Parents struggle to balance work and family life in the pandemic: "It's been a disaster"

Parents describe pandemic-related struggles
Parents describe pandemic-related struggles 04:25

With the start of school just weeks away, parents are worried about what's next for their children. They are juggling work and family life during the pandemic and many are struggling to cope.

For Jennifer Valenzuela, the care-free days of a California summer have been anything but.

"There were times where I had to pull myself out of bed, and it was just not finding motivation throughout the day," she told CBS News correspondent Meg Oliver. "When schools closed down in March, that wasn't distance learning. That was emergency learning."

The 31-year-old mom of two had three jobs and was going back to school when COVID-19 hit the U.S.

"Having to manage doing mom duties and also being a teacher for them and trying to study myself, it was really difficult. It was a big change for all of us," she said.

Valenzuela and her kids have asthma, which means traditional schooling is not an option for now — nor is staying in the workforce. She feels like she has to choose between the safety of her children and making a living, she said.

"I really do. That's something that I've been struggling with because I do have three jobs," she said. "I can't realistically do all three and take care of my children."

The emotional strain on parents stretches across the country.

"I'm a morning person. Now, I don't even want to get up in the morning," said Alisha Alvarez, who lives in Dallas with her husband and three children. Her oldest has ADHD, ADD and is bipolar.

In April, Alvarez quit her job as a bus monitor for special needs students to stay home full time.

"It's so hard being a parent right now because these kids don't understand you can't go outside and play with your friends," Alvarez said. "My 14-year-old has been home since March 13 when spring break started, and he stays in his room, and I can't stand that. I have to force him to go, to come outside."

In West Orange, New Jersey, the Weinshank family is juggling a role reversal.

"It's been a disaster. It's took everything we knew and threw it up in the air and brought it back down," said Lauryn Weinshank, who is an essential worker at a local hospital. 

She goes into work five days a week, leaving her husband, Matthew, who works at a New York City bank, home to juggle remote working and remote learning with two kids.

"Matt went from not knowing the kids' schedules, not knowing what activities had to be done, not knowing really much about their schoolwork, not 'cause he's not involved but just 'cause he physically wasn't there, to really taking over everything," Lauryn said.

Matt admitted it is a challenge. "But you need to also keep in mind, you can only focus on what you can control," he said.

Catherine Pearlman, an associate professor of social work at Brandman University, has been coaching parents through this summer of uncertainty.

"It's a matter of accepting the day-to-day change and that we cannot plan out for the future," she said. "We were in survival mode for a good three to four months. And, you know, we can do anything for three to four months, but now we're moving into the fall, and people have lost the thrill of the survival."

Back in California, Valenzuela said she's surviving on optimism. She said she has hope for the fall.

"I'm hopeful that, you know, there has been more planning, more training," she said. "I'm hoping for the best."

Pearlman is encouraging parents to think weeks ahead rather than months ahead to manage stress. She also said it's important for parents to come together right now — that helping others, even in the smallest of ways, can help you, too, especially if you're struggling with anxiety.