Busy. Frustrating. Exhausting. This is how Tulsa parents describe 2020, a year of navigating COVID-19 exposures, school and childcare closures, and varying degrees of loss.
Father of two Shane Bevel has more choice words for 2020. He calls the year “a beautiful sh** sandwich.”
In addition to “standard” COVID-19 stress, most parents with school-aged children managed their distance or virtual learning, often while caring for more than one child and/or juggling employment from home — if they were fortunate enough to be able to do so.
For those managing school online, there was keeping track of multiple platform logins and Zoom meeting schedules, and playing IT technician and principal.
“On the upswing, it’s taught me a lot about my kids,” says Bevel, a commercial and editorial photographer. “I got to spend a ton of time teaching my kids this year. Being self-employed, it cost me more financially than I care to remember.”
Joblessness affected thousands of families in 2020; the unemployment rate peaked at 15% in April, the highest in 30 years, according to local data. For the first time, many parents likely found themselves in line at the food pantry or a drive-thru grocery giveaway. Demand for these services has skyrocketed, according to local nonprofit leaders.
For those with very young children, quarantine was a special challenge. In many cases, families socially distanced from grandparents who might be, in ordinary times, the first to offer overextended parents a break.
But despite the disappointment and trauma experienced by children and parents in 2020, there have been silver linings.
“2020 has forced me to just slow down and take things a day at a time,” says Michelle Lambkins, a mother of one and a kindergarten teacher. “My priorities have had to change in order to keep some balance.”
“2020 has taught me that even though events and daily life has to change, it doesn’t mean the good memories and fun can’t exist,” says Leah Mueller, a mother of two and a City of Tulsa employee. “It’s also taught me that it’s OK to slow down and focus on our immediate needs and our health.”
Slowing down. Reassessing priorities. These are life lessons that even in-person school can’t teach. For Bevel, it goes beyond that to character building.
“I think that for all the bad in the world, we have been able to show our kids levels of empathy and compassion that otherwise simply would not have been possible,” Bevel says. “I imagine that one way or another, the effects of those lessons will be seen for generations.”