Our Faculty and Staff on Pandemic Parenting

TRIANGLE SPOKE WITH members of our faculty and staff who have school-aged children about teaching and working from home during the pandemic. There were varied responses but the similarities were not surprising. “It is exhausting,” and “I have relied heavily on the Humanics philosophy,” were common responses. Below are a few excerpts.

A Different Public Health Crisis

the COVID-19 pandemic has forced every parent to reexamine their own best practices, routines, and habits. But over the last several months, there has been another public health crisis that has gripped the consciousness of my family, and countless families like mine.

That scourge: racism—a plague ushered into the spotlight by the continued extra-judicial murders of our black and brown brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.

The March murder of Breonna Taylor, followed by the May on-camera slaying of George Floyd were particularly impactful in our household. While Taylor’s killing happened as the country was beginning its shutdown, the murder of Floyd shook the nation at the height of our COVID panic. A proud father in a trans-racial family, I wept openly over the details of these murders, and can still barely hold it together when I think of the senseless killing of Elijah McClain.

These events spurred our house into more visible action than ever before.

It became evident that “casual activism” was no longer an option for me. Gone was the ability simply to tend to my family’s needs within the bounds of our house or on social media. Our participation needed to take a more visible and active form.

So we went to work. Our first point of action was to establish ourselves as consistent participants in the weekly racial justice vigils in the center of our town. The 30-minute rallies—marked by their regular triple-digit attendance, and consistent social distancing and mask-wearing—became important and anticipated recurring moments in our schedule.

The event gave my wife and I space and time to speak honestly with our children about topics of racial injustice. It also provided us with visual representation of our friends and neighbors who could be counted on as reliable allies when this scourge eventually touches our lives personally.

In addition, the issue of racial justice also informed my work as the chair of the South Hadley School Committee. Establishing an active and vibrant Racial Justice Task Force that includes the diverse voices in our community, and allowing that group regular spots on our twice-monthly meetings has been integral to the development and evolution of our schools and town.

And what a time to be a public servant, it is. I am fortunate enough to be trusted as chair of our School Committee during the most unprecedented period in our nation’s modern public education history. As a result, I approach every meeting and every conversation with the goal of extending grace and understanding.

While the world might feel like it is spinning off its axis, the greatest thing we can give to one another is grace and understanding. After all, it’s the Humanics way.

Kyle Belanger
Assistant Professor of Communications

Welcoming a Baby During COVID-19

Kristen Brosius and family

From the time you become pregnant, you imagine the moment when you will finally hold the precious miracle that is your child. In the midst of a pandemic, and in the weeks leading to our second child’s birth, this moment we had once fantasized, became overshadowed by the fear of uncertainty and undeniable anxiety. 

It was just three weeks before my due date that my obstetrician called. Her voice was shaky and we could feel her nerves through the phone. She told us that Angie wouldn’t be able to come into the OR for delivery, and that she wouldn’t be able to stay in the hospital with me during my recovery. For anyone who’s had a cesarean section, or any major surgery for that matter, you can’t imagine your support person not being by your side. I just kept thinking about all of the moments and firsts she was going to miss; she wouldn’t hear our baby’s first cry, or see her first bath, or change her first diaper. And, to envision a perfect stranger to be the one to help me get to the bathroom, or to encourage me while I nursed our baby for the first time. It was surreal, and absolutely heart shattering for us. 

With a week left to go before Piper’s birth, our obstetrician called once again. This time, she was bursting and shared tears of joy in telling us that the hospital had lifted their restrictions, and that Angie would be with me every step of the way. Together, Angie and I welcomed our daughter, Piper Lee Brosius-Veatch, to the world on April 23, 2020, at the literal peak of the pandemic in the state of Massachusetts. 

Through delivery complications and a much longer-than-anticipated recovery, we were supported by our village of friends, friends who have become family. We have Springfield College to thank for giving us a community of loved ones who we have relied on so heavily over the years. What’s harder than bringing a child into this world during a pandemic, is the overwhelming sadness after the fact, in knowing that your loved ones and closest friends can’t hold your newborn baby, or that they can’t come into your home when you need them the most. Or, that your friends’ children can’t play with your own. That has been a tough one – it has been significantly easier to get our 3-year-old to wear a mask than to explain to her why we can’t see the people we love …unless we’re outside….and six feet apart. For better or worse, our children don’t have the concept of time, and that has been a blessing in disguise. Our 3-year-old went six months without going into a store, or stepping foot into her daycare, or gymnastics class. But, the silver lining? She thinks it was just yesterday that she was living a “normal” life, and, for that, we are thankful. 

Parenting during a pandemic has forced the realization that we are all just less adequate versions of our former selves – you can’t quite be all that you used to be; not the parent, not the friend, not the partner, not the employee, etc. It’s a lot of “going through the motions,” and still, so much uncertainty and learning as we try to navigate and make sense of a different and challenging existence. A mask is the new shield in trying to protect your children. It’s the balance that we’re all trying to find – what do we teach our children in all this, and what do we spare them from knowing or learning? How long will we live in a predominantly virtual world while still giving our children meaningful life experiences? Has it been hard, and at times, felt impossible to parent a toddler and newborn over the past 6 months? Heck yes, but just like everyone else, we’re adapting and trying to make the most of our time with our girls. 

As leaders, educators, and parents, we’ve been forced to shift our perspective to give strength to and empower our students and children to fight this battle together. Now, more than ever, there is a great opportunity for the students of Springfield College to practice resilience, patience, kindness, and grace. During the darkest of days and times, we feel very fortunate to be surrounded by such a strong work community, because, even in a pandemic, Springfield College feels like home.

Kristen Brosius
Assistant Director, Campus Recreation

I’d say… The experience has been exhausting!  Still, there have been bright sides.  Faculty and students now truly have the chance to better understand one another as a whole people.  Children popping up unexpectedly in Zoom sessions can bring comic relief while also enabling us to forge stronger connections.  My kids have been eager participants in assisting me in creating videos for class and testing out other technology. My 6-year-old son taught me all about Flipgrid.  The Springfield College Child Development Center staff members are heroes.  In March and April, they created videos and other messages and held Zoom sessions to keep the children connected and engaged.  Remaining involved with that community was helpful to parents and children alike.  This fall, my 3-year-old daughter has been ecstatic to be reunited with her friends and teachers at the CDC regardless of the COVID-related restrictions.

Michelle Moosbrugger, PhD
Associate Professor, Department Co-Chair,
and Graduate Coordinator
Department of Physical Education and
Health Education

Nicole Gauthier and family

No one has ever claimed that parenting was easy, but add a global pandemic on top of that and it seems like a daily struggle to balance all my hats and be successful (in some sense of the word) at doing that.  I have never read more memes or blogs than I have lately where I find myself emphatically nodding along.  Titles like “This Pandemic will be the death of the working mother” and “Remember you are replaceable at work, you are not replaceable at home” have resonated with the deepest parts of my soul and helped me regain focus and re-prioritize when I am having an especially difficult day.  

I struggle in the “normal” world with making sure that I am properly balancing being a mother and a full-time working person but these days adding teacher to these roles has made my head spin.  There was a reason why I did not go into the profession myself.  I don’t know how to best teach my son material that I haven’t seen in years, and the way I did is now considered “old school”.  My oldest son, who is in second grade, and I are butting heads because I just “don’t know how to teach him like his teacher does” or I don’t understand what he’s trying to explain to me.  I always looked forward to reading with my children at night and now it seems like a chore because I have already been teaching them all day while completing the requirements of my job because, oh yeah, I am still required to perform at work at 100, no, 110%.  

I love my college students and I’ve always enjoyed my time at work but lately I find myself feeling like I should be home, like my children need me, and I find myself distracted from the job that once brought me so much personal and professional fulfillment.  

I have relied heavily on the Humanics philosophy to get through it all.  I am trying to make sure that my spirit, mind, and body are balanced so I can be the best I can for my children and my students.  This often means carving out time that I already don’t have to workout, take a walk, or give myself a mental break and go for a ride to get a coffee.  

Throughout this daily struggle of trying desperately to be “enough,” I have certainly discovered some silver linings.  The main one is the fact that I longed for a time like this before the pandemic hit, a time where my little family could hole up together and ignore outside distractions.  No sports games, no birthday parties, no outside commitments.  A time where we could just all be together, decompress, and spend the quality time that in the hustle and bustle of “normal” life seems to elude us. I have gotten that ten fold.  I feel like I have gotten to know my children more, I’ve been able to hug them more, I’ve been present during the day when they needed me and that feels wonderful.  This is the silver lining I hold onto on the hard days.

Nicole Gauthier
Assistant Director of Career Advising
Springfield College Career Center

There have always been a lot of conversations about what is happening in the world around our dinner table. How it has been different is navigating the emotions of not only our children but our own emotions as well. Trying to navigate whether the reactions or emotions our kids are feeling are normal teenage angst or a reaction to being isolated at home and having so much of their lives halted. It is an emotional roller coaster. As parents we want to help our kids, make  it better, guide them but there is no right way to guide them.

Having 19 women, two asst coaches, practicum students and a classroom of students has been challenging. As you know  they are all struggling in their own way. There is a lot of frustration on the part of our students and athletes. They are happy to be back on campus but are struggling with the social restrictions they have which is outside the norm. It feels as if I am constantly navigating feelings, emotions, and frustrations both at home and at school. Honestly, it is exhausting…

 There are silver linings, as we have had a great deal of time with our family that otherwise would not have had. With my team, we have had to find a way to be positive throughout and I find there is a greater positive mindset both on and off the court. 

Leadership and service to others is what we strive for each and everyday- so Humanics has kept me grounded. I lean on the mission and remember we are educating the whole person and the balance in spirit, mind and body needs to continue to be in the forefront of all conversations.

Moira C. Long ’97
Head Women’s Volleyball Coach
Associate Professor of Physical Education

Parenting is very tough. My 8-year-old has always done well in school, but in remote learning he requires constant prodding. He loses interest quickly. This has been especially tough on my wife and me as we have been working remotely while trying to make sure he is on task. Until recently we’ve kept home our daughter, who turned three in August. She started going back to daycare this month, which was a tough decision knowing that we are increasing the risk of her and our family getting infected by putting her back in school. It’s been especially tough having her at home because she requires a lot of attention and one of us has to put her down for a nap each day.

Also, there is a certain guilt we feel each day knowing how many hours of Disney+ she consumes, but that is often the only way we can keep her busy when we’re both on Zoom calls.

What made it easier was the support and understanding of my coworkers. It’s almost a welcome distraction to see a child’s face pop up on screen in the middle of a Zoom call.

Some silver linings: I know more about things like infection rates, R0, aerosol transmission, and the vaccine approval process than I could ever hope to know.

My daily 70-minute commute is now time that I spend with my family on the days when I work remotely. I feel more connected to my community since it’s rare that I actually leave my town. So whenever we order groceries via Instacart or takeout from a local restaurant, we feel like we’re actually supporting a person with our tip.

Lunch is a family event now, with us eating together at the same time.

The days when I’m on campus, I am very appreciative of my office and my coworkers.

I haven’t been to the Wellness Center since March, but I compensate for that with more time outside; riding my bike, walking my dogs, or hiking with my son.

As far as interviews, Zoom is not a good replacement for face to face conversations, but it is an upgrade over phone calls. There is a lot that is missed in nonverbal communication, so I think I’ve had better interviews with students or alumni that probably would have been phone calls in a pre-Covid world.

Doug Scanlon
Communications Specialist
Office of Development

son of Chris Evans

Parenting during this period of COVID-19 has had its ups and downs. While we’re all under the same roof, we’ve seemed to eek out our own space in the house during the day for school and work. My wife, Laura, who works for MassMutual, has the corner office in the family room, our 14-year-old daughter, Maggie is most isolated in her bedroom. Our oldest, Tyler, 17, shares the other side of the basement with me. Our youngest, Thomas, 11, is directly above me in the dining room, where we can closely monitor his classes and help out if he has any problems. Any issues that have arisen, tend to be resolved in real time. Volume levels and “what’s for dinner” seem to be the biggest issues. 

All three of our children are playing soccer and our afternoon and evenings were flat out providing taxi service from one field to another. Finally relief came in the first week of October when our 17-year-old son finally got his drivers’ license, seven months late due to a COVID-19 shutdown at his driving school. 

My wife usually works straight through lunch, so I take over on mid-day meals, cranking out quesadillas, soups, fruit smoothies, chicken tenders, etc. We had talked about making lunches the night before as we would do for in-person school, but that has yet to come to fruition. Heading into campus for video and still photography shoots and editing from home has been a productive combination as the demand for video continent continues to increase for the College. 

I feel like I’ve made up for lost time because of the Pandemic. Previously, I worked nights in Boston for 10 years prior to my role at the College. I’ve cherished every single sit-down family dinner that we had together through COVID-19, it really has brought us closer together as a family. The kids are starting to cook some meals or at least make breakfast, and even do their own laundry.

As the uncertainty about our future continues, I find hitting the trails on my mountain bike a great way to clear my head. After the remnants of Hurricane Isaias knocked down trees in the region, many of the trails near our home were blocked. I purchased a chainsaw in late August and have been going out to clear the downed limbs and tree trunks, opening the trails for all. I was even able to talk my wife into joining me on a few chainsaw hikes, I cut up the big stuff and then we team up to move the branches and roll the logs out of the way.

Christopher Evans
Producer/Director of Multimedia Content
Office of Communications