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    PolyMOMial: Solving the factors presented by a pandemic

    Chelsea Bowles

    Being a 30-year old single mom, a full-time student, and out of work during a pandemic is not easy. It’s challenging trying to balance being a mom with a full course load, especially at a time with no child-care. 

    When campus and community closures first hit in March, I was stressed, but also happy about the time I would get to spend with my daughter. After two weeks on “stay at home” order, depression set in. I didn’t want to do schoolwork, play, clean, or even talk to anyone. It was very clearly rubbing off on my daughter as well, as she was losing interest in playing and becoming a Disney channel zombie.

    The bright side

    Then came a day with almost 70-degree weather. The sun motivated me. I dragged my daughter outside to play. She napped well, ate a great dinner, and went to sleep at a normal hour.

    That’s when I devised a plan to take my daughter outside every day- rain or shine. We both needed it. The outdoors is one of the most engaging atmospheres for children.

    Change of plans…

    Despite my best efforts, that plan didn’t last too long. I still felt extremely overwhelmed with my daily responsibilities. Completing schoolwork, trying to play and teach my daughter, cleaning, and all my other tasks became difficult to complete. 

    So, I tried looking at this mathematically. A polynomial is a mathematical term that comes from poly- (meaning “many”) and -nomial (in this case meaning “factor”) … so it means “many factors”. Using this idea, I came up with a new, simpler plan.

    Step 1: Take care of the greatest common factor.

    For me, this is my daughter. Take care of her first and make sure she is happy. Then deal with the rest. Nothing will be easy or doable with an unhappy child. Children can feel when you aren’t okay—so put the phone down, stop looking at the minute-by-minute news updates, and just PLAY. Children learn through play and exploration; this is the best way to engage them (and tire them out). Once they’re tired, at nap time and/or bed-time–that’s your time.

    Step 2: What factors are left and what makes sense where?

    I’m a mom and a student. I have to cook, clean the house, do my work, let’s not forget shower. Prioritize. I like to clean up first, then shower, and then sit down and do my work. When my daughter naps, I complete schoolwork. 

    Step 3: Put the remaining factors where they belong. Follow through.

    I know at times it seems impossible.  This new normal is hard to navigate. These are some tips that have helped me through the last couple of months:

    • Confront your feelings. It’s okay to be frustrated and scared. Your little ones feel it, too. Allow yourself to feel and then find solutions for problems. 
    • Make a plan and stick to it—children come first, and the rest will fall into place.
    • Stop watching or scrolling through endless news, but stay informed. Check for updates once or twice a day, and then stop.
    • We are social distancing… not social excluding. Stay in touch with people and reach out if you need to. You are not in this alone.

    Being a parent can be tiring and stressful but if you focus on that “greatest common factor” first, the rest will fall into place. We can win parenting, education, and COVID-19.