Pandemic Fatigue

tired ethnic working mother at home with playing kids
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

Things just keep getting better as the “back to school” season rapidly approaches.

Spoiler alert: the global pandemic is still in full swing. Not only is the US not improving, it’s getting worse.

Please don’t come at me with statistics comparing COVID-19 to the seasonal flu. That’s not what this is about.

I want to address the pandemic fatigue that so many are clearly feeling right now, and I want to offer some alternative ways to look at this storm we’re in.

Not only am I learning a lot about human behavior through my observations (a lot of us are selfish overgrown children), I’m also a bit fascinated by our extreme levels of intolerance for change.

Granted, this is nothing new. Humans are very skilled at coming up with a whole list of ways to change our circumstances so we will be happier. If we don’t like our job, change it.  We don’t like where we live, move. We don’t like our partners anymore, split. All of those things will make it better.

Except they don’t.

That’s not what this is about, either.

Change that we feel is forced upon us, often sends us into an absolute frenzy!

Yes, it’s fascinating.

I’ve been on to this for some time. I became a certified Change Leader long before I was called into the Life Coaching arena. Back then, I felt I needed to learn ways to help people navigate the changes in their work environment. Learning those methods was one of the most engaging experiences I’d had before I found coaching.

Now I get to bring it all together, which is pretty rad.

Over the past week, I have marveled at the experiment of opening schools for in-person instruction from the perspective of living just on the outskirts of one of our nation’s hot spots, nestled comfortably in the suburbs.

As parents of a sixth grader who has been absolutely stoked to enter middle school (no, he doesn’t yet know better – give it time), my husband and I have agonized over making the “right” decision for our only child, our family, and society as a whole.

We didn’t agonize for long, to be honest.

In retrospect, it seems that we were quickly able to arrive at the best decision for us, based on the following:

  • We are both privileged to be able to work from home. I have been doing so for the past two years as an entrepreneur and his office has been fully remote since March.
  • We own all of the technology needed and have space to separate our work/learning environments in various corners of the house.
  • We are willing to continue experiencing all of the annoyances and discomforts of balancing oversight of a virtual school environment with work.
  • It is not absolutely necessary that our child attend school in-person. Does he want to? Without question. Does he need to? No. It is more important to us to help reduce the strain on classrooms and school facilities than it is for us to have a peaceful workday.

For those reasons, we opted in for online learning for the first semester.

I should add that we are not quite ready to expand our bubble of interaction on the massive scale that in-person school will bring.

Though let me be clear, we do NOT live in fear of the virus. There is simply no compelling reason to assume the risk of exposure for ourselves and others.

There just isn’t. Trying to convince ourselves otherwise seems to be exercising privilege when we just don’t need to.

Now. I get that there could be a myriad of reasons why other households would feel the need to make the opposite decision and send their child(ren) to school in-person. Let me be also clear that I have absolutely no judgments toward parents who choose that option.

Some of the reasons I’ve heard include:

  • Single parent household or both parents are considered essential and have to work outside of the home. They may have been able to cope with childcare over the summer, but they can’t continue due to lack of resources.
  • Child abuse cases are increasing under the strain of the pandemic. It’s safer for children to be in school.
  • The child’s emotional well-being is impacted negatively due to separation from peers, trusted adults, and the standard learning environment.
  • Little to no access to the technology needed to support online learning from home. Our district can provide 1:1 devices and free Internet connectivity, but I am fully aware that’s not a national standard.
  • The mad scramble in spring to stand up online learning ended up being a bit of a shit show and no one wants to go through that again.

And the list goes on, but you get the idea.

By now, you’ve probably heard the analogy that while we may all be in the same storm, we’re navigating it from different boats.

I would add to that the common umbrella we’re all gathering under is one of pandemic fatigue.

This just isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

We’re all exhausted from it, just in different ways.

We all want what is best for our children, though it may be difficult to see that what’s best right now may not look the way it always has.

And perhaps it never will again.

That’s a change that none of us signed up for, and we are resisting this change like…well, like it’s the plague itself.

We just want it all to go away and for everything to go back to “normal”.

We just want to go back to bitching about how busy yet absolutely mundane our lives have become instead of talking about solutions to the problems that are in our very faces.

We don’t want to acknowledge the strain we have put on our education system to be the solution to all of our societal problems.

Childcare, crisis center, food bank, therapy, and equity.

We have come to expect our schools to be all of these things for us.

And when they are not prepared themselves for such rapid change, we lose our shit.

Here’s what happened in my district.

On Thursday evening, I submitted our request for online learning for the first nine weeks of school.

On Friday morning, our superintendent sent an update that ALL students will begin the school year online for the first three weeks. The email also stated that at the time of its writing, the majority of parents had selected in-person learning.

My friends, our schools are still scrambling to try to figure it out.

To try to navigate all of the changes and all of the unexpected results of their attempts to balance safety, security, equity, and the general well-being of our society with the core purpose of educating.

So, while I’ve seen all of the moms raging on social media about this latest pivot, I am reminded that we as humans are functioning at our best when we extend compassion to those in the trenches of what we do not understand.

And that perhaps we would all be better served to turn that frustration toward finding solutions to the real problem here: our schools are not supposed to fix our society.

We are.

I know you’re tired. But save your energy because we can figure this out if we really apply ourselves.

That’s what any good teacher would say.

If you’re ready to find your power and What Lights You Up, I highly recommend my new podcast. You can find it on Spotify and Apple.

I am happy to coach on any topic, including navigating current events.  I’m absolutely here for you! Book a free session with me here.

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