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Parents struggle to balance working from home and at-home learning

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – Tina Sanders’ children have been counting down the days until school begins and she admits with a laugh, “I have too.”

Her 5-year-old son is heard laughing in the background of a video interview and later, her 7-year-old daughter joins for a moment to show off sparkles she’s put on her face.

It’s a snapshot of what life has been like since March when Jefferson County schools were closed and Sanders’ job moved from an office to her home.

“Every day he comes up to me, ‘Mommy, Mommy, why are you on the computer? Why are you still on the computer?’ I try to explain it, but they don’t understand. And then the mommy guilt going on, because I have to explain and they feel like I’m ignoring them, it’s so difficult,” said Sanders, sharing a sentiment felt by many parents.

Sanders is a full-time mom, full-time employee, and will soon be her children’s full-time teacher.

“When we found out about the virtual, I was scrambling – I’m still scrambling,” Sanders said.

Sanders is one of thousands of parents trying to figure out how to make remote learning work. Her son, Tallon, will begin kindergarten when classes start online September 1. Her daughter, Kinley, will start the first grade.

“My babies, them being so young, they still don’t really understand. We had to sit them down last night and tell them, ‘We are going to be doing school at home’ and my kindergartner is just like, this is blowing his mind, he’s like, ‘What?’ And he’s like, ‘Is my buddy Hudson going to be in my class?’”

“My heart breaks for them. My kids are just begging me to send them to school. They want to be around other kids, they want to be around friends,” said Sanders.

While managing their disappointment, she and her husband are trying to manage how the next 9-weeks will work.

“[I just got the] sample schedule from their school. It’s pretty much all day. I mean it’s from 9-11 and then from 12:30 to 2:30.”

She added, “My work schedule is 8-5 and just because I’m working from home, I still…” She explains what needs no explanation – working from home is still working.

“I’m definitely behind, I’m not as fast as I was, obviously, when I go to work and have no distractions,” said Sanders.

Credit Karma surveyed 1,000 parents whose children are learning from home and found 62% of working parents feel they need to compromise their careers to make it work, and one-third said “they don’t have flexibility in their workdays to accommodate at-home education for their kids.”

Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provide paid leave for reasons related to COVID-19, but Sanders’ workplace doesn’t qualify.

“If it came down to it, obviously, I would choose my children over my work, you know, but I hate that I have to be put in that position to do it,” said Sanders.

Copyright 2020 WBRC. All rights reserved.

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