The idea of reopening schools amid the pandemic may be debatable, but this doesn’t mean that parents aren’t tired of entertaining kids at home.

A child playing with a toy truck with a woman sitting in the background Image for representation. By Abir-Picxy
Features Parenting Tuesday, December 22, 2020 - 12:12

Let’s face it — we all need a little ‘me’ time. But the COVID-19 pandemic has meant homes have turned into offices, classrooms, playgrounds, craft corners, and so much more. It’s not hard to understand why parents – mothers especially, on whom a majority of caregiving and household work tends to fall – are tired of having young children home all the time, and need a little break.

TNM asked five mothers what their experience of having kids at home during this year has been – and what they would say if they could talk anonymously.

“The Year of No Sleep”

Vineetha* calls 2020 the Year of No Sleep. Between her eight-year-old son’s online classes and keeping him occupied at home, Vineetha has barely had any time to herself. Her work as a freelance writer too has taken a back seat. “I only get time to write after my son goes to sleep. So, I have been sleeping at 2-2.30 am every day. It’s caused irritation and short tempers,” she tells TNM.

Tiresome online classes 

You’d think that teachers insisting that cameras be on during online classes would discourage kids from getting up to mischief but this doesn’t seem to work for Stuti’s* children. “My 12-year-old daughter attends class with hangouts and YouTube open on the side. My seven-year-old son’s camera is on during class, but he’d be running around the house,” Vineetha says. “The transition to an at-home, schooling system has been tough. I think it’s a bit extreme for schools to expect this kind of focus from kids in online class. Frankly, if schools opened next week, I’d be ready to send them.”

While some parents are glad that online classes have meant that their kids are occupied for some part of the day, they are also irked that teachers sometimes give instructions last minute, given students are at home only. “Once, we ran out of kidney beans just on the night the teacher said the seeds were required to do some activities the next day. ‘Online’ has become an excuse for doing things last minute – the kids would come home with instructions for the next day when they went to school; it wasn’t told at 11 pm!” complains Seema*, who is a scientist based in Pune.

Stuti*, who works in an environment organisation, says, “I have also realised that I cannot provide a work environment at home. My kids are used to spending about three hours outside playing every day. So, we had never even invested in the gadgets required for their online classes – sourcing them was a task. I don’t even like working from home, out of the laptop all the time.”

Bengaluru-based Reena* adds, “It probably sounds awful, but I really want to send my daughter to school. We’d pick her up and drop her of course and ensure other safety precautions are in place.”

Tantrums galore

Vineetha, meanwhile, noticed that her son wasn’t being the easiest student when she tried to teach him. “Children are receptive to instructions from teachers. But when the mother gives that instruction, they question as to why we are telling them to write like that. I was tearing out my hair initially. I had a breakdown even, when he just wouldn't understand though I was trying so hard. Finally, we sat him down and explained to him this year is going to be different, and he will have to study with us. We made him see that faster schoolwork would mean that he would have more time for other things like crafts, and playing indoors. We broke the resistance a bit there.”

The mother of a nine-year-old son adds that it’s always been tough for working moms trying to have a career, and not just hold a job, and stuff like this has only made things harder. “I feel like I am the one throwing tantrums because I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed all the time.”

The search for quality time

Reena reveals that the amount of time her four-and-a-half-year-old daughter spends watching TV has increased substantially this year. “All our kids are watching so much TV, but no one wants to talk about it,” she says. “But she just has half an hour of online class for the Montessori she is going to. The rest of the time she does play and is occupied, but if she sees me doing things, she will ask me what it is, and want to talk to me. TV time has also gone up because… well, how else do we get time for ourselves?”

But not all has been bleak and tiresome. Parents have noticed more involvement with kids in the housework, and found more quality time to spend with each other that may otherwise have not been happening.

Stuti’s seven-year-old son, for one, loves to clean the house. And she notices that he and his sister don’t leave things around the house as much.

For Vineetha, though her own work has taken a backseat because the most productive time of the day when she would schedule her meetings went into sitting with her son for his online classes and studies, the family did start to spend time together in the evening, doing fun activities like online quizzing. “We moved in with our in-laws who lived nearby to help them when the lockdown happened. There were four generations of us – my grandmother-in-law, in-laws, us, my brother-in-law who also came to live there, and my son. We watched good TV together, read books, and baked.”

*Names changed

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