Back to School During Covid-19: Four Mums Share Their Thoughts

Back to School During Covid-19: Four Mums Share Their Thoughts

After six months of lockdown, homeschooling and the never-ending juggle of work and parenting, the time has come for our children to return to school. For many of us, the last six months have been tough; for some a difficult struggle both financially, and emotionally. For other parents, it’s been a time to connect with the kids in a way that we wouldn’t have normally; we’ve had more ‘family time’ than we could ever anticipated. Memories have been made in households up and down the country, and after six long months, our children return to school over the next few days to start a new academic year, and a ‘new’ normal.

We asked some of our writers from The Motherload® community to share their thoughts about this milestone moment for both parents and kids alike:

Kate, Founder of The Motherload®

I’ve felt a bit emotional over the last week – a mix of sadness that this time is coming to an end, and relief that our lives can return to a more familiar routine. Bess and Maggie are so desperate to see their friends, to learn in their classrooms again and to be taught by their teachers. It’s been an odd time, a limbo for us all. Their lives have gone on hold for half a year, and for Matt and I, ours have gone up in the air as we’ve juggled work alongside full time parenting of three.

The girls’ school have been fantastic. They’ve embraced the changes and communicated with us about expectations for not only the children, but us too. The new rules are plentiful but reassuring that the school are doing everything that they can in extremely odd circumstances. I’m not totally confident or reassured by the government and their rhetoric, but I am confident in our school management and the desire to protect our school as much as they can.

Lockdown hasn’t always been easy – god knows, I’ve lost my shit and hidden in the cupboard more times than I can count. But as the end draws near, I can’t help but feel a catch of sadness that this intense, but memorable time, is coming to an end. I’ll miss the slow mornings, the chatter, the laughter and in some ways, the chaos.

Lisa, Parent of Teens

I’m approaching the impending return to school much as I approached having children in the first place: It’s probably a stupid idea, but I’m going to do it anyway.

My 16-year-old daughter starts at a Performing Arts School next week. She will take a bus and 2 trains across London to get there. I have grand plans including masks, hand gel and a bag for her ‘train clothes’ by the front door. But I wonder how long until my precautions are seen as nagging and as roundly ignored as the request for a tidy bedroom or sensible bedtime?

She’s timetabled for 3 days a week, will only be allowed to mix with students in her strand and has been directed to use designated indoor and outdoor spaces. At a time when she should be making new friends, collaborating in school, socialising outside, she will be tied to a regime specifically designed to limit her contact with her peers. How sad.

As if cancelling Reading festival wasn’t enough of a blow for teens. And what about snogging? Are they ever going to be able to do that with impunity again?

It’s not just the kids I feel for – when I heard teachers criticised as ‘snowflakes’ and accused of putting school environments at risk because of not following guidelines in their personal lives, I was incandescent.

The assertion that a teacher is at more risk from meeting friends or family than being inside a building with hundreds of students is preposterous. All the teachers I know have worked incredibly hard during this dismal time and are as scared of contracting this debilitating virus as everyone else.

They are being gaslighted by the claim there is no risk to them in schools. That’s obviously untrue. The fact they are going in to teach our children anyway makes them heroes and they should be respected as such.

I understand that the risk of my children getting Covid when they go back to school is low; but the risk exists and, as a mother, it terrifies me.

Also – what if our children inadvertently giving it to us? What will happen to them if I die? How will we cope if one of us becomes disabled?

Despite my fears, I know I can’t mitigate for all the potential horrors life could throw at my chicks, so I will be gritting my teeth and sending them to school next week. But I’m not going to pretend to like it.

Carrie, Teacher

In just over a week’s time, 4 out of the 5 people in my household will be going from only mixing in bubbles to mixing with several hundred other people. Wow, typing it out really makes me freak out a little. 

My husband and I are both secondary school teachers and my brother is a TA at the same school. It’s an inner city secondary and the students travel from a 25 miles radius. Whilst we were in lockdown we had taught some face to face classes but they were hugely reduced in numbers, we wore PPE in distanced classrooms and we were only allowed to be on site for a few hours at a time. Now, just a few weeks later, it is suddenly ‘ok’ for us to go back to full class sizes, teaching full days and I don’t understand why or when that shift happened. When did it suddenly switch from unsafe to safe? And *is* it safe? Who has quantified this? What evidence is there?

The fourth person to be in a school environment come September is my four year old, who is starting school for the first time. I thought my angst would be about uniform and shoes… not how and when my child will be bubbling with her class. If it’s too unsafe for her to restart swimming lessons due to the proximity of the instructor, why is it safe for her teacher to be in such a close environment with her? I don’t know what measures have been put in place to keep her and her friends safe. I don’t know if they will be sharing classroom resources or if I need to provide them. I don’t know much about anything! Yet we’re supposed to trust that we should just send them and I think that’s the crux of my worry; all of this is based on what we ‘should’ be doing. Schools ‘should’ reopen, teachers ‘should’ be back in the classroom, and parents ‘should’ be sending them back. We don’t have a say in this. We cannot say ‘no, I don’t feel safe and I want to work/teach from home’. It just isn’t possible for this to happen. 

News of the school closure in Dundee came when my husband and I had one of our teacher friends from a different school in the garden for a distanced coffee (yep, we’re still practicing that!) and we were genuinely shocked. It really brought it home that regardless of how careful we are being ourselves at home and in our bubbles, it probably won’t count for much in a couple of weeks time. I’ve a feeling that Freshers Flu is going to be the least of our worries this new academic year. 

Alice, Parent of Pre-Schoolers

My daughter is 3.5 years old, and boy was it a hard decision whether she returned to her school nursery or not! We weighed up all the pros and cons, and ultimately let the school know last week that P will be staying at home a little longer.

We’re in a very different situation to most parents because Pre-school isn’t mandatory, so we had to make a choice. As I’m currently a stay-at-home-mum, there’s no practical reason why she needs to go to nursery. I mean, there are loads of other reasons why she could go – she loves it, social interaction, learning, a break for me etc. But she doesn’t HAVE to go because ultimately I’m at home all day with her and my younger daughter. 

We’ve been pretty frightened of Covid-19 if I’m honest, due to a few health conditions in the immediate family. Although my husband has worked throughout, we haven’t taken advantage of any of the Lockdown easing – I haven’t been in a shop since March and we limit our activities and socialising to gardens and outdoor walks. So for us, sending P to Nursery next week was a step too far at the moment.

We received a lovely response from the school who were very supportive of our decision, and they’ve reassured us that she can rejoin whenever we want her to – fingers crossed for next term! I need a break lol! But for now, I’m trying a new mantra whenever I am feeling overwhelmed by the 2 tots – “I only have P for 1 more year before Reception, I must enjoy it…” (and if that doesn’t work, there’s always the secret stash of chocolate).

How are you feeling about your children returning to school? Let us know in the comments.

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Kate Dyson

Kate is the Founder of The Motherload, the 'owner' of one husband, two daughters, two cats and one rabbit. She loves wine, loathes exercise and fervently believes in the power of women supporting women. Find me on instagram: @themotherloadhq

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