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‘It just feels like you’re not doing enough’: El Paso families struggle to balance work, helping kids with distance learning

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Getting kids ready to go back to school can be emotional, but this year it might feel harder than normal.

Several parents ABC-7 spoke with describe a feeling of overwhelming guilt, as they work to balance jobs outside the home with supervising children and assisting them with distance learning.

"You wake up in the mornings and you just have so many hats to fill," said Claudia Lopez, a mother of three children who also works outside the household.

Lopez is accustomed to splitting her time between her job and three kids under the age of seven, but the pandemic has made trying to do it all harder.

"It just feels like you're not doing enough or you're not able to spread yourself out doing everything 100%," she said.

Lopez is not alone. As school campuses close to prevent virus spread and child care options are limited due to potential virus exposure, parents are facing new burdens.

"The first day of virtual school, I cried," said Ilana Tannenbaum.

All across the country, parents who work outside the home are now adding another job: supervising children and helping them through their remote educational instruction.

"It's incredibly hard for us as working parents to take on the additional two teaching jobs (for) two kids," Tannenbaum said. "My mom guilt has skyrocketed."

One of Kris and Ilana Tannenbaum's children has special needs. Though their son's school has provided resources, they said remote learning has been difficult without in-person support.

"I feel like a failure as a father completely," said Kris Tannenbaum, "and as a businessperson I can't devote all my attention to the different areas I need to. I would love to just sit down and play with my kids in my free time, but there is no free time anymore."

A local psychiatrist says there is no right answer when it comes to making it all work.

"I guess one thing that makes some parents not worry as much is that everybody's in a similar situation," said Dr. Sarah Martin, the Child and Adolescent Division Chief of Psychiatry at Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso. "This is 2020. It's not going to be the year that children learn the most in school."

Dr. Martin said parents who also have full-time jobs outside the household will likely have to make choices. Some of those choices might involve cutting back on other commitments. Others, like deciding to use child care centers, could increase risk of exposure to the virus.

"Don't bother feeling guilty. The guilt doesn't really help and everyone's decisions are going to be different," Dr. Martin said. "Be honest with yourself about what are the most important things for your family."

For Lopez, finding a moment to breathe, no matter how small, has made all the difference.

"Take it slow, take it slow and be kind to yourself," she said. "If you have a chance to dedicate a little bit of time to, as a parent, some quiet time, whether it's in the morning or the night just to reflect... I think if you don't have that time to clear your mind, you're going to be always frustrated."

For parents that do need child care services, several locations in the area are offering services. YWCA is offering this care for children younger than one year-old through age 12. The YMCA of El Paso is also offering youth programs.

Madeline Ottilie

Madeline Ottilie is a reporter on Good Morning El Paso and co-anchors ABC-7 at noon.

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