Interview with Victoria on
Jeremiah Program participant Victoria spoke to us from Boston, Massachusetts. Now working from home while also homeschooling her son, Victoria reflects on time management and other skills she’s relied on while she and 7-year-old Victor are sheltering in place.
When did you first realize that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to affect your life?
I was hearing about COVID-19 through work and my mom; she’s always watching the news. I was just watching—monitoring—how big it was getting, and I actually pulled my son out of school the same Friday they announced that, the following Monday, they were going to be closing the schools.
How has it affected your life? What is different now than two weeks ago?
Victor has a hard time transitioning from one place to another or one thing to another. I knew it was going to be a challenge for him to transition from having his structure at school and already being used to what morning-until-the-time-I-pick-him-up-from-school will look like. And I noticed that, through this, it wasn’t just him having this issue; I actually had it. I think I still am working on my issue with transitioning.
I prepped where I would work from home, and I created a structure for Victor to focus on while we’re not in school. I did all that, tested it out for two weeks, and I still find that we’re both struggling. My house is a pretty decent size, but I think that having the outside world be part of your everyday is important to us. It doesn’t matter how structured I made it or how fun I made it for him to be able to go to school at home; it’s not the same. There are pieces to it that not even a well-structured format can make better.
I’m trying to work on my anxiety and my depression, being home and all. And he has a train as a brain, so it’s continuously going and going. How do you slow that down for a child who has ADHD?
How have you addressed what’s going on with him, and how has he responded?
Before I pulled him out [of school], I had to have the conversation: “You’re not going to see your teachers. You’re not going to see your classmates for some time.” And he broke down. He was crying throughout the whole way home, and it didn’t matter whatever came out of my mouth to explain to him why we were doing this. It was so devastating. It was horrible.
But, right now, he works with his teachers. They do FaceTime twice a week for an hour, and then one day a week he gets to see his classmates through Google classroom; that just started last week. The structure was challenging because I’m Mommy. He’s probably like, “Why do I have to do all these things with Mommy if I’m so used to doing it at school?”
So, I think it is helping him, bringing in his teacher on this, and having her talk and encourage him to follow Mommy’s rules, follow the structure, kind of helped a lot actually. So, he’s doing a little better with it, especially the days that his teacher is going to talk to him or he’s going to see his classroom.
He’s still Victor. I can see it in him. He still asks, “What are we doing today? Where are we going today? Can we go out?” He’s still very hyper, running back and forth all over the house. It is sad to see, to have to tell him no, especially when it’ll be for the simplest things, like going outside and finding spring. It’s really challenging.
What skills do you find yourself relying on at this time to get you through?
Last week I decided that, besides Victor, I need a structure as well in terms of what personal things I can work on when I’m not working. I’m doing work from nine to four, and so I started listening to TED Talks—I downloaded the app on my phone—and I try to listen to that every morning when I wake up, while I’m getting ready to start work. I also am working on my lifelong goal planner a lot. I also added a book to read.
I have to kind of ease into getting into it because I’m a procrastinator. So, even if I have a list of things that need to be done, it’s hard to actually get into the motion of doing them. I did create two DIY projects during the time we were home, so that was a little fun.
How has Jeremiah program been here for you since the pandemic began?
I’ve talked to my coach. Me and my coach are still checking in over the phone. We decided to do it once a week versus twice a month, so that’s been really helpful. We check in, and she asks, “What’s new?” or “What are things that I’m doing to work on my wellbeing while we’re in this?” She gives me tips, like, “Try it this way if you see that that’s not working.” And, so, that’s been really helpful.
I’ve talked to a couple of the moms of the program. We’ll just talk over the phone and tell each other stories about what’s driving us crazy, what’s working, what’s not, all that good stuff.
I’m part of the Participant Council at Jeremiah Program. I’m one of the chairs, and we actually had a meeting set up, so I completely canceled it just because it’s really hard to work on agendas and topics … when we’re all going through this so differently. I am planning on checking in via email and just opening the floor to anyone that wants to share. And the [program] has been great in terms of sending out reminders and updates on the COVID-19, so that’s helpful.
We’re moving to a virtual platform in terms of coaching and stuff like that. They did cancel a lot of the non-mandatory part of the program just to make sure that we’re taking care of ourselves and our family.
Do you see the pandemic affecting your future plans at all?
When I first pulled my son out [of school], I was only planning on working from home for two weeks. Boston Public Schools announced that school’s going to be closed; as of right now, I think it’s [until] the first week of May. So, I’ve already canceled a lot of things. I had a professional development training I was going to go to in Minneapolis, so I canceled that. So, yeah, it’s changing. Whether that’s my future of next month or whatever the case is, it’s changing a lot, even the way I talk when I’m in meetings. When thinking about the near future, there’s no way to be so certain about it because I don’t know what’s happening or what’s gonna change. And that’s a scary feeling to feel that way—that something like this can affect everything.
I do, however, want to point out that, thank God, none of my family is sick. Me and my son are healthy in most parts. I try not to think that long into the future because it’ll make me more depressed. I take it day by day.
Is there any support that you’re not getting that you feel like you need?
No, I think that our community—and this is including Boston Public Schools, the mayor, other organizations like [the] Department of Public Health and the CDC—they’re all working together. I’m actually connected to like a newsletter from City of Boston where I get continuous alerts about the COVID-19. And I just feel like everything that’s happening right now, that the community is doing by banning certain businesses from opening, encouraging people to stay home—to practice social distancing and stuff like that—I think that we’re doing a really great job and staying alert and sharing resources.
There’s tons of people that, from the kindness of their heart, have offered support in any way, like to FaceTime and Victor and stuff like that while I’m trying to get some work done. So, I think that this actually has made the community get a little bit closer to each other and help each other out, which is an amazing thing to see.
Is there anything you can identify that you have learned through Jeremiah Program that has equipped you for this moment?
Time management is a big one. The last four years I’ve taken a lot of workshops on time management and how do you just get the work done. … I think listening to myself or just spending some quiet time understanding my feelings. I’ve found myself doing that a couple of times. That’s probably why I feel like I’m so calm right now is that I’m in tune with what I’m feeling and my anxiety, and I can tell when my depression is getting worse. Being able to practice being in your own skin during that feeling has helped.