“I’m sorry, is it okay that I turn off my video and use just audio?” Dr. Mina Tsay-Vogel apologized when she picked up the phone at 9:00 pm. “I have to hold my baby constantly, because she gets antsy at night.”
Tsay-Vogel is an associate professor teaching media science at Boston University’s College of Communication, as well as a proud mother of four children, whose ages range from 2 months to 7 years old.
Since this summer, the Vogels have been working very hard to handle remote work of their own with four children relying on them around the clock during the quarantine — “the most difficult thing” to accomplish.
“We are just trying to survive minute by minute,” said Tsay-Vogel. Throughout this time, sleep has become a luxury for her.
In August, Tsay-Vogel experienced her “most lonely and scariest” moment of quarantine: giving birth to her daughter alone in the hospital with her husband on Facetime from home, taking care of their other three children.
They had no other choice. Ever since March, daycare centers have been shut down, and public schools have gone remote. Additionally, in order to protect against contracting COVID-19, like many other new parents, Tsay-Vogel and her husband didn’t invite other relatives over to help.
With a newborn and three young children, managing work and parenting under the same roof is a challenging new reality for the working parents.
“You have to be very creative in terms of using your time efficiently,” Tsay-Vogel said. “And you really have to lower your expectations when it comes down to work.”
Before August, Tsay-Vogel and her husband had to work through the night to finish the work they weren’t able to do during the day, and then get up in the morning to be with their children. Now, with their newborn, they have had to take turns to caring for her during the night.
“We don’t have any relief basically,” Tsay-Vogel said.
In order to make sure they could work, the Vogels’ first move was to create a “quarantine study room” at the least noisy spot in their home. Every day, they selected the right time to work when their kids were least noisy.
Meanwhile, they had to find their kids some activities to keep them occupied while they worked. But it was difficult. For example, while recording class lectures via Zoom, her kids interrupted with questions about homework, and she had to pause and start over again.
Tsay-Vogel shared some tips on managing multiple kids at once. For example, when one kid gets a snack, make sure everybody else gets one too. If one kid needs a diaper change, make sure the others get changed too. The Vogels also share a digital calendar where they color code their children’s schedules in order to make things easier.
Listening to her share her pandemic hardships in an energetic and up-beat voice, it was hard not to wonder how she managed to keep herself positive and motivated.
“Mental health is so important at this point,” Tsay-Vogel said. “You need to remain hopeful to go through these days.”
Every Friday, she and her family enjoy a fun night watching movies or TV shows. They also often get together to talk about all of their travels and fun memories to create hope for the future.
It’s also necessary to take a step back sometimes and think about what other people are going through.Thinking about those parents who are essential workers and frontline healthcare workers, she is grateful for being able to work from home and for not having to risk her children’s health by putting them back in school.
“The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone,” Tsay-Vogel said.
However, not everything about this pandemic is bad.
“It’s a precious educational opportunity for young kids to learn new things that other generations can’t until much older,” Tsay-Vogel said.
During the pandemic, not only did her kids learn to appreciate essential products like toilet paper and how to do some household chores, they were also frequently exposed to and actively involved in social and political discussions, such as the presidential election and the BLM movement.
“It has to get better,” Tsay-Vogel said. “We hit the rock bottom in the pandemic, so anything after this would be so much better.”
She and her husband are holding a positive perspective for the future, and they are looking forward to having a good sleep once the coronavirus pandemic is over.
By Wanrong Lisa Qi, Staff Writer