6 Charlotte moms share the highs and lows of pandemic parenting

6 Charlotte moms share the highs and lows of pandemic parenting
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We’re 18 months into the pandemic. The start of school coincided with a spike in the Delta variant. Schools and daycares are open, but many wonder for how long.

  • On top of that, day and night the news is all about a few people turning school board meetings into battlefields over masks and quarantines, while most parents are just trying to find some sort of peace and normalcy.

Why it matters: Few groups of people are feeling as stressed or stretched these days as parents.

These six Charlotte moms found time in their chaotic schedules to share what it’s really been like to parent during a pandemic, plus what they wish non-parents knew about the experience.

(1) Alyssa Sharpe

Family: Alyssa and her husband, Grant, and daughter Ginny (4) and son Wyatt (1)

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Neighborhood: Plaza Midwood

Employment: Alyssa is the CEO of Digi-Bridge, an education non-profit, and Grant is an environmental engineering consultant.

Childcare situation: Full-time daycare

The hardest part: Struggling to evaluate risks, dealing with daycare closures due to COVID exposures, and being a plane ride away from their families.

“Childcare has been underfunded and under-resourced for so long and the pandemic has exacerbated so many things in this industry. It’s made me want to do what I can to advocate for change in this sector,” Sharpe says.

The impact on her kids: In January, Ginny contracted COVID through a daycare exposure. She was asymptomatic, but it still proved challenging.

“It was really hard to explain to her that she was sick since she didn’t feel sick. She would ask if we could ride on an airplane to go see grandma. It was hard to be like, ‘No, we actually can’t because it’s not safe.’

But kids are so resilient. I joke that these hard times will give them the best content for their college admissions essays.”

A bright spot: The Sharpes have enjoyed an increase in family time thanks to shrinking commutes and less business travel. This was especially helpful after Wyatt’s birth in June of 2020.

One thing about pandemic parenting:

“I wish people were more aware of how many decisions that parents of young kids have to make to evaluate safety. When you’re making a decision that might be higher risk, what is the ripple effect on how that’s going to impact those who have unvaccinated kids? I wish people were more thoughtful of the group population.”

(2) LaTrecia Glover

Family: LaTrecia and her husband, Wes, and children Jackson (5) and Olivia (3)

Neighborhood: Harrisburg

Employment: LaTrecia is a social worker for a local school system and Wes is an accountant.

Childcare situation: “Frustrating,” Glover says with a chuckle, before sharing that their daughter is in a preschool/daycare and their son is in kindergarten.

The hardest part: “Seeing the selfishness of our nation and the people around us.”

The impact on her kids:  While many of us are dealing with increased social anxiety after a year in isolation, Glover says her formerly shy daughter has begun to open up recently.

“I think that she got to a place where she just really longed to see people that were not the people that live in her house. She’s now a social butterfly.”

One thing about pandemic parenting: 

“We’re running into issues with childcare providers not requiring masks. There are also questions around Governor Cooper’s very relaxed stance on COVID. We appreciated — well, some of us appreciated — the mandates that were in place until July of this year, but now our numbers are skyrocketing. We really, really need him to step up and do something. He keeps saying, ‘We know what to do.’ But I’m like, ‘At what point are you going to realize we don’t know what to do?’ As a whole, we just don’t know.”

(3) Leigh Ann Ordan

Family: She’s a single mom to Kennedy, who just turned 10. She and Kennedy also live with Leigh Ann’s parents

Neighborhood: South Charlotte

Employment: Leigh Ann works full-time for Staples

Childcare situation: Kennedy is in fifth grade

The hardest part: Trying to balance a full-time job while simultaneously assisting Kennedy with virtual learning.

“I had to go to my employer and be like, ‘I know you’re used to getting 100% of me, but when she’s here having school, I can’t be on at 100%. I have to wear both my work hat and my teacher hat all day,'” Ordan says.

Another challenging moment was when Leigh Ann and Kennedy dealt with a possible COVID exposure. They both ultimately tested negative but had to navigate safely sharing a living space with her parents, who are in a high-risk age group.

The impact on her child: Kennedy was redistricted for the 2020-2021 year, and getting acclimated to a new school was a slower process than it would have been during a normal time.

“I hadn’t met her teacher face-to-face. FaceTime became the new playdate, and that’s not just the same.”

A bright spot: Ordan says she’s developed a close group of friends and neighbors to provide support, even if it’s just over the phone, during tough days.

One thing about pandemic parenting: 

“Raising children is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Doing it during a pandemic can be incredibly isolating, even though you know we’re all in it together.”

(4) Carmen Thomas

Family: Carmen, her wife, Stacey, and their son Cruz (2 1/2)

Neighborhood: Steele Creek

Employment: Carmen is a Division Director at AccruePartners and Stacey is a Therapeutic Recreation Supervisor with Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation

Childcare situation: Cruz attends an in-home daycare near the Thomases’ home

The hardest part: “The biggest thing I’ve learned during the pandemic was boundaries. I wasn’t good with them before, so I’ve had to learn how to hold firm on boundaries. And yes, there were some arguments with family and friends that didn’t understand or didn’t agree with the bubble that we put ourselves in,” Thomas says.

The pandemic’s impact on her child: Because their son was a preemie, Thomas says their isolated 2020 existence would probably not have changed much. Now, the Thomases make it a point to get their son out and about in a safe way, like at a neighborhood park. Thomas says she thinks the experience will help shape her son into a “thoughtful and caring person.”

A bright spot: “How much I’ve been able to have one-on-one time with my son. On days that I work from home, he runs into my home office and gives me a big hug.”

One thing about pandemic parenting:

“I highly recommend getting off the comparison train. You’ll think, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s a working mom who’s running a business and she’s making cookies for her kids.’ I don’t think a lot of people admit how much help they get. No one’s perfect and I think a lot of our stress and anxiety comes from playing that comparison game.”

 

(5) Shannon Farrar

Family: Shannon and her husband, John, plus Shannon’s kids, Molly (19) and August (17).

Neighborhood: Mint Hill

Employment: Shannon is the Executive Director of Carolinas CARE Partnership and John is a financial advisor

Childcare situation: Molly is a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill and August attends Levine Middle College High School.

The hardest part: Like many others, Farrar and her family have struggled with risk assessment. They coined the term “COVID serious,” which indicates how seriously another person is taking pandemic safety precautions. For example, if one of the kids wanted to visit a friend, is that friend “COVID serious”?

The pandemic’s effect on her kids: Molly was supposed to start her freshman year at Chapel Hill in 2020; she opted to do her first semester remotely.

Another challenge came as they tried to finish the paperwork necessary for August, who is transgender, to complete his transition.

That included getting a new social security card, driver’s license, and passport.

But COVID left the social security office extremely backlogged, so August had to get this paperwork under his dead name, which is the birth name that he no longer identifies with as part of his transition. This experience can be highly upsetting and invalidating.

A bright spot: To cheer Molly up, the family banded together to safely give her the full UNC tailgate experience. They all donned Carolina gear and had a party in their driveway. They joked that the next step would be to pull a fire alarm at 3 a.m, making her introduction to freshman year complete.

One thing about pandemic parenting:

“My hope is that the pandemic has taught us to extend grace to ourselves and to others. And I hope the pandemic is teaching us that it’s okay to just be versus always be doing.”

(6) Jennifer Bishop

Family: Jennifer and her husband, Scott, and their six-month-old son, Henry

Neighborhood: Huntersville

Employment: Jennifer owns her own event planning business, J. Leigh Events, and Scott is a mortgage underwriter

Childcare situation: Jennifer’s mother cares for Henry two days a week. Their nanny recently put in her notice, which has been a source of stress, so they’re hoping to find another one to give Jennifer more time to work during the week.

The hardest part: Missing the full experience of pregnancy and baby milestones.

Because of COVID, Scott was only able to attend three of Jennifer’s many prenatal appointments. Her baby showers happened over Zoom or as a drive-through, and they didn’t get to wander through the stores and touch and test items as they completed their registry.

Now that Henry’s here, the Delta variant has the Bishops hesitant to bring him out in public, particularly since he experienced health complications when he was born.

A bright spot: Getting pregnant. The Bishops had been trying for a while and were overjoyed when they found out they were expecting.

“While quarantine sucks, it brought us closer together as a couple and we’re enjoying this time with Henry.”

One thing about pandemic parenting: 

“I think people don’t realize the natural anxiety that already comes with being a new parent, and then you add something as scary as a pandemic to it. There’s just an extra level of fear, like, ‘Is this normal? Is this a first-time parent fear? Is this COVID?'”

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