You can see my kids’ elementary school from our front yard. Yet, every morning at 7:45 am, our fourth grader and second grader say goodbye to their 2-year-old sister and login to Google Meets to listen to the morning announcements.
My older kids work every day on the computer until about 3 pm, sometimes later, engaging in a combination of virtual meetings with teachers and independent work. On a great day, neither my house nor the teachers’ houses suffer internet outages, everyone’s headphones work, Google Meets works correctly, my kids log into the correct small reading groups, no one has trouble uploading their homework, and no one freaks out because they have misplaced something. But that hardly ever happens. Instead, our days are full of surprises. “Mom, the Internet is not working! I need a hotspot!” “Mom, I need ice-cold water and a flashlight!” “I need golf clubs for PE in ten minutes!” And then there is the cleanup. I am not sure how, but my kids manage to trash the house every. single. day.
I have been working from home, mainly in our basement, since March. My husband goes into the office more than I do but works mostly out of a modified storage closet. Life is certainly challenging these days. Even so, I consider myself very lucky. My husband and I still have jobs. I work for the Colorado Attorney General’s Office as an attorney in the State Services Section and my husband works as in-house counsel for a company based in the Denver Tech Center. I have been able to hire part-time childcare to help me with my toddler so I can actually get some work done. My employer has been extremely understanding. The Colorado Attorney General, Phil Weiser, and his leadership team have worked hard to support their employees. They have organized groups (including a group for working parents) to help employees adjust to the ongoing challenges of 2020. They have also assembled a task force to find ways to address diversity, equity, and inclusion issues facing our office and community. My kids’ teachers have exceeded my expectations. Last Friday, I listened to my younger son go on a field trip to Mars. His principal even came onto the chat toward the end of the lesson to call the students back to earth. Everyone is really trying.
But it is difficult to manage virtual learning while trying to stay on top of my work. When my kids physically went to school, I did not think very much about their schoolwork until I got home from work. These days, I am managing the demands of my job and my kids’ assignments during the day and night. There are some days when I find myself writing briefs, attending virtual meetings, and making numerous work-related calls—all while making sure my kids are logging into their lessons at the correct time with the correct code, finding their assignments and lessons online, and overseeing the not-so-easy task of uploading assignments without blocking the answers with fingers.
The changes, however, have not been all bad. Even though I miss my coworkers, I don’t miss the commute. I am no longer rushing home to pick up my kids from school or daycare on time. And because of the extra time we have together, it feels like we are closer than ever. With extracurricular activities mostly cancelled, my husband and I frequently take the kids outside for bike rides and hikes. When Little League baseball started again, albeit with many new safety rules, my son had a renewed appreciation for playing.
It would be helpful to know when things will go back to normal. I would be lying if I said I don’t worry about things constantly. I worry that I won’t be able to meet all my court deadlines. I worry that my kids are falling behind academically. I worry about their social development. I worry about whether to send them back to in-person learning, if that becomes an option. And, of course, I always am worried about their safety. But because recent events have taught me that I don’t have control over what is going on in the world right now, I *try* not to worry too much about things I can’t change.
I was asked to share my “words of wisdom” and this is my best advice: Just do the best you can and try not to let too many things fall through the cracks. You can’t do everything. And when you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a breath, pour yourself a glass of wine, and try to relax.
Emmy Langley is a Senior Assistant Attorney General and Assistant Solicitor General at the Office of the Colorado Attorney General where she represents the State of Colorado in civil matters. She has a J.D from the Ohio State University and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University.