BRIDGEWATER, NJ - For many Bridgewater parents, though they are pleased with the work of the teachers and staff to prepare students for virtual learning during these weeks when school is closed, it is still a difficult time as many are trying to figure out how to juggle care for the kids with managing their schooling, keeping them entertained and, for some, maintaining a work-from-home job.
“Any given day, I can be a good mom, a good substitute teacher or good at my job,” said resident Gigi Lin Ksiazak. “Pick one.”
The schools officially closed down as of March 16, with virtual learning beginning that day for students across the district, who are expected to sign in for attendance by 10 a.m., and then work on Google platforms to complete assignments and interact with teachers.
Although parents and staff report that the school side of things has been going very well, and many have praised the staff for putting a successful program in place in such a short amount of time, many admit they feel they are drowning in their homes.
Resident Stacey Friedlander said she is having to work from home every day on top of taking care of her first grader and sixth grader.
“I am not going to be as functional as I am in the office,” she said. “The good thing is that we have until 10 a.m. before the kids have to log on.”
“But I could be trying to do something for work thinking the kids are independent, and they’re not,” she added. “The younger the child, the more time-consuming it is.”
Friedlander said she can’t log in to work until she is done with all the work her first grader has from Crim Primary because there is no way he could do everything independently.
“There are different links, print this, do that, and I am trying to block off most of my morning to work with my younger one,” she said.
With her older son, she said, he is more independent, but she still has to check in on what he is doing throughout the day.
“And then there are the work demands,” she said. “I am still getting calls from the office, and I am still trying to do what I am responsible for without disappointing or letting them down.”
Friedlander said she is in a good position for work because her entire office is working from home, so even her bosses are having to break conference calls and stop working to deal with their kids.
And in addition to all the work, Friedlander said, she is also trying to make sure the kids get outside to have some time to play outdoors.
“Our street is a small cul de sac, and we have decided we are all in it together, so we are self-isolating together,” she said. “The adults are not really hanging out together, but the kids are great. When everyone is done with work, they are riding bikes and scooters, playing basketball. They have hand sanitizer in their pockets, and they are not touching each other.”
“I have that to look forward to, and I can get stuff done when they’re outside,” she added.
The district, Friedlander said, is doing an unbelievable job, and her kids’ work is very detailed.
But, she said, she is learning that sometimes she has to be less stringent than normal.
“I’ve loosened up on what I want to do in terms of structure,” she said. “This is a no judgment zone. I think that’s important because a lot of parents are setting up how things are working in their houses differently.”
Resident Jennifer Katzman said she works full time in sales and customer service from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the office, and then she is on call the rest of the evening. In addition, she said, she has an ASD, SPD, ADHD, OCD son, which provides some learning challenges.
“It is a struggle for me to help with school work because most things are one-on-one,” she said. “It takes an entire team of people at school, an entire IEP, and here I am with a few hours after a full time job, trying to get everything in. I’ll be honest, it’s pretty hard. Most of our evenings are made up of negotiations to get through it all, and, more times than not, we end up frustrated with each other.”
Katzman said she wants to make it clear that she has open lines of communication with his teachers, and she gets multiple emails every day from all of them.
“I have always appreciated his teachers and his para professionals, they are with my child for the majority of his waking hours, shaping the person that he is and will become,” she said. “These teachers deserve recognition.”
And in the midst of her full time job and trying to home school, Katzman said, she also owns a small business, Mimosas & Masterpieces, LLC, a traveling paint & sip company.
“It’s rewarding and fun, but with the times the way they are, every one of our events in March and the beginning of April have been cancelled,” she said. “Basically an entire salary lost for these two months.”
Resident Jodi Golden said she has a seventh grader, and she knows all the teachers are trying to help. She said they have kept in touch with emails and voice chats.
“My seventh grader needs a lot of reminding,” she said. “As for work for me, I’m out of two jobs since my employment is closed. My husband has his own business, but it’s slow.”
Still, Golden said, she sympathizes with the students who are home.
“I feel sad for the seniors, and for the kids missing so much school,” she said.
Resident Jill Greenwald said she is trying to stay positive for her three kids, ages 13, 9 and 3.
“Each one has completely different needs, so I feel like a pinball in a pinball machine bouncing around,” she said. “Thank goodness it is nice out so we can be in our backyard bouncing on the trampoline, playing on the swing set or playing a game like corn hole.”
At this time, Greenwald said, her husband is still going to his office, so it is her all day with all three kids.
“I’m trying to stick to a schedule, but it’s hard because things come up and I definitely need some me time during the day,” she said. “Keeping up with an exercise routine has been nearly impossible, but I am going to hopefully get better at it.”
Katzman said everyone is going to make this work, and we will all get through it. But, she said, it’s not going to be perfect.
“It’s not going to be on the requested hours of school time, we’re skipping several things, but we’ll make this work,” she said. “If anything, we should take away the time that we do get to spend with our kiddos, but we can’t ever spend enough time. Take this time to teach your kiddos more home economics and how to go about every day life.”
“We should realize all the work that our teachers and paraprofessionals put in all the time,” she added. “Remember to appreciate them, not just now, but always.”