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Hybrid Mom: Navigating Work and Remote Learning

by Jillian Scannell

'Hybrid Mom' Monica Chapman and her son

By: Monica Chapman, VWW Board Member

A month into the initial stay-at-home order, I scrolled through my social media to see some friends posting about thriving in the remote learning world. They had “never felt more bonded to their children” and they “wish that this could be the new way of life.”

“For me this was crippling.”

It wasn’t my story; I was struggling to respond to work emails while mastering Seesaw and kindergarten phonics all before the inevitable next “Mom! Can I have a snack!?”, and I was overwhelmed with guilt for not having the same emotions I saw on Facebook.

My reality felt much different. Our young boys (my son, 6 and stepson, 8) struggled to have the attention to navigate learning from home. As soon as it felt like things were on track, a work call would come in and they knew now was the time to strike for screen time. Meanwhile, my teenage stepdaughters slept all day, only coming to the surface to have a debate about why it was unfair that they couldn’t be with their friends. Although there were some fun family moments, the remote learning seemed much more like survival mode.

As Vermont began to open up, we rejoiced that the school year came to an end and began to carefully loosen our grip. I went back to work a couple days a week, and we allowed the teenagers to have a “covid friend”. I work in an essential business, so the news that the Governor was opening summer camps was a lifesaver.

“Although many parents decided to forgo sending their children to summer camp and understandably so, we felt as if we had no other option, as my partner and I had to return to work.”

I am an employee for PuroClean Emergency Services and Co-owner of its sister company, Construction Management Direct. I am one of three females in both organizations, but the only one with school-aged children.  On top of the pressure to balance work and life, my support system was dealing with their own setbacks. My son’s father owns a local restaurant that was trying to stay afloat, and my partner works a 100% commission job all while our parents were either out of state or high risk. Summer camp offered us the ability to work and the freedom for our children to interact with a small group of dedicated children. I became more and more hopeful that our children would safely return to school in the fall.

That is until July 22nd, when an unexpected email came from the superintendent of Chittenden County. As I read the plans to have a hybrid school year, I felt overwhelmed. The email stated, “Children will attend 2 days a week in person and 3 days will be spent with online learning.” I know that this decision wasn’t made lightly and I honor the people that had to go through the process to make this decision. I understand that everyone’s circumstances, fears, and perspectives are different. But, I couldn’t be the only mother worried by the news. In fact I know I’m not; according to the US Department of Labor, 80 percent of Vermont mothers with children under 18 participate in the labor force, and 45 percent are sole earners.

“So what now? How will we do this? Remember that old saying “fake it till you make it?” Well that’s out the window for me.”

Chances are, if you work with me there may be a time where you have to watch my son while I run to a jobsite. If we’re having a zoom meeting there might be a child screaming in the background. I probably won’t get through every single school assignment with my son. You’ll probably see some Facebook posts with me asking my fellow moms to join me in babysitting tradeoffs. My emails will most likely have lots of grammatical errors, and some days, I’ll break down and let my kid have the ice cream. It won’t be perfect but it will be real.

We don’t know what the future will bring but here’s what I do know: In 2020 you will be getting a hybrid mom; an unapologetically authentic, hardworking, love with all my heart, un-put together hybrid mom that is committed to being as real as it gets.

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