The daily lives of families across the region changed almost overnight when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived on the Gulf Coast. Schools and daycares closed, businesses modified how employees work and the government asked everyone who could to stay home.
Parents are now trying to find the new normal: balancing work, homeschooling and keeping the children from climbing the walls. Many parents are working from home including Baldwin County high school teacher Dianne Casolaro.
“I have to meet with my dual enrollment students via teleconferencing. My first meeting is today. Let's hope it all goes well, but I would suspect issues,” Casolaro said.
Many businesses are still operating, and telecommuting isn’t an option for some parents such as Katie McCarron who works for the Baldwin County Builders Association in Fairhope.
“My office only has three employees. They have closed to the public but are not allowing telecommuting or working from home. My husband is working from home and watching our daughter,” she said.
Rene Shireman works for a grocery store chain and has modified her work schedule.
“I have rearranged my schedule as my work allows. I am home with the children during the day and work in the evening once my husband is home,” she said.
When asked how parents were keeping their children busy answers varied greatly.
Casolaro said, “My 9-year-old has a daily schedule for reading, math, social studies, science etc. We have close neighbors with whom she plays outside. We have also had organized PE - made up a couple of mom and daughter games with tennis rackets, frisbees, hula hoops. Even cleaned out the game closet. Today, we are supposed to be on a field trip to Montgomery, so we will try a virtual trip of some sort.”
McCarron said her first-grader “spends most of the day in front of a screen while (her husband) works.”
Shireman’s children have the advantage of a backyard pool.
“My children are staying busy by swimming in the pool, going for a bike rides, working on our spring-cleaning list together, as well as doing some learning activities on their chrome books from school. They are also watching a little more TV than normal in between going outside,” Shireman said.
Jennifer Gilmore, a third-grade teacher, and her family have retreated to the country.
“I am trying to keep everyone busy with a mixture of family devotions, schoolwork and family workouts. At our country house they get to fish, turkey hunt, read, ride bikes, play board games and make bonfires.”
Many families have chosen to go out as little as possible. Gilmore said her teenager is having the hardest time.
“My teenage son is not handling this well at all. We have totally restricted our socialization, but apparently not everyone has done the same. He doesn’t understand why he can’t go and do like his friends.”
The change in routine can be hard on the children but also the parents. Gilmore opened up about how she is coping.
“I am coping OK, but honestly missing my students and co-workers terribly. I never really dreamed I would be saying that, especially during fourth quarter when it is so hectic, but those children are the reason I wake up every day. I miss my co-workers and really everything about my job. I often complain about it, but in these last few days God has showed me how the blessing he has given me in my job,” she said.