Until a few months ago, much of my identity was a mystery to my kids. Sure, they knew what I did with them, but they had very little clue what I did without them, despite my attempts to explain it in simple terms. I wouldn’t have minded if they imagined I was a super-spy or something else cool and intriguing, but I suspect they assumed I mostly sat around waiting to pick them up from school.
Last Fall, a visit to my older daughter’s kindergarten class was a lesson in 5-year-old logic (and listening skills) when it comes to, “What do the grownups in your family do when you’re at school?” The real answer: My mom is a writer and fitness instructor. My daughter’s answer: “My mom usually goes to a class, but not every day.” Wow, thanks sweetie, I really feel “seen.”
Then came COVID-19 and many, many weeks of shelter-in-place. And while the cause was something no parent would have wished for, the result was that for many of us, quarantine finally helped our kids understand what we do every day – and who we are in addition to being their mom or dad.
Before the pandemic, I had largely limited my paid writing and editing time to periods when my three kids were at school, often resuming again after they were tucked away in bed, and my fitness classes took place at a studio they rarely visited. But during shelter-in-place, our classrooms, gyms and offices were suddenly all under the same roof. The overlap wasn’t always pretty (my kids seemed to save their injuries and most urgent requests for the moment I got on a Zoom call), but it offered a clear window into the different facets of my life. They have watched me teach virtual classes, overheard me conducting interviews and seen firsthand how much I used to get done both in and outside the house during the school day. If they once believed in a magic cleaning fairy, they don’t anymore.
For my part, I now understand so much more about my kids’ individual learning styles and the worksheet-by-worksheet details of what they were doing from 8:20 to 3:05 every weekday. It was fascinating, impressive and overwhelming all at once (my level of teacher appreciation is certainly at an all-time high). I no longer had to try to pry information out of them at pickup; I had already witnessed the day’s highs and lows.
As of this writing in mid-June, our bubbles in the Bay Area are slowly starting to expand to include a few small-group activities and socially distant outings, and I pray that trend will continue. But going forward, I also hope all of our kids view us a little more three-dimensionally, or at least have less vague answers when it comes to, “What do your parents do?” And I hope they see a little more clearly how hard we work – whether it’s in an office or around the house – to provide them with stability and security.
Although I will say, in the future it’s just fine with me if Take Your Kids to Work Day only happens once a year.