school

'The mums in my WhatsApp group are turning on each other over sending their kids to school.'

Every day the news seems to get worse when it comes to COVID-19. More deaths, more infections and more lockdowns.

Yet last week, there was still a sense of unified unease among parents. Plenty of silly memes and articles did the rounds on social media about how we would cope if schools closed. We watched as the UK and many other nations began official homeschooling and assumed we would be next.

The Today Show’s “confusing” interview with Education Minister Dan Tehan. Post continues below.

Video by Channel 9

Then on Sunday night as Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy announced Australian schools would remain open, our unified sense of unease crumbled.

While I had been ready to hold my kids back, here was our PM with the Chief Medical Officer saying that schools must remain open. According to them and their most senior advisors, the evidence for closing schools was at this time unclear.

I felt confused, but this meant that at least my partner and I could continue to work.

My daughters had both been devastated at the thought of not going to school, so while these were extremely worrying times, the latest announcement provided a sense of temporary ‘relief’ for us and many other families – or so I initially thought.

As I considered the mixed messages I had been getting from the media and now our PM, the first WhatsApp messages and Facebook posts started appearing.

The majority of mums in my ‘School Mamas’ WhatApps group were appalled.

The messages went back and forth calling Scott Morrison an idiot (and worse). Mums aired their fears that sending kids to school might cause unnecessary deaths.

There were links posted to recent articles explaining why schools must close and the discussion was angry, confused and intense.

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The initial vibe was clear – the PM was wrong and there was only one ‘right’ thing to do and that is homeschool for the foreseeable future.

I had to check out of the WhatApp group while I gathered my thoughts. The fear driving angry messages and posts was obvious and while I understood, I was distraught.

I love these smart and funny women and yet I felt afraid to participate in the discussion. Although I agreed with some of what they said, I didn’t agree with it all and at that point in time, I couldn’t express how I felt in a way that didn’t sound insensitive.

I was afraid – of the virus but also of doing the wrong thing.

I was afraid of being judged and losing friends if I did send my kids to school – even though our PM and Chief Medical Officer said this is precisely what we should do.

I have never wanted to homeschool my kids nor have the many other parents currently doing it.

Listen to The Quicky, Mamamia’s daily news podcast, interview three women on what lockdown feels around the world. Post continues below.

Before the anger began to rise in the parents around me, the PM’s announcement at least gave parents a choice – send your kids if you are comfortable and need to work, but don’t send them if you prefer to homeschool.

That night my partner and I discussed and argued for hours about what to do.

Neither of us slept well and the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s conflicting announcement asking parents to keep kids home if possible did not help our predicament.

In the morning we decided to send our children to school in order to continue working, but I felt incredibly upset.

I couldn’t look at social media or read the news and I could not talk to my friends for fear of being labelled as irresponsible. My anxiety was out of control as the mixed messages of what was right and what was wrong went around and around in my head.

For now, we are following the federal government’s advice as it works for our family, but I understand that it is controversial.

The situation changes every day and we will be keeping a close eye on all recommendations and adapting our family plans as necessary.

We are of course following social distancing and hygiene rules and life outside of the school, work and daily walk routine is very quiet indeed.

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Whether you continue to send your kids to school or daycare while they remain open is an individual choice that only you can make – but please let’s not allow this nightmare of a virus to continue turning parents against parents, friends against friends.

We are going to need to support each other from afar – more than ever before.

Read more on COVID-19:

The Australian Government Department of Health advises that the only people who will be tested for COVID-19 are those with symptoms who have either returned from overseas in the past 14 days or been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days. 

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

Feature image: Getty.

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