There has been a lot of bonding taking place. They have all grown closer and understand one another better. Dad has more empathy for the kids and their struggles with school and with life in general, and he’s more invested in their future success. He’s learned to anticipate their moods, their needs, and when to give them extra encouragement. The kids have learned to trust their Dad more, and know that he will be there for them when they need him. I’ve learned to trust him more too!  Even though it’s been really tough at times, there has also been a lot of good.

Of course, we hope it doesn’t stay like this for much longer. I don’t know about you, but everyone in my house is ready to get back to “normal”…whatever that will look like. Still, until the kids have the option of going back to school full-time, we’ll be thankful for what we have and continue to meet each challenging day with gratitude…although the teenagers might not go quite that far.

 


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