Imbalancing Act: 'The Motto Is, Don't Kill Grandpa'

Grace with two of her three kids.
Grace with two of her three kids.
Photo: Grace
Imbalancing ActImbalancing ActMothering during the covid-19 pandemic

Grace, 44, lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and three children, ages 5, 8, and 10. She works part-time for an investment management firm, teaches test prep online, and runs a personal finance coaching company and blog. She spoke with Jezebel last week.

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We’re trying to limit our grocery shopping and eat more from the pantry. My church went online already, so Sunday service I watched on my computer. My women’s Bible study was all 80-year-olds, and there’s a woman in the group who gets pneumonia every year, so I stopped going to that three weeks ago. The situation has changed very rapidly. A week ago, I got back from a girls’ trip to California. If it had been a week later, it would have been canceled. The kids’ school is closed as of yesterday.

Yesterday, I went into my investment management firm and grabbed my computer and got VPN set up. Now I’m doing that work remotely, and I try and start pretty early before the kids are fully crazy in the morning. Even though they seem to have difficulty getting up during the school year, they seem to be up at 7:30 a.m. no problem now, so it’s not working as well as I was hoping. Somehow they are magically up and about. I was like: “Great, this is great.”

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My husband is an editor for an educational publishing company and works from home all the time. We have a home office set up in one of the rooms downstairs, but we’re usually not there at the same time, so now we’re sort of working quietly near each other and the kids are upstairs. Other than the fact that we can hear each other typing, it’s not that bad. Although, we can hear our kids like elephants above us sometimes. So far, knock on wood, they’ve been fine. They are either reading or they’re playing blocks.

I’m totally fine with formal learning being suspended for a period of time. Today, the kids went to the park across the street. I don’t have a lot of expectations for what they will actually manage to accomplish in the next three weeks. I come and make them lunch, I check up on them, I give them activities. There are some online resources that they can use. We’re just gonna make do as best we can. Honestly, expectations are predetermined resentments. I don’t have any expectations about what is gonna get done.

My online teaching is flexible, I have classes on Sundays and have a handful of students during the week. It does seem like there is some impact on enrollments. I have another class starting on Sunday, but I only have one student, so I’m going to cancel it if no one else signs up. That would impact our income. But I’m very much a proponent of having a lot of emergency savings and, because of that, we’re in a pretty good spot, because that’s literally what I teach about on my blog. Even if my husband loses his job, we have an “x” amount of months set aside to cover our monthly expenses.

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He used to be a stay-at-home dad and I used to have a job that required me to travel quite a bit. I was still taking care of a bunch of stuff, though, even when I was working full-time. People would be like, “Oh! You have a stay at home husband” and I’d be like, “Yes, let’s be clear: I have a stay-at-home husband, I don’t have a stay-at-home wife.” Finally, I was like, “This is just not working, we’re going to have to switch.” I could not do everything that “Mom” needed to do and work full-time. So we completely rejiggered our lives. Now, my husband works full-time and I’m still doing a lot of the mom, wife, parenting things and working part-time.

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We have talked about coronavirus with the kids. Interestingly enough, before this pandemic happened, we had spent quite a bit of time talking about the Spanish flu of 1918. We had just read a whole bunch of books about it, because my middle son is a war history buff. In that sense, this was not out of the blue and we were able to frame it in those terms. They understood why the social distancing came about because that is what they did in 1918 to stem the spread.

I’m Chinese American and my husband is a white American, and we’ve been talking with the kids about how it originated in China but that doesn’t make it an “Asian” or “Chinese Flu.” The virus doesn’t discriminate. There have been kids at school that have said some things about that, so we talked about it. It’s not a “Chinese Virus.” Anybody can get it. We had to explain that.

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My biggest concern right now is the population that’s older. Last week, as this was all going down, my in-laws live in town and Grandma was like, “Hey, I know school is out, if you have to work, maybe I can take the kids.” And I was like, “No, there’s no way. I’m sorry, but I’m not having my kids hanging out with their grandparents.” I had to say no to Grandma and Grandpa who invited them over for a sleepover. The motto is, “Don’t kill Grandpa.” I was surprised because that should be the population that is most concerned about transmission.

What I am very cognizant of is that my family is really, really lucky. There are a ton of people who have it way worse off. We try to be mindful of that. This is pretty much what our summers are like when there is no school. Summers hate parents. If anything we’ve moved up June to March. This is driving home for me how much inequality there is. My online blog is targeted toward people who don’t have very many assets. At the investment management fund, people have to have a minimum amount of assets before we will work with you. So, I see the divide very clearly in what I do. I can look at our lives and say we have no financial repercussions, for now. That’s not how it should be, that the outcome can be so unequal from this crisis, or any crisis.

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If you are interested in contributing to Imbalancing Act, email tracy@jezebel.com and stassa.edwards@jezebel.com.

Senior Staff Writer, Jezebel

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