The past year shook families, testing parents as they worked and taught kids from home, debated about how close to stand to grandparents, deliberated over wiping down groceries and other health concerns. Parenting during a pandemic was an unexpected breakdown of all the norms families have come to rely on. Having no guidebook to go by, most parents have had to make their own roadmap and figure out what works for their family.
When the pandemic began, the initial concerns seemed to center around health.
Michelle Stein, a mother of two in Dunwoody, recalls scolding one of her kids last summer because the child touched a tree branch in a park, and thought, “What if someone who’s ill has touched that branch before her?”
Alpharetta mom Jennifer Stone remembers not knowing how to go about her daily life. “Is lunch outdoors with a friend OK? What about a playdate for our daughter in the backyard?”
Family life later transitioned to a focus on family and community life.
“What has worked best for us was establishing a new routine,” explained Julia Urshansky, a mother of two sons in Johns Creek. “That could be pool on weeknights or dinner out on the deck. We also left the house as much as we could to be out in nature safely. We also helped kids find new activities: baking and biking for one of our sons, YouTube exercise routines and chess for the other.”
One of the most crucial aspects to figure out was managing virtual schooling and keeping children engaged with online classes while the adults worked from home. Moms interviewed for this story said they came to rely on an array of methods, such as spouses taking turns supervising the kids and working. Many families joined a small “quarantine pod,” a group of neighbors with similarly aged kids who agreed to follow the same safety protocols and only spend time with each other.
“The best thing about parenting during this pandemic is that I spent more time with my kids and observed interactions with teachers,” recalls Inna Livits, a mother of two daughters in Marietta. “When kids went back to school and I worked from home, for the first time in my parenting life, I picked them up from the bus stop and got to hear news firsthand. That has been one of the biggest joys.”
The pandemic also strengthened neighborhood life, said Jessica Webb of Alpharetta.
“We spent the past 14 months with our neighbors and their children, doing schoolwork, having dinners together. They’ve become like family to us, and I don’t see us changing our arrangement any time soon.”
Atlanta psychotherapist Mariah Dantzler summed up how the family dynamics changed. “I think many parents have tuned into their children more and saw opportunities to parent differently than they were originally.”