The Catch 22 of being a Remote Teacher and Parent

Becky ThalBlog, Connect Better, Engage Better, Lesson Plan Better, Self Care Better, Survival


  • Working from home seemed to good to be true… and it was.
  • Balancing being a teacher and being a parent during Covid19.

The “work from home” dream comes true – or does it?

I have several friends who have worked from home for years, and I’m not going to lie – I was very envious. The thought of wearing sweats to work everyday, not worrying about my hair or makeup, and being able to go to the bathroom whenever I wanted sounded heavenly!  And then that day arrived – March 16, 2020. Out of seemingly nowhere, I was thrust into the world of being a remote teacher and a parent.

With a few weeks under my belt now, I can tell you that wearing comfy clothes and going to the bathroom at any time is nice, but there is also been plenty that I wasn’t prepared for and am still adjusting to (p.s., I still do my hair and makeup everyday). 

These weren’t exactly the circumstances under which I envisioned myself ever working from home. Certainly I would never have expected to have my husband and kids here with me every minute of every day, while I try to “work.”

I realized that what a lot of us were forgetting, in trying so desperately to maintain a sense of “normalcy,” was that this is not normal Click To Tweet

Luckier than many

I was luckier than many teachers because I was not required to go into school after the students left. 

I don’t know how folks were/are making that work, and give them so much credit. Our district started teaching remotely from home right out of the gate, while my own kids were learning remotely. We are lucky because we have enough devices in our home to support the four of us (myself and my three kids), with both my oldest son and myself issued devices from our schools. 

My students in 5th grade have their own devices, and are very tech savvy since we’ve spent so much time on Chromebooks already this school year.

What could go wrong?

With all that said, it seemed like this remote learning arrangement would go pretty smoothly.  While I was nervous and a bit anxious, I was also excited to see how things would go! 

I used the analogy that it was like becoming a first time parent. You can’t wait to get started on the adventure, but you quickly realize how exhausting it really is!  The first few days were tough. I tried connecting with my students/families to figure out the best way to deliver instruction, while also fielding questions and wiping tears from my own kids who were overwhelmed. 

Fortunately my 7th grader is very self-sufficient and was managing his assignments on his own. But my 4th grader and 2nd grader? They needed more hand-holding than I could have anticipated. A lot of it had to do with learning to navigate Google Classroom, reading through multiple directions, and being able to find their way around new and old edtech tools and platforms.

I was totally exhausted by noon, between looking through their work and trying to do my own. At this point, my husband was still traveling to his job, so I was running this school/home-school operation solo. 

This is your job!

One of my initial thoughts after those first few days was, “How are people managing to help their kids when they don’t do this for a living?!” 

For me it was a “catch 22”.  I felt lucky that I could help my own kids because I know my way around everything Google, but at the same time, I felt so much pressure! 

My own kid’s work should be spectacular, or at least that’s what I told myself. After all, I am home and here to help them complete it, making sure every “t” is crossed and “i” is dotted.

So you can imagine my panic when I got an email a few days in, saying that my daughter was missing a spelling assignment and my son was missing a reading assignment. I freaked out and yelled.  Then they started crying…and I started crying.

It was at that moment that I realized I needed to step back and reevaluate the situation.  I made the conscious decision to forgive myself, show myself some grace, and focus on what really counts.  

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Learning to let go

None of us signed up for any of this – not the virus, not the quarantine, not remote teaching, not homeschooling.  It doesn’t really matter what your daytime job is. The fact is that many of us are trying to do those jobs at the same time our kids are learning from home.

It’s a lot to manage, even for the most organized of individuals.  There are plenty of other things out of our control, too. For instance, the internet may not be working properly, Google might be acting up, Zoom might not be connecting, you name it!

As a teacher I learned pretty quickly that being flexible was a necessary trait. This trait is even more necessary when you are a remote teacher.  While you can control what goes on within the walls of your classroom, you can’t control what happens beyond them. So I needed to stop trying.

My kids need their mom, not another teacher

As for helping my own kids complete all of their assignments, I resigned myself to the fact that this wasn’t entirely feasible. I had students of my own to guide and support while their parents also worked from home. 

The realization hit me. What my own kids need is their mom…not another teacher. They have fabulous teachers who were managing the best they could with the hand we were all dealt. My kids need someone telling them they are doing a good job doing their work.  Someone to tell them that life will return to normal, and they will return to school one day.  They need someone to calm their fears about this whole pandemic. 

I realized that what a lot of us were forgetting, in trying so desperately to maintain a sense of “normalcy,” was that this is not normal. There is an emotional toll this takes on everyone that we cannot overlook or downplay. It is all very overwhelming and surreal when you take a step back and look at the big picture. 

Focus on what’s important

The first week alone taught me the importance of empathy toward everyone involved in this new teaching and learning scenario.

We’ve heard the term “uncharted territory” associated with this, and for good reason. It’s great to make plans and set goals, but be prepared to reevaluate those. 

Take things day by day, hour by hour if you have to. Forgive yourself for getting upset, having a bad day, and not always giving 110%.

Take time to recharge your batteries.

Reflect on what’s working and what’s not.

But most importantly, don’t lose sight of what really matters in all of this – the mental and physical health and well being of yourself, your family, your friends, your students, and their families. 

And don’t forget to breathe. 


Becky Thal is a 5th grade math and science teacher in New Jersey and a Data Analyst for the Teach Better Team. Prior to starting her career in teaching in 2005, Becky worked for several years in advertising in New York City. She is an active member of her school staff, currently serving on several committees including SEL, Climate and Culture, and the Future Ready Team. Becky is also an active member of her community and her children’s schools. In her spare time, she enjoys trips to the beach, trying new restaurants, and attending her kids’ various games and events . Becky lives with her husband, three children and dog, Cliff, who she loves spending time with on the weekends.