Indian American parents balance work from home, remote schooling and social distancing

It’s exercise time at the Bakshi home in South Plainfield, N.J. Arusha and Aaryav workout with their father Sanket. Parents are trying to come up with creative ways to keep their kids busy with activities like exercises, dance, arts, class and home and kitchen projects

Amruta Kulkarni of Foster City, California is taking one day at a time. Working from home and having kids at home as well, has been tough for her.

Although the preschool for her 3-year-old opened up limited spots, Kulkarni says they chose to keep her home to let the families where parents need to go to work take those spots.

“Our 6-year-old has started in-home learning since last couple of days, so he’s little busy with his assignments from around 10-2, but we still need to help him with video conferencing, etc.,” she told India Abroad.

All the way across the country, on the east coast, Deepti Bakshi is in the same boat. A stay at home mom, Bakshi Kulkarni says her biggest challenge is to keep her 4-year-old entertained, while she helps her 9-year-old with her school assignments.

Like Kulkarni and Bakshi, parents with young children across the country are facing the challenge of balancing their individual work from home schedules, helping kids navigate the remote schooling, as well as making sure there’s food on the table. “It’s a constant circus, juggling different roles, all at once,” Bakshi Kulkarni, says, summing it up for all parents.

Her older child is comfortable taking instructions from a laptop or a tablet, Bakshi says, but she still needs help and needs monitoring. Another big task the South Plainfield, New Jersey mother faces is keeping the younger one entertained, while his sister is doing school work. “I have to also make sure that he doesn’t go and bother his father who’s on office calls constantly.”

Anu Barucha, a special education teacher in Atlanta, Georgia, seems to have it all sorted. Not only has she made a schedule for both her daughters — a kindergartner and a fourth grader, she’s put herself on a time table as well — setting time aside for interacting with her students when her little one naps. She says that being in the same profession, she completely relates to how well teachers all over have managed to transition to remote learning.

However, she does realize that it’s not easy for parents, especially those who have fulltime jobs. “Replacing your teacher is hard,” Barucha says. “Now the onus has shifted to parents as there’s no face time, no immediate contact with the teacher,” she says. “Even the response time from the teacher will vary, depending on the situation. So Barucha says that the parents have now become the child’s first contact person. “Parents are now getting involved in their children’s education a lot more and are learning on how to deal with them from an academic perspective.”

On the other side of the spectrum are parents with older kids, who do not need the monitoring for their school work, but yet need the guidance and pep talks, especially when it comes to staying cooped up at home. Getting them to stay away from their gadgets and get to do some physical activity is also a challenge, many say. “The kids are for most part in their room, doing their school work and assignments, but evenings are hard on them, as they cannot go hang out with their friends,” Dallas-based Shikha Awasthi says. “I sometime let them go to the store to get something, but now I’m thinking even that’s not such a good idea,” she says.

Indian American parents balance work from home, remote schooling and social distancing

Diya Barucha joins physical education classwith her elder sister Miraya via zoom at their home in Atlanta, Ga.

She says kids do get the reasoning behind this social distancing, but everyone is anxious with the uncertainty and the danger, and the kids are nervous as well. “In times like this, family game nights, or a movie, helps, even older kids,” Awasthi says. “But like one does with younger kids, we cannot put them on schedule and except them to follow it.”

Like the Awasthis, each family seems to have come up with their own schedule and plan to tide through these trying times. Schedules are important and so is physical activity, parents say. Many say that following a schedule for the day, working and going to bed as a usual weekday maintains some discipline and sanity. “It also keeps the work ethic strong in the kids so they don’t feel they are on a long holiday and continue with school work with the sincerity it demands,” Nupur Bhatnagar of South Brunswick, New Jersey, says.

At the Kulkarni home in Foster City, Kulkarni and her husband are a tagging team to manage their meeting calendars — when he has a meeting, Kulkarni puts a block on her calendar and vice versa. “Outside of meetings we have told our colleagues (who are in the same boat) to expect reduced response rate and to just call us for any urgent matters.” She says they have “tried to keep the same schedule and sleeping hours for the kids but we are not stressing out if we can’t manage them,” and adds, “We are just going with the flow for now.”

Despite its challenges, some are trying to look at the positives. Bhatnagar says she is enjoying the slow pace of everyday routine — “the nowhere to rush and be day.”

She says as a family they are “doing things together that we usually don’t get the time for.”

She however says that the days are of course busier for me and that she hasn’t spent so much time in the kitchen ever. “Young kids, always looking for something to eat,” she says.

Manasa Reddy of Belle Meade New Jersey says that although physical activity is the need of the hour, it is a task in itself to come up with idea that keep the kids entertained.

Indian American parents balance work from home, remote schooling and social distancing

Mira Reddy of Belle Meade, N.J. attends an online class through school.

At the Reddy home, the kids have tried yoga, Bollywood workouts and a little bit of stretching.

There is no denying that while maintain a schedule, a routine and getting the kids to exercise and stay active, the parents need an outlet as well. For Bakshi, that outlet is dance.

A fitness enthusiast and a dancer, she reached out to women and kids in her circle, and now offers live classes via Zoom. She gets her daily workout and also gets face time with people. “It’s a win win situation,” she says.

Indian American parents balance work from home, remote schooling and social distancing

Mira and Siya Reddy work on an art project. Their mother Manasa Reddy says she puts a large drawing sheet for her daughters and encourages them to express through art.

Bhatnagar credits her kids as well. “Staying at home all day is hardest for the children and I’m actually impressed at the maturity they have shown so far in understanding why they must not be out,” she said.

Kulkarni says that although it is little daunting managing work, home and kids, she thinks of those people like store employees or healthcare professionals “who are going to work for us and I feel like I am definitely in a better situation than them.

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