Much has been debated and dissected about the challenges teachers face with the tectonic shift to online classrooms (Plug alert: read my article in The Hindu ‘Teaching in the time of Covid-19‘). Even more is being hotly debated about how to do online classrooms right by the children. I ask – and what about the parents?
To be clearer – what about families with two working parents? Young children in online classrooms necessitates the presence of at least one parent at home with them. As a working parent and specifically, as a mother and an entrepreneur – this is an immensely stressful time. The luxury of having dedicated time to focus on work when the kids are at school – safe, sound and learning – is being missed, big time. As a startup founder, this post-lockdown time is critical. We are all trying to furiously make up for lost time, tempo, and trade. As a former teacher, the irony of my struggle is not lost on me. I understand fully well the importance of the children needing to be in their online classrooms. Even a few weeks’ gap in learning exponentially undoes months of skills gained. That the children must continue with their learning cannot be argued. But juggling the needs of the children with their online classes along with work is tough. It is rare to be able to get through one work call without needing to provide tech assistance to one or the other. From “It says the host has another meeting in progress” to “Which link should I click on?”… the issues are varied and ever-changing.
How have I managed? (Or, have I?)
The best we have managed to achieve in our household is some type of dynamic tag-teaming between parents to ensure undisturbed participation in important work calls and meetings. Although, the baton does slip and fall to the ground many a time (ever forgotten you had unmuted yourself on a conference call and hissed at the children to leave the room? Or, had your children walk in on video calls? Remember Professor Kelly’s kids barging in on him during an interview? That video went viral then. It is commonplace now. And not always hilarious.)
For an average person (me), the loss of continuity in thought and pace of work is incredibly frustrating. And I haven’t even started to factor in the guilt of “being absent while I am present” at home. Thank heavens for parent Whatsapp groups and those incredibly good samaritans who take the time and effort to send reminders and answer questions. Whatsapp has single-handedly redefined parenting. It doesn’t take a village to raise a child anymore. It takes Whatsapp.
So, all of this got me thinking… I wonder if there will be such a thing as “Covid-19 entrepreneur productivity loss” akin to “summer learning loss”? And, how can we measure this (do we want to?!)?
Where do we go from here?
So, what do we do? How do we go on? These questions are part rhetorical, part wondering-out-aloud-if-anyone-else-is-in-the-same-boat. I would love to know other working parents’ and entrepreneurs’ experiences. Please, write in. And, if this article has resonated with you or struck a chord in any way, I’d love to know.
For now, the online classes must go on. The struggles of working parents, too.
(Opinions are my own and based on my personal experiences. I’m sure we all understand that everyone’s experiences are unique.)