Parenting in the Time of Coronavirus

HOME editor Jessica Sinichak finds a new balance between work and home life with her two young children.
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“I want to go back to my school,” my 6-year-old, Aurelia, says to me as her eyes fill with tears.

We’re watching a daily Facebook Live video by a lovely teacher from Aurelia’s former daycare,  which my younger daughter, Scarlett, still attends. 

The teacher cheerfully goes over the days of the week and the months, singing songs as she goes. At first, there were a handful of kids in the schoolroom with her. Then just one. Now the daycare is shut down altogether.

The educational lesson provided in the video is excellent. But for Aurelia, it’s highlighting that she’s not in her normal classroom, that her routine has been disrupted. 

On St. Patrick’s Day, as her one-time teacher shared some leprechaun-themed activities, Aurelia couldn’t take it anymore. Her kindergarten LEAP program was scheduled to have a party on March 17, something she had been talking excitedly about for days. She ran upstairs to her room and slammed the door. 

I want her to go back to school, too. It was day two of our district’s two-week closure, and with no place to go, and the weather too cool and rainy for us to go outside, we’re floundering. 

Even though I’m at home, work hasn’t stopped for me. We still have a magazine to put out even though our office is closed. And so, at 10 a.m. each day, my coworkers and I have a conference call to discuss the issues at hand and put together a plan for the magazine’s next edition. 

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This is when my kids are the neediest. They climb on me, wanting to sit on my lap as I work on the computer and trying to push in the keys as I frantically make shushing sounds at them. Or, they fight, screaming at the top of their high-pitched, little girl voices, over toys that minutes ago they couldn’t have cared less about. Someone gets punched. More yelling ensues. 

I mostly put myself on mute during these conference calls.  

Things pick up a little at lunch. Per Aurelia’s instructions, we pretend we’re in the school cafeteria. I line them up and give them their lunch choices. The previous day, during a solo run to Giant Eagle, my husband bought frozen chicken patties so we could make Aurelia’s favorite cafeteria meal, a chicken patty sandwich — no cheese or condiments, thank you very much. 

Aurelia orders this meal from me with a smile. Scarlett, 4, gets a peanut butter-and-jelly-sandwich. For once, they actually eat their lunches. 

Finding the balance between work and home life during these strange times isn’t easy. The kids are getting more screen time than I’d prefer as I try to bang out my work, and my house is a total mess — toys everywhere. 

There are moments of joy, though. Aurelia’s dismay that she in all likelihood will not be an actual princess when she grows up sparked a great conversation about England’s royal family. I showed her and Scarlett online photos of Prince William, Kate and family. I didn’t bother explaining about Harry and Megan.  

This is our new normal for at least the next 14 days, maybe longer. My nerves are a little frayed, my fuse is admittedly short, but I’m grateful I can be at home with my kids — that I can work from home when many others can’t. 

Before we went to bed, Scarlett said quite seriously to me, “I need to tell you something.” 

“What?” I asked. 

“When I grow up, I’m going to be the queen.” 

These are unprecedented times, and I don’t know what will happen next, which is scary.  But I do know my girls — even at their whiniest — are my greatest loves. We’ll suck this up, and we’ll continue to stay home — for their safety. For everyone’s safety. And apparently for the safety of the future monarchy. 

It’s the least we can do. 

Jessica Sinichak is the HOME Editor at Pittsburgh Magazine.

Categories: The 412