A Mother’s Day like no other: Some moms have more time with kids, others cope with separation

Pandemic parenting has both challenges and joys

She has celebrated 51 Mother’s Days, including 23 as a grandmother and four as a great-grandmother. But Margaret Booze says Mother’s Day COVID-19 is like no other. Three generations are self-quarantined in her Dayton View home.

Like other moms and grandmas in the Miami Valley and around the nation, Booze has discovered pandemic parenting can be both a challenge and a joy.

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“The silver lining during this pandemic has been we’re closer than ever as a family,” Booze says. “It has offered me the opportunity to share with my granddaughter about the lives of my mother and my grandmother. We’ve shared beloved photo albums and stories of family — yesterday and today. Most importantly we’ve created a loving bond and memories my granddaughter will share one day with her children.”

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In addition to talking to one another more often, she says family members are all actively listening to each other. They’re preparing meals from scratch together, a dramatic contrast to pre-virus fast-food. They’re playing board games without watching the clock.

The difficult part, Booze says, is social distancing — not being able to spend time with her fianceé, other grandchildren and her new great-granddaughter. Her son delivers whatever she needs to her doorstep.

“In reflecting this Mother’s Day, I truly miss seeing my family and friends, my church family at Summit Christian Church. I miss my P.L. Dunbar Alumni Association’s presentation of scholarships. I miss traveling and eating out.”

But she’s confident this pandemic shall pass and is looking at the bright side. “I’m very grateful for this Mother’s Day because a year ago — Mother’s Day 2019 — I was undergoing breast cancer treatment. This life is fragile and short, at best; prayers change everything. I pray for our angels on earth that risk their lives to save lives.”

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Cheering up others

It’s been a family tradition for years. Each weekend, Clara Rezach’s great-grandchildren visit Sycamore Glen Retirement Community in Miamisburg to have lunch with her and great-grandpa, Larry. Then COVID-19 hit.

“Visitors were banned. Sadness set in quickly for both the young and the old,” says Clara’s daughter, Tina who lives in Springboro. “We needed to find a way to stay connected.” Grandchildren Arya, 5, and Leland, 4, had an idea. They’d draw pictures for all the residents of Sycamore Glen to enjoy. Hours later, from a safe distance, dozens of pictures were delivered. “Once social distancing restrictions are lifted, we will all enjoy the most delicious grilled cheese sandwiches and tater tots on the planet with Great-Grandma Clara.” Tina says.

With Tina working and her daughter and son-in-law both essential workers, her husband — a retired teacher — has become primary caregiver for the grandkids.

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“So we are blessed to still see our grandchildren,” Tina says. ” I know this is a great source of sadness for other grandparents who are not seeing their grandchildren right now. Mother’s Day will be difficult for my mom; she hasn’t seen any of us for weeks. Once it’s safe, we will plan a large family celebration to celebrate Easter, Mother’s Day and multiple May birthdays.”

Family trips postponed 

After two years apart, Amatul Noor Khan and her family had been planning a trip to Pakistan in March to see her parents, grandmother and brother. The tickets had been purchased months before, there had been endless shopping trips and packing was already under way.

“As more and more COVID patients started emerging in Pakistan as well, we made the hard decision to cancel our trip,” says the West Chester Twp. mother of three, ages 12, 10 and 3. “If we had continued with the trip we would have been stuck in Pakistan right now as all flights are cancelled for indefinite period of time.”

Although Khan was relieved when schools were cancelled, she says homeschooling has been a challenge. “I was already quite busy with a 3-year-old, so homeschooling was quite confusing and chaotic for the first couple of days. Now, as we are settling into the new routine, the kids are getting better at completing the schoolwork, following the directions and attending the Zoom meetings on their own.”

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One problem: her children complete their schoolwork much earlier than their school hours. “I don’t know how to contain their screen time, how else to keep them busy and constructive,” she admits. “Their appetite has doubled — mine, too — so it feels like I am cooking a lot! And then there is the tedious task of washing and disinfecting every grocery item.

But although she’s grateful her family is safe and well cared for in their home, there is also anxiety and uncertanty. “When will this situation end? What if one of us contracts the virus? When will we get to see our dear ones? “

For Khan and her family, it is the holy month of Ramadan and they are unable to go to the mosques to offer prayers as a congregation. “After Ramadan we celebrate our religious holiday called Eid by going to the mosque, meeting people and having feasts,” she explains. “Eid this year might be different and lonely. We need to increase our prayers, make more donations, stay united, tolerant and think of other people who have lost jobs, houses, dear ones and their lives.”

Alleviating stress

Laura Justice, professor of educational psychology at the Ohio State University, says the pandemic conditions are stressful for all parents with schools closed and kids at home 24/7. Her own children are 17 and 13.

“A bright light in all of this is that we get more time with our children than normal,” says Justice. “There is a great deal of evidence that parental time investment with their kids — talking, reading, walking, playing, and just hanging out — has positive effects on children’s development. Being at home together provides a very special opportunity for moms to increase their time investments with their kids, and these investments don’t have to be fancy. Hang out and enjoy each other!”

Justice suggests writing mom or grandma a letter, asking her to share a story about her childhood, making a video for her.

Being apart

Family education columnist Candace Kwiatek, who writes for Dayton’s Jewish Observer, is a mother and grandmother who home-schooled her children. She says mothering for her these days isn’t hugely different since her children have been far away from home for years. But there have been subtle changes.

“I feel a bit more helpless as far as being able to be there when needed,” she says. “In the past, I’ve been able to pack a suitcase pretty much at a moment’s notice and go babysit when daycare closes or give my homeschooling daughter-in-law a break or just visit for a change of pace. Now I can’t — and that has made things more challenging for the kids. “

She’s also worrying more these days, with all three of her children in more affected areas of the country and with one of them being a surgical Physician’s Assistant and another working for a hospital system.

Kwiatek says she’s gratified to see how her children are figuring out how to address the various challenges thrown their way. “Parenting is really ‘raising adults,’ and I’m so thrilled to watch them succeed as adults in the most trying of circumstances,” she notes.

Some of her favorite quotes are from Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” It’s a book Ohio’s physician-in-chief, Dr. Amy Acton, also mentioned recently. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves…. Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

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