Working with young kids while sheltering in place

I am exhausted and completely overwhelmed. I was on the phone with a single friend without a child who blissfully said, “Don’t you just love working from home?” I wanted to kill her. I calmly said, “No. This is so hard. This is impossible. I am reaching a breaking point.”

I recognize that we are much luckier than many. While our pay has been reduced by 50%, we are still working and have health insurance and have a little bit of savings to last us 3 months. I run a small business and took a 75% pay cut while working my butt off without pay right now in order to avoid laying off our small team for the time being. My spouse is also working full time from home. I am truly hustling to keep my small new business afloat while my spouse also puts in his 110% to try to keep his job that provides health insurance for the entire family. My spouse is pretty low on the totem poll at work and we are worried about his job security.

We have no way of staggering our work days to watch the kids. We are both on conference calls most of the day to fight for our jobs. 
 

In the meantime, kids are being ignored with their brains rotting away in front of TV. They spend 5-6 hours a day in front of screen (TV and games). I am crying. I know this is not good for them. But we have to work. It will be worse if we lose our house and can’t afford food.

I tried to get my kids to do online class. They refused. They want a parent to do things with them. I ask them to do worksheets that we spent hours sifting through and put together. They resist and want us to check their work after every page.

I ask the older one to take the little one and play outside. The little one wants to play with mommy. Daddy or sister won’t do and scream for mommy.

I had to buckle down and tried to get that PPP loan application in. It’s survival mode. I let kids cry and had to ignore them. I see them curling up in bed sobbing with their loveys. 
 

Little one asks if I can take a break and play with him. I couldn’t as I was going into a call to pitch to a potential client that could be the difference between my business making the payroll or start laying off people. My little one cried and a bit later I hear him asking Alexa to tell him a joke as I try to sell to a potential client. My heart broke into million pieces.

My kids have been doing a bit better since I started getting up early to work, limit day time work to urgent inquiries and calls, and then work more from 9 pm - 1 am. But, I am now a walking zombie and this is not sustainable. Our business operates during the day, so I still have to be available and do lots of calls during the day. 
 

Juggling work and kids has always been an impossible task. With the pandemic, now it’s super charged impossibility. Parents will succumb to mental health crisis. 

Our house has not been dusted or vacuumed for a month. I barely keep the kitchen and bathroom clean. With money being short, I am also cooking all of our meals. 

I know there is no answer. I am hoping to hear from others that we are not alone. I would like to see more parents speaking up and sharing the struggle. 

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You are 100 percent not alone! Things aren't even as dire for me as they are for you, and I'm still going completely bonkers, dying for this insane situation to end. Because I'd already been laid off and was working freelance before the shutdown happened, I have now taken over daytime childcare and "distance learning" for my kindergartner. Fortunately my spouse's job is unaffected and we can survive on one income. Unfortunately, that means I feel really alone in all of this and a lot of pressure to let my spouse work long hours uninterrupted.

Please do not beat yourself up for relying on screens to get your work done. Were I working my old job right now I'd be doing the exact same thing. The idea that little kids can just plop themselves in front of a computer and do online school all day is a complete joke. I can't even believe that that's the answer our government and school boards have come up with. Maybe for junior high and older that's a reasonable option -- but the under 10 set? Really? I understand that in extreme emergencies schools must close, but the focus should be on how to make up days once school reopens. As your post has demonstrated it is not reasonable to expect parents to suddenly provide an alternative school with no warning and without being able to get any help at all. Even grandma and grandpa are out! I know many people who homeschool by choice, and none of them do so in total isolation.

It sounds like you are handling an awful situation as well as can be expected. The only thing I can suggest is finding another family in which the parent(s) work can more feasibly be done at off hours and you can quarantine yourselves together and trade off watching the kids. I'm suggesting that because it doesn't sound like you are in a high-risk group, and obviously the second family would need to be low risk as well. That suggestion may not be what our county health advisors want, but the longer this drags on with no announced end date the more people will end up doing things like that to survive.

Please cut yourself some slack. I truly wish I could give you a hug.

You are not alone! There are a ton of us out here doing this impossible juggle! I am so grateful to have this time at home with my almost 2 year old, but the stress it's causing on my work (also a small business owner pushing extremely hard right now) is immense. I think we all need to give ourselves carte blanche to do whatever it takes to get things done and refuse any associated guilt. This is not how we wanted to raise our kids right now, but they'll survive. We all will, and maybe they'll emerge a little more independent as a result. This is temporary. It will come to an end and we will have a return to help and schedules. In the meantime, just one day at a time, and lots of deep breaths. 

I want to also echo that you are not alone!  And it made me feel like I wasn't alone reading your post and the other reply, so thank you for putting it out there. I have a 3 year old and I'm working full-time from home while my husband also works full-time at a low-wage food production job as an essential worker.  I'm nervous every day he comes home that he'll bring back COVID-19 with him.  In order to work from home, I have to sit my toddler in front of the TV for 5-6 hours a day too.  Every time I sit at my desk, she pulls at me and begs me to play with her and not work, but I have to keep telling her to watch TV or look at our tablet, or I end up taking a break to play with her and then work 10:00pm-1:00am.  It's breaking my heart and I'm feeling like a failure as a mother and an employee because I can't be as efficient and she's getting so much screen time, and I'm just plain exhausted.  There's no other family that I can quarantine together with, so we'll be in this situation for the long-haul. But just reminding myself that others are in the same boat and to cut myself some slack does help.  Hang in there - sending you another hug.

Oh my heart breaks for you and I teared up reading your post.  It is so hard.  Hopefully they will lift some of the restrictions soon and you can try to hire someone, maybe a teen in your neighborhood, even for a few hours a day to at least help the kids with their schoolwork and keep them occupied.  My kids are teenagers so it's a lot easier for me to get work done, but I agree I am not parenting, just surviving.  My oldest hasn't done a stitch of schoolwork, sleeps all day long, and is clearly depressed, maybe even clinically so, but I am so stressed out with trying to work remotely so I don't lose my job that I am just letting it go for now.  So much guilt.  You are not alone, people without kids or other dependents have NO IDEA how hard it is right now.

I am so sorry. All of us with kids are on overwhelm. It must be especially hard for you to be running your own business. I think it's fine to let things slide for now. I hear you talking about cleaning/cooking--are you splitting those duties with your spouse? That's super important right now! Also, it's ok to have scrambled eggs or a quesadilla or a PB&J for dinner. I don't have any super great advice for you -- I just have the one kid and he's 12 so more able to do things on his own, though he's pretty emotionally fragile right now and I worry about this total lack of companionship. We're all struggling, remember you're not alone. Sometimes, that helps. I think the #1 thing you need to do is get more sleep, even if that means kids on computers more.

Hang in there!

You are not alone. I know I’ve been hesitant to share how stressful this is because of my guilt that others have it worse with lost jobs, hospitalized or dead family members, etc. But that doesn’t diminish the stress that working parents are facing right now. You have been put in an impossible situation and it’s not your fault. You are acting very honorably to try to avoid layoffs in your business at great personal sacrifice. Please try not to worry about your kids watching TV. A few months of TV while you are literally just trying to survive is fine. If that is the best solution to keep your kids happy and calm while you try to keep your jobs and finances afloat, it is a great solution. Take care and try to go easier on yourself. Remember: none of this is your fault. 

I thank the Lord each day my kids are older now. It sounds soooo hard what you are going through. My two cents also is: don’t beat yourself up. Plenty of people who are now movie directors spend tons of hours watching TV. 

Welcome to the club.  At the end of the day our problems pale in comparison to those of people in third world countries and to those experienced by people in WW2 and the Great Depression.  Buckle down, keep stiff upper lip.  Assign your kids some responsibility for the day to day home operation.  Sit down and have a heart to heart talk with them.  You are not alone, but at the end of the day things could be much worse.  Oh and BTW everything is sustainable except for weak peoples' ability and grit and tenacity.  Tip: Unplug your TV ASAP.   

Dear Mama,

You are doing enough. More than enough. Your children's brains are not rotting away. You are in crisis. WE are in crisis. Forget online school and worksheets. I'm a public school teacher, I give you permission. Most of the families I work with are similarly in crisis. In fact, I can't think of a single student of mine whose family has it together. Seriously. A couple are "ok", but that's as good as it gets. We'll deal with the education piece in the fall, I promise. If something is helping your kids (video call with teacher to see a friendly face?), do it. If not, skip it. The kitchen, bathroom, vacuuming, and dusting can wait, too. Do what you can to help your kids feel safe and loved. When one asks to play, tell her when you can. Set a visual timer. Play for 5 minutes between calls if you can (that's plenty of time for a tickle fight/snuggle). For some calls, it's ok to have your baby on your lap or your older one being silly in the background. It will probably even brighten the other person's day. I have a child at home too, and we're having meltdowns every single day. You are SO not alone. Keep doing what you can to take care of yourself and your kids, give yourself some slack, and lower your expectations. If the business folds, your spouse loses his job, you're going to the food bank for meals, it'll hurt, but you'll get through it. Some people have said this is this generation's 9/11 moment. 9/11 shook our world, and our adults couldn't stop it. This is shaking their world, and we can't stop it. But we can hold them through it, love them, and come out again together on the other side. This IS survival. This is hard. This is messy. But you can do it.

You are absolutely not alone. I am so sorry and I am there with you. I am trying to work and caring for my son as well as a parent with a disabling disease who can no longer have home health care because chemotherapy has left her severely immunocomprised. Like you, I try to focus on the things I am grateful for and how we are better off than many. And like I you, I feel absolutely overwhelmed and like I am doing as much as I can and still not enough at work or at home. Do you know what helps a little bit? I attend a zoom faith service and I have one relative (also a parent) who I feel absolutely unashamed to vent to and who I know will just listen without trying to give "helpful" suggestions to make doing the impossible easier. 

I agree with what the previous responder said, and want to add a couple things. My situation is more manageable than yours (have 100% of income for now, and very flexible work schedules) but I'm still having a very hard time. One of my kids is ok, and one is having so many tantrums and has to be bribed with candy and tv to do anything constructive at all. He only wants to watch tv. So I bribe him with tv time to get him to go for a bike ride or a walk. After 20 minutes where the rest of us are having a good time, he's complaining about wanting to go home and watch tv. My partner and I are at the end of our ropes with it, on top of everything else. We're both yelling more, and also putting the kids in front of the tv WAY more. And on the tv note- I used to feel so guilty when my kids watched tv, and feel like I was basically harming them. Then I read the book Cribsheet by Emily Oster, who provides information about what actual, quality research says about raising children. The research about TV is shockingly thin. The recommendation that kids under 2 shouldn't watch tv comes from research that proves that kids under 2 don't learn from tv. It doesn't come from any research that shows that tv is actually detrimental. It comes from research that shows that kids under 2 who watch sesame street don't improve their language or learn anything, but kids over 2 who watch Sesame Street actually learn things! Their language improves! They learn to read! And for kids above 2, similarly, tv hasn't been proven, on it's own, to be detrimental. What I took from her book was that tv on it's own is kind of neutral (with some caveat about the content of the tv, which I'll get to in a minute). Playing outside for kids is definitely good for them. Reading to your kids is definitely good for them. Watching tv isn't interactive or relational, in the ways that those activities are, but I don't think there's proof that it's rotting their brains.  The author of that book basically says that if the alternative to watching tv is you yelling at your kid because you haven't had any time to yourself, then the tv is actually the better option. Clearly the content of the tv does matter. Shows that negatively portray women or relationships or whatever else, aren't great. But there are so many shows that have a positive message, teach kids about animals, etc. I think if your kids are spending 5 or 6 hours a day watching tv that's not actively harmful, their brains are not rotting. They are getting by, and they are doing what's easiest and most manageable for them and you right now, and that's the best thing. At least, this is what I'm telling myself. My kids are watching 4 hours of tv a day, and we have more flexibility than you! Our kids are resilient, and will get through this, even if you are at the end of your rope, and they are watching 6 or 8 hours of TV a day. I think you should tell yourself when your kids are watching TV that they're ok, you're giving them what they need right now, you're taking care of them by working really hard. And seriously, forget the online school. If you have energy to spend with your kids, read them a book or play a board game. Or watch tv with them. Don't waste any of your precious time or energy on school stuff that your kids are resistant to. Hang in there! We are all there with you! 

Yes, it is ridiculously hard. You have added a whole extra full-time job, at least, to your workload. And you are doing it in sub-optimal conditions, with your kids bored and probably stressed-out by social isolation. And you are certainly stressed out by pretty much all of it. Don't worry about the dusting and vacuuming. I haven't dusted or vacuumed my house, and I have it much easier than you (working from home, but my one kid is a high-schooler and remote learning is work; imperfectly, but working). Let go of the guilt about screen time, too. I probably watched 5 or 6 hours of TV a day growing up and still managed to graduate from college and get a well-paying job.

I sympathize. My childless coworkers are talking about instant pot recipes they are trying out, online games or how bored they are. My husband and I are currently at home with a preschooler and a first grader. We’re trying to work from home, play teacher and caretaker. I am not ashamed to say I had a breakdown a few weeks ago from the stress. Being cooped up at home with the kids was bringing up my postpartum depression memories and I broke.

Afterwards I sorted out what would help me mentally. We ended up buying an ipad for the kids to help divert them. We did not have a device with a screen and camera that my 1st grader could use for his online classes besides my work computer. Not being able to do my work during these times compounded my stress. Now he could do some work, while I did mine. I also thankfully have a laptop so I’ve carried it outside while the kids are playing. Instead of working full time, I’m only working part-time now. 

The kids are getting lots more screen time than we would have normally let them have. We are trying to be selective with what they watch though. I tend to let them have free screen time for some of the educational websites like mysteryscience.com or wideopenschool.com, or places with online field trips. For unrestricted ipad play, I set up a chore chart where they earn screen time based on chores (i.e. 5 minutes for cleaning up toys, 10 minutes for vacuuming). Even my preschooler is getting in on the action and will happily help put away clean laundry or other age appropriate tasks for 10 minutes of ipad time. It’s a bit of two birds, one stone action since some chores are getting done and the kids are occupied. Granted if my husband and I will both be stuck on long meetings or conference calls, we may let them watch a movie that will span that length of time.

I’ve also let the kids Facetime or Zoom their friends. The conversations are completely random and can take them all over the house, but it will usually occupy them for an hour. If I’m friends with the parents, we’ll also sneak in a bit of fellow parent commiseration in as well.

I wish you good luck. You are definitely not alone.

I completely relate! I'm a single mom so things are a little different, but I also have two kids. I have a very demanding job that hasn't eased up and I am finding this whole situation completely impossible. I'm also burning the candle at both ends, yet still slipping behind. And feeling terrible about kids watching lots of tv and my older one playing video games. I can't oversee the older child's homework and he isn't really capable of doing it without oversight (still too young for that), so things are a disaster from just about every angle. I really really try to make sure we have some good moments and do a few family activities here and there in the evening or whenever we can, but then I worry that the short fuse I have the rest of the time overshadows it. I find myself repeatedly saying "I can't right now, I need to work!" or "Just wait, I'm trying to do something!" with too much frustration in my voice. I try to talk about what we are grateful for every night at dinner and generally try to put on a positive front for the kids, so in a way I think they are dealing and at least don't seem worried or stressed about the virus. But it's all so hard. I feel like the stress is killing me.  And I also can relate about wanting to scream when friends just don't get it. I feel like hardly anybody gets what I'm going through these days because most friends have jobs that are more forgiving or spouses that are able to help more. Hang in there. Thanks for sharing your experience because I also find myself feeling like I must be the only one struggling so hard with this and feel guilty for feeling so upset about it because of course I'm grateful to still have a job, food and a place to live. 

This is a resource that I shared with my students' parents: If you could use a safe space to vent, get support, or some advice, call safeandsound.org’s 24/7 TALK line: 415‑441‑5437. 

This is a huge struggle. We are two working parents with one toddler and one or both of us is working from 7:30am - 11:30pm or later (I even stayed up to 4am one night this week to create lessons for my students which allows me to be present for a few hours with the toddler during the day).We have 5x as much crying in our house now and loads more snuggles and I love yous. He's needed tons more comfort given the huge change in his schedule/life. I shower maybe twice a week - even basic self-care has completely gone out the window. Even some friends with kids don't understand as only one of them works. My mom tried insisting to me that I should be taking hour long yoga classes at home since I'm not bike commuting anymore. I told her she was bonkers. The only exercise I get is with my kid now - like "Monkey Yoga" https://youtu.be/E0RUN0e3ZGY

One thing that is helping is we have different family members scheduled to virtually "babysit" the toddler for an hour each morning - they sing songs, read books, or just chat while he plays with toys. I've noticed an improvement in his night sleep since we started this two weeks ago. If you don't have family members who can do that, maybe you could schedule virtual playdates with friends. We did one with a friend but 2 years "talking" to each other needed too much help. Having him talk to an adult family member who is giving him undivided attention has been a lifeline for everyone involve. I even got my 85 year old grandma Facetiming with him for an hour each week.

As a teacher, I am asking students who are struggling to just try to join our virtual class for the 30 minutes as seeing and talking with each other is most helpful. Forget the worksheets and load up the devices with educational games. Also, you could ask the teacher to call and talk to your child(ren) for a little while each week.

Can you include them in cooking with you? Just have them on a chair next to you and talking or have them read you a book?

This is insanity. Good job reaching out for support. Keep doing that and loving those kids.

On Nextdoor, I have seen teens volunteering to provide childcare. Maybe you can put out a request for help. I was also surprised that my 9 year old wanted me to watch the online videos with her and check her work immediately after each page. After doing a few videos with her, she was comfortable doing it on her own. I had to explain to her that I couldn't check her work immediately and strongly doubted that her teachers so as well. I think there is often a drop off bin for classroom work? Anyways, kiddo wasn't pleased but is perhaps even less pleased when I have time to do the deep dive and ask her to explain and do more. Heh. Don't worry about Alexa. It is a novelty. My kids spent so much time with Alexa initially... Especially jokes and cat videos. Now it's just another tool that produces silly results sometimes. Don't worry, I know adults who rot their brains in front of the TV for hours and they seem fine. I played a ton of video games as a child too and this did not affect my career (if anything it helped me land a great job) so the research clearly doesn't have a broad enough base of test subjects when they post all their doom and gloom reports.

Hi there! I debated several times whether I should reply without venting my homeschooling frustrations all over the place. To paint the picture...it takes me 4 hours to get my 2nd grader to finish a 4 sentence writing prompt that her teacher only schedules 30mins for in their daily itinerary. It’s too much, they’re just gonna have to repeat 2nd grade!!!
It is so important that you know you are not alone, and please please do not feel guilty about anything! It’s strange times. 

Hi, I'm so sorry! Sending a virtual hug and prompt for a deep cleansing breath your way! I'm in a much better situation than what you describe, and yet I definitely lose it sometimes. You are not alone!  I see some really nice posts here but had a few ideas I thought I'd share just in case they help. If they add stress or aren't on point, ignore!! :-)

1. It sounds like you might be putting others ahead of yourself too much. For example, keeping your employees but giving yourself a 75% pay cut -- is there a way to do Furlough Fridays (effectively a 20% pay cut) so that you can keep the team and not ding yourself quite so much? Does your spouse help with the kids and the cooking, and is he also working until 1am? It's so awesome that you are trying to do so much, but others can potentially shoulder some load too. 

2. Can your kids help? Sometime kids really like helping or contributing. Not sure yours' ages, but since you mention online class, I'll assume they are elementary school aged, though your younger sounds potentially pre-school or kindergarten. Can you have a family meeting and ask for what their ideas are to help? Or assign them making lunch for the family and cleaning up (it might be very basic, but hey, why not? my kindergartener can make toast or frozen waffles, wash produce, get out crackers, and pour juice and takes delight in making us breakfast all by himself on a weekend day. an older kid could probably make PB&J or heat up leftovers in the microwave and dole out onto plates)? Or maybe they can make a schedule that shows what they will do that day on their own, with their own ideas.

3. Are there any online sites your school has provided that would be a compromise between lessons and pure TV if you're worried about the amount of TV? Our school gave us a login for Epic, a program that reads books to kids, and there are a few other programs that seem educational and so better than TV but also don't need adult supervision or help. 

4. If you're both worried for your spouse's job, can he have an open conversation with his boss, something like, "This is a difficult time, I know, so I'm trying to put in more than 100%. I'd love your feedback on my performance and where I stand, and what I can do to be a top contributor." It might relieve some stress and also give information.

I wish you all the best. We are all in this together. Thank you for your post.

I'm the OP. Thank you all so very much for responding. It's so nice to know that I'm not alone.

Kids are TK and 1st grade. The "distance learning" provided by OUSD which began only recently is extremely deficient. For example, the weekly math instruction we received this week was 2 links to 5 min. Youtube videos. After watching, kids said, "I like watching the video but I didn't learn anything." We are having to research the district curriculum, dig through materials and are teaching our kids while also trying to work full-time, cook all meals, strictly adhere to social distancing. (We have existing conditions that make us high risk.) Common Core is going out the window. We don't know Common Core and we're teaching our kids math the way we know how to do math. Kids get 30 min. of direct instruction with teachers via zoom per week. 30 min. per week!!! The 1st grader can read, although she prefers to be read to. TK kid does not read yet. Teachers keep sending us emails reminding us the importance of writing. As another poster said, it's sheer torture trying to get kids to write. I got my kid to write 4 sentences today. Woohoo! Yesterday, she wrote 5 words. We are mostly limiting screen time to educational TV but still it's a lot of TV. 1st grader does have zoom calls with friends 1 - 3 times a week. Last night, the 1st grader said, "Mommy, I haven't seen my friends in person for a really long time. I really miss playing with my friends." 

Kids do help. They dry the dishes and the older one puts it away while I handle the delicate items myself. They also cook with me. They cut anything they can cut with a butter knife. They love pizza night, because it's delicious and they get to play with flour and make the dough. Kids also help set and clear the table and put away folded laundry. They like to garden and water the plants, when they feel like it.  I let them play with the water hose and wash the patio furniture. That was fun for them, although when I wasn't looking, they may have sprayed the wrong direction and sprayed over the fence into the neighbor's yard. (Sorry)

The problem is it requires a lot of patience and supervision to allow kids to "help". Often, their helping makes things take twice as long or make more work. Yeah, pizza night is fun but there's a lot more mess to clean up afterwards. Kids attempt to clean up and I make them "clean up", but I end up cleaning again afterwards. 

Hi - I totally feel you and I am so sorry this is happening to working parents with young kids right now. Someone passed this article on to me and while some ideas seems a little unrealistic, I thought maybe a few could be helpful to you? Hang in there. Big hug! https://happyyouhappyfamily.com/working-from-home-with-kids/

Echoing others -- you are not alone! We've had better days and worse days with our 1st grader, both of us are working at home, grateful but still a nutty juggling act. Offering a few things that have worked for us:

1. Fill up the cup. Kids know when their parent is not fully present, and IMHO they need enough of the parent's undivided attention to "fill up the cup" emotionally so they can then go off and be on their own. It doesn't even have to be for that long. If I try to fill up the cup when I am multitasking, I might as well not be doing it, completely ineffective. He is relentless until that need is met or there are tears/tantrums (that happens too). So --- when kiddo is melting down, or when I have 10-15 minutes between meetings, I'll do something with him that he wants to do where I am FULLY present. I just set parameters - "Mommy has 15 minutes free now! Want to do something together?" See if you are able to fill up the kids' cups, and see if they might be more independent for a little longer. When my son is adamant that he needs my help for something I know he can do, that's the cup signal! :) 

2. We alternate who is "lead parent" each day, which doesn't mean that they are on the whole time; they are just the Go-To person for the kiddo that day. We see who has what critical calls that day, and schedule screen time or schedule around scheduled classes (PE is actually really fun), to cover times we are both busy, or we swap as needed. 

3. The lead parent is responsible for figuring out the day's "schedule" with the kiddo in the AM (bunch of cards, a mix of 2-3 scheduled school sessions, different screentimes (choice, Magic Schoolbus, Minecraft time), I have 1-2 "special activity on your own" cards (which means no adult/screen) though that "schedule" does vary or some days falls apart and that's ok (hence air quotes). As others have said, give yourself a pass on any schooling. Your children will be fine. It's all about social-emotional now and maintaining our connection with each other as a family. 

4. Give yourself a pass on cleaning and certainly cooking every night. What pressure could you take off yourself? Eating dinner out of cans and frozen food is perfectly acceptable, Mac n cheese multiple nights a week is OK too. PB&J or pancakes for dinner, quesadillas, go for EZ. I have let my nutritional standards fall, and he has ice cream almost every night (we never had regular dessert before), and why not, we all need some comfort. 

I also like the ideas the other responders offered around taking some of the pressure off you (Furlough Friday) or your spouse (checking in with boss), or sitting down together to figure out worse case scenario and maybe that is not quite as scary as the Damocles' sword feeling currently. You will all get through this. We will all get through this. Sending you a big hug! 

If trying to follow the curriculum is stressing you out, I'd recommend you stop trying to teach academics for awhile (I say this as a former elementary teacher). Your kids will be better off with a parent who is calm and in a relatively good mood -- anything they miss can be made up when this is over.