No one needs a reminder of how COVID-19 disrupted nearly every facet of life, especially our educational infrastructure. Teachers and educators had some of the hardest jobs, charged with delivering a full education via virtual learning and pivoting completely almost overnight.
In honor of Mother’s Day, we spoke with two Baltimore-area educators who are mothers about their experience leading their students—and family—through the pandemic.
First in the spotlight is Emma Auffarth, assistant director of Towson University Child Care Center.
Emma Auffarth, Assistant Director, Towson University Child Care Center
When the pandemic began, Emma Auffarth’s program went virtual but transitioned back to in-person programming over the summer. Lunches were socially distanced, activities were reworked to be more individualistic and staff numbers were cut back.
“That was really isolating,” remarks Auffarth. “That was it at the beginning—a lot of fear of the unknown, especially with how it was impacting the littlest kiddos, which is who we have … the beginning was very isolating and scary.”
At the time of the pandemic’s onset, Auffarth’s daughter hadn’t started school yet, and work-life balance became nearly impossible. “It sort of all mushed together, which was hard, because there was no clear ‘this is work time, this is home time.’ Especially as a mom, no matter what’s going on, when your kid needs you, your kid needs you.”
Auffarth was able to use her and her husband’s families for support as the pandemic progressed. But at the beginning, when they were unable to see family outside her household, she credits the helpful benefits of getting outside and focusing on the moments of time she was able to spend with her daughter during the unprecedented effects of the pandemic.
How would she describe the cessation of many COVID-19 restrictions? “Stressful. It’s been both freeing and a little more intense looking at things a lot differently when your child is being directly impacted by them. I definitely think—not that I wasn’t cautious before—but I think I’m more cautious now,” she says, referring to her role as a decision maker in her workplace when it comes to setting current policy.
Despite all the challenges that the pandemic threw at her, Auffarth finished her master’s degree, which she notes as her proudest pandemic-era achievement. “I think I’m also proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish both professionally—I’ve really been able to grow as an educator—as well as a mom.” She reports having learned “not to sweat the small stuff” and becoming more comfortable tackling the unknown.
What’s the best part of her job? “Being with the kids, seeing the joy in their faces every morning, just being able to connect with them … it’s an indescribable feeling … especially in this uncertain time.”
And what about being a mother? “Just … having a mini-me! Watching her come into her own (and at 2 1/2, she’s developing this sense of humor) and watching her make jokes and tell jokes and giggle.”
To other working mothers, she says, “My main advice would be probably, ‘don’t take anybody else’s advice.’ There’s no right way to do it. Find something that works for you and trust that you know what you’re doing.”