Faculty balance work, parenting during pandemic


Photo credit: Nadia Crawford

photo provided by Kelly Carlisle

For students, COVID-19 meant either returning home, moving somewhere off-campus in San Antonio, or isolating in a residence hall. While students were moving back in with their parents, professors were moving their workspace into their homes, many having children and family members adapt to their own changes in daily routine.

Many professors are now navigating the ongoing tension of professional and familial responsibilities in a balancing act much more challenging than before the pandemic.

“I feel like some of my students have hit a wall, and I know I and some of my colleagues have hit a wall,” said Kelly Carlisle, professor of English.

Carlisle teaches three separate courses: a First-Year experience course, intro to nonfiction writing and a brand-new course on editing and publishing. Alongside this workload is a second shift: Her role as a mother to two young children, ages nine and five, who she chose to keep in online schooling this semester to relieve stressors for the public health and schooling systems.

“I just couldn’t see putting teachers at risk because teachers in elementary schools don’t have as much control as say I have in my classes. I’m teaching hybrid, but we meet outside with masks on, which is much different,” said Carlisle. “It’s public education. They don’t have space or resources necessary.”

With the decision to keep her children at home for online classes, however, has come an increase in parenting responsibilities.

“It’s the constant interruption of, you know: Children need attention, and they need food, and they need to be amused, and they are not always so great at amusing themselves. So, it’s like having the world’s worst roommate. And that sounds horrible; I mean, you love them. But, you sit down to work, and you are trying to focus, and all of a sudden somebody is in your lap, or tugging at your sleeve, or you have a Zoom class or a Zoom meeting, and all of a sudden there is a kid running with no clothes on, right?”

To manage childcare responsibilities, some faculty members have ventured outside the box in schooling, both with their students and their children. Gary Seighman, university choral director, has recently begun homeschooling his children. Seighman expressed his wife and his’ decision to homeschool as a matter of ease-of-mind.

“Having [the kids] home, and working full time, obviously it adds stress to our life because you know, we are constantly texting each other. Sometimes we are two ships in the night; I come home, she has to go somewhere. But it’s not as stressful as dropping them off at school and seeing one of their classmates coughing and being like ‘Oh my gosh, are they gonna get it?’”

An aspect of being both a parent and a professor during a pandemic is learning to be gracious, both to others and to yourself.

“I think we need to be a little easier on ourselves,” said Seighman. “We are not going to be as productive as we were pre-covid. I think, as a parent, when you try to plan things and they don’t go the way they planned, I think that has given me more of a sense that I can give myself forgiveness, and I think that it has helped me give forgiveness as a professor as well.”

For Carlisle, forgiveness was not only a gift that you can give yourself but a gift that makes everyone’s life easier.

“Be open to talking to your faculty when you are struggling, or there’s something going on that makes it hard to do your class. And if there’s something that we can do to make it a better class, that’s really helpful to me,” said Carlisle. “I’m not just saying that to be a martyr. That helps me so much to know if something’s working or not. And just be gracious when the naked kids come marching through the zoom class.”