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Even on BI, moms struggle during COVID

  • Sunday, March 21, 2021 1:30am
  • Life

Moms always have a hard job, but COVID-19 has made it tougher.

With kids at home because of online learning, some have had to quit jobs or cut back hours. Some have had to turn to childcare, which not only can be costly but also hard to find. Some have had to rely on grandparents, who are at the more vulnerable stage of catching the disease. Even stay-at-home mothers and those who have been able to work from home have had to take on the challenge of being part-time teachers.

It’s been a struggle for Chelsea Ramsey, a part-time intensive care nurse at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Neither she or her husband Clint, who owns Blue Canary Auto, can work from home. Chelsea is pregnant and due in June. They also have fifth- and second-graders, along with a toddler.

“We’ve kind of limped through to tell you the truth. Adding one more thing about broke everybody,” she said, adding she came close to quitting her job last fall.

She said she’s very involved with her children, and, “They need a lot of attention with their schooling.”

Because her husband owns his business, he’s been able to change his hours. “He’s the Friday parent,” Chelsea said.

His shop is only open four days a week now, which his seven employees like because they have more time with their families.

Chelsea said her 66-year-old mom lives with them, “which is huge. I don’t know anybody can do this without family.”

To protect grandma, Chelsea said they are very strict about who their kids can see and what they do.

“They haven’t gone anywhere,” she said, adding grandma is still nervous. “We can do everything right and still bring the virus home.”

Chelsea said she thinks teachers have done an incredible job online, “All of their energy and patience.” She doubts she could homeschool on her own – “Kids are terrible with their parents” – but working with their teachers, “I can trust the kids will be pushed on a daily basis. It’s hard to get a kid to crank out that much work.”

Still, because her kids are so young she said they’ve struggled. So she’s glad at-school learning has started up.

“They worked so hard they deserved it,” she said. “It was their turn to be able to go see what the world is like.”

Chelsea said the am/pm cohort are effective with small class sizes.

“They are besides themselves,” she said of her kids. “The first week they were tearing into their book bag” to do their homework.

She said her kids are even getting along better.

“They had not been separated for a year, then they got a break from each other,” she said.

Chelsea said she doesn’t mind that school is just 2 1/2 hours.

“That’s good enough for them and me,” she said, adding she now gets quality time with her 2-year-old.

And her second-grader even said, “We didn’t really need that many snack breaks, lunches and recess.”

Chelsea has mixed emotions about the big picture. She said it’s tragic what’s happened to businesses and parents who can’t cope, as in the rise in domestic violence.

On the other hand it’s been a triumph to come up with vaccines in a year, and so many people working from home has been great for the environment.

“The view from the ferry – the skies are always clear; the pollution is gone.”

Another mom

A single parent with 6-year-old twins, Marjorie LeMaster also has had her fair share of struggles.

Her girls were supposed to start all-day kindergarten, giving her parents who provide child care a break.

“Luckily I was able to work from home at that time,” she said, adding the Aquatic Center was shut down). “When I did need to come to work I was able to bring them to a camp the EOC was running through the park district.”

Now, she works mornings so she can be home when her girls are done with school. Her parents still help with schoolwork in the morning and drive them to school.

“I pick them up and take over from there,” she said.

LeMaster is so thankful her parents can help as child care would cost $2,000 a month.

“Child care was crazy expensive and hard to get into before COVID” when there already were waiting lists, she said.

She’s heard from others that when child care facilities were able to open after COVID closures that they had trouble getting back in and cost had gone up a lot.

LeMaster said her parents have been concerned about the coronavirus.

“I am happy they have been able to get their first vaccine,” she said.

As for her girls, they are happy to be in school.

“Kindergarten Zoom was a drag for them,” she said. “They were starting to hate school and not wanting to participate.”

During distance learning, the grandparents did Zoom with them in the morning, while mom helped with asynchronous work in the afternoon.

“My girls are now back in person and loving it,” she said. “Now, they can’t wait to go.”

Bainbridge police deal

with mental health issues

Kelsey Lynch, the mental health and behavior navigator for the Bainbridge Island Police Department, says despite issues related to COVID-19 she hasn’t seen a dramatic increase in calls the past year.

Lynch has only been solely with the BIPD for a few weeks. She was shared with the Poulsbo Police Department for the past three years.

Lynch’s job is to interview people, often victims, and refer them to the behavioral or mental health help they need. “I’m the go-between for law enforcement and special health services.” She often refers folks to housing resources and/or food services.

She said when the lockdowns first started about a year ago calls actually went down as people were “pretty good about staying in their houses,” so she wasn’t responding to usual events, such as traffic accidents.

COVID has changed people, she said. “I have seen people in general with more stress and anxiety – they have increased for sure.”

People also are in need for more services. Such as before maybe they would just need treatment, but now they also need to get on food stamps or energy assistance because of “financial challenges.”

She has worked a lot with BI youth. “Bainbridge Island has a pretty high number of youth referrals,” she said, adding many are behavioral health related.

Lynch also has reacted to not active suicides, but threats youth have said in statements to friends or family or posted on social media.

With the coronavirus, “The biggest change I’ve seen is people’s desire for connection. I’ve seen a dramatic shift.”

That’s been especially evident with youth missing social interaction with friends. “There’s a lingering impact, especially for youth. Teenage years are so emotional and social.”

But they are not the only ones. “The same is true for adults,” she said, adding people are even more willing to go to therapy because of the desire for personal connection.

While kids are resiliant, Lynch said adults seem to have more fear about the future and the uncertainty of returning to normal.

“That’s a hard concept for most people,” she said, adding in most situations if they do x, y and z they’ll get past a challenge.

“They don’t see the end” of COVID, she said.

Lynch said her role has changed with the coronavirus. She used to meet face to face with people over coffee. That component is important in getting through a crisis.

But now everything is done by phone, which is tougher for her.

However, her clients actually are handling it well, she said. There was fear of meeting in person early on. And even though it’s less intimate, she said clients have thrived. She said people who didn’t have time to go to an appointment in the past find it easier to see help online. It’s also helped people who have transportation challenges.

Perception or reality?

Police stats tell truth

Perceptions don’t always match up with reality – but sometimes they do.

That certainly holds true during COVID-19 lockdowns, too.

For example, one might think suicides are up by looking at all the information out there about mental health.

But that doesn’t hold true in Bainbridge Island.

Scott Weiss of the police department said in 2020 there were two suicides and 27 suicide threats/attempts. That was actually down from 2019. Since 2016 the most suicide threats were in 2018, with 46.

On the other hand, if one thought minors are drinking more during COVID as they are not going to school statistics show more support for that. In 2020, BIPD had 11 cases involving minors drinking alcohol. compared with four the year before that, nine in 2018, six in 2017 and eight in 2016.

Regarding schools, Erin Bischoff, communications director with the BI school district, said if you think failure rates are up during online learning you would be right. Bainbridge High School principal Kristen Haizlip told the school board in December that failing rates have increased compared with the same period last year.

However, if you think kids are not being fed during at-home learning that looks like that is not the case. The school district is allowing families to pick up a week’s worth of lunches from 10 a.m. to noon Fridays. Neighbors, friends and other family members can pick them up if parents are unable to.

In addition, for families who rely on the U.S. Department of Agriculture school meal program and unable to make arrangements for meals to be picked-up, BISD will deliver the meals to the students’ homes.

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