Telework and Distance Learning is Breaking Me Down

A typical weekday consists of preparing breakfast, getting my kids (age 8 and 4) ready for the day, sitting in a carpool line singing songs, and heading back to my home office my full-time job. As of March 13, 2020, that routine was completely upended. For years I have casually logged onto Zoom meetings with zero interruptions.

See, I have worked from home for the better part of six years. Which is usually the best work environment for my personality. However, on March 13, 2020, my quiet space became a shared space with virtual classrooms. My “Zen work environment” became the Principal’s Office, The Nurse’s Office, The Lunchroom Manager’s Office, and the Counselor’s office, etc. Somewhere in between all of that, I am still the Administrator for Odom’s Kitchen and Policy/Grant professional for my 9-5. None of these things have I ever tackled full-time all together prior to this, yet here I am doing just that.

The balance between keeping the home environment a harmonious place and a “school workspace” has been nothing short of challenging. There are days that my four-year-old joyously reviews her sight words, and then others when she stands in the center of the living room conducting stage calls complete with wardrobe changes. And still others when she is inconsolable because of the abrupt interruption into her daily life. Which unfortunately then distracts the eight-year-old son. Needless to say, today like most days, we will focus on core subjects and remain hopeful that we will get to the “specials.” At this rate, I’m happy that they show up for their Zoom fully dressed with a clean face.

My husband and I have always been huge proponents for parental engagement and shuffle our daily lives to ensure we are engaged. We believe that parents’ involvement is just as crucial to academic success as a quality curriculum and dedicated teacher(s). However, now more than ever, this is paramount to our children’s education. With classrooms turning virtual and lectures taking the form of Zoom and Microsoft Team videos, we are now required to be hands on for more than enrichment and homework. Couple that with our own jobs and you have drained parents. As a result, a typical school day at the Odoms usually ends around noon. And we no longer apologize for letting them simply be kids for the rest of the day. This is the only way we are able to do their work and our work AND find time to be ourselves. All while “staying at home.” Now, I would be remiss if I did not thank my kids’ schools for being ahead of the curve as it relates to distance learning and being prepared. Their schools and teachers have gone above and beyond to ensure we have the resources we need to adequately “homeschool” our little ones. Without their input and our availability, the outcome could be much worse.

If I’m to be honest, all of this has me literally burning both ends of the wick. My husband, who has been nothing short of amazing throughout this whole pandemic, is also totally burned out. He has awakened every single day before 6 AM to ensure that families are able to have meals on the table. Thankfully, we have been able to keep Odom’s Kitchen flourishing throughout the COVID-19 shutdowns.

I have, however, reached a place that our emotional well-being is trumping everything. I do mean everything. I will not pressure myself nor my kids into an emotional breakdown. I will not make home a place they detest because it’s no longer a fun/happy place. We will continue to complete the assignments and clearly delineate between school time and “home” time. But we will take the needed brain breaks and we will enjoy one another as a family. We will not beat ourselves up on the days that plans fly out of the window and become soaked by Spring rains. And while discovering new walking trails sounds really appealing, most days by 4 PM, the only thing I can do is kick my feet up and squeeze a few limes over ice (I might add water, I might add tequila, I don’t know).

Dee Odom grew up in Jonesboro, LA. Dee earned a Bachelors from Grambling State University in Grambling, LA and a Masters from the rival school Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, LA. However, the rivalry only lasts for one Saturday in November, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Dee has a strong passion for public policy, social justice, and cooking. Therefore, it is no surprise that this self-proclaimed foodie met her husband, Chef Brandon while trying a new spot, and ultimately co-founded Odom’s Kitchen ( Together Dee and Brandon have two amazing children. One of the things she loves most about being in Louisiana is providing her children with access to three living great-grandparents. Additionally, Dee and Brandon enjoy entertaining friends and family through food and laughs.


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