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Confessions of a parent worried about the school year during COVID-19: This is really hard

The Daily Advertiser (Lafayette) logo The Daily Advertiser (Lafayette) 8/7/2020 Leigh Guidry, Lafayette Daily Advertiser
a group of people posing for the camera: Education reporter Leigh Guidry and family on a tour of Tabasco at Avery Island during a trip along the Bayou Teche Byway. © Leigh Guidry/USA TODAY Network Education reporter Leigh Guidry and family on a tour of Tabasco at Avery Island during a trip along the Bayou Teche Byway.

I've been working from home since March 13. I actually stayed home from the office that day so I could take my 5-year-old daughter to her dance rehearsal at 5 p.m.

So I was sitting in my house, a few hours before we had to leave for rehearsal, watching on my laptop when the governor announced schools would be closing and we didn't know how long.

As an education reporter, I rushed to break the news, make calls, dig out details and add context. As the wife of a teacher, I texted my husband to make sure he knew. As a mom, I thought, "Now what?"

a little girl standing next to a child: Sisters Marie and Avery Guidry wear masks while on an outing to the grocery store in June 2020. © Leigh Guidry/The Advertiser Sisters Marie and Avery Guidry wear masks while on an outing to the grocery store in June 2020.

It's been almost five full months since that day. Five months of working from home while trying to entertain two children and feed them and have Zoom meetings and conference calls and phone interviews and write stories and practice reading so she didn't lose her kindergarten skills and, and, and.

And I'm still thinking, "Now what?"

Because we're still in this thing. We're in deep. The numbers are going the wrong way, but so are the economy and our kids' knowledge base.

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There is no perfect, right answer. Forget perfect. There's not even a good answer. Whatever we do could be wrong and come with some major consequences. Just like everyone else right now — teachers, district administrators, politicians — we parents are faced with impossible decisions. 

a group of people looking at a cell phone: Reporter Leigh Guidry interviewing Teacher Hannah Hebert as Students at Herod Elementary in Abbeville work in garden. Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. © SCOTT CLAUSE/THE ADVERTISER Reporter Leigh Guidry interviewing Teacher Hannah Hebert as Students at Herod Elementary in Abbeville work in garden. Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019.

You can tell me that consequences are just a normal part of life, that's how it's always been, no one said the world is fair and all that. Part of me would agree. As a working parent, I know the mommy guilt all too well, so I'm used to bouts of feeling like I'm simultaneously failing as a professional and as a mom. 

But this is that and more. This is that on steroids. A pandemic takes the normal parenting dilemmas and their consequences and raises them to, "Do I A) send my kid to a place where she can get a fatal disease or bring that disease home to me or a grandparent? or B) keep her home to watch more YouTube Kids than anyone ever should consume and ruin all chances of a good education?"

a little girl sitting on a bed: Marie Guidry, 3, "works" on a toy desk and phone while her mom takes a conference call in July 2020. © Leigh Guidry/The Advertiser Marie Guidry, 3, "works" on a toy desk and phone while her mom takes a conference call in July 2020.

That's not the only decision, y'all. A million more follow as you get to the questions of who will watch her at home, or can we afford one of us quitting our day job, or can we pay another daycare bill. And then you're back around to the health risk questions.

It's a vicious cycle that plays on repeat in parents' minds everywhere. It might sound a little different in your head than mine, but I'd wager a lot that you've got an inner monologue going in the same vein.

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These consequences, these risks, are not normal. Nothing is normal. The world is upside down, and we parents feel it in our guts. It's a feeling of overwhelm, hopelessness and failure. And our kids feel it, too. I hate it.

Avery Guidry, 5, shows her mom the paper laptop she made for her Barbie to "have a call" like Mom does every morning while working from home in April 2020. © Leigh Guidry/The Advertiser Avery Guidry, 5, shows her mom the paper laptop she made for her Barbie to "have a call" like Mom does every morning while working from home in April 2020.

This week has been especially hard for me and mine, as school inches closer and we really have to make these decisions. It's weighing on us. We're weary, of the decision-making, of the impossibility of it all, of being home, of seeing others sick and hurt from the virus, of all of it.

We need school something fierce right now. My daughter and all of us, really, need some space, some structure and routine in our lives. We crave normality, like everyone else, and we need it for our mental health, our relationships and education — each essential to our collective future.

The stakes are high, and new information comes in every day. So I still have to ask, "Now what?"

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Confessions of a parent worried about the school year during COVID-19: This is really hard

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