Theola DeBose ’96 is the founder of JSkills, an AI-powered career-discovery platform for users to match their skills to multiple industries.
What I miss the most is the quiet.
Before COVID-19 confinement, being a family of six seemed manageable. Sure, my husband and I found ourselves racing from one activity to another — breakdancing class! ballet! — but we made it work.
Now I wake up at 7 a.m., creep downstairs, and find that my 9-year-old son is already awake, streaming Black-ish. The dishwasher runs twice a day. The growth spurt of my 5-year-old son — who usually eats like a bird — has coincided exactly with quarantine. “Mom, can I have my lunch?” It’s 10:30 a.m.
I used to be alone for most of the day in a quiet house. As the founder of a tech startup, I came home after school drop-off, opened up my laptop, and jumped on Zoom calls before they were trendy. I worked at home until it was time for my children to be picked up. My husband cooked dinner, we ate, and eventually we all headed to sleep. The quotidian details of our weekends were Saturday French class, a kid basketball game, SAT prep for our 16-year-old son, and Sunday school.
When schools first closed, I was ready to take on homeschooling like any other challenge, by overachieving. I copied links to dozens of education websites and made up a master schedule in a spreadsheet.
That lasted two days. It didn’t ring true to the kids that they had to be learning spelling words at 11:30 a.m. And without me sitting next to them, it was too easy for them to walk away or click over to YouTube.
My work hasn’t stopped, so I find myself juggling webinars and investor calls while making sure my 3-year-old daughter has a snack during her daily online class. It’s similar for my husband. We’ve both felt stretched thin, professionally and personally.
But as much as our forced togetherness has been at times annoying and frustrating, it’s also been a great gift. It turns out I’m not as much of a perfectionist as I thought.
Instead of sticking closely to schedules, we’ve skipped out on “class” to wander the neighborhood and collect sticks. One day I put dish soap in a pot, threw in a spoon, and told my 3-year-old it was water play. She loved it. At dinner, we have long conversations about the history of our family. We talk about coronavirus; the kids ask good questions. (“Daddy, what’s walking pneumonia?”)
I know with each passing quarantined day, my children are experiencing a historic and unforgettable moment in their lives. It could be the topic of college essays, first dates, anecdotes passed down to their children. “When I was quarantined because of coronavirus, I … .”
How will they complete that sentence? It’s my job as the parent to make memories with them so they have good answers. And if I have to give up some quiet to make that happen, it will be worth it.