Parenting During the Pandemic Has Been ‘One Wild Ride’

Achieving balance in daily life as parents is difficult even in normal times, but stay-at-home orders, virtual schooling and even illness threw off any semblance of it in 2020.

Parenting During the Pandemic Has Been ‘One Wild Ride’ banner image

Achieving balance in daily life as parents is difficult even in normal times, but stay-at-home orders, virtual schooling and even illness threw off any semblance of it in 2020. The Royals we talked to said they lacked sleep, struggled with work, schedules, schoolwork and “meltdowns from both the kids and, admittedly, the parents,” — all while trying to stay safe during the pandemic.

Despite all the challenges, these alumni—and in one case, a graduate student — said they have found unexpected moments of joy with their children, who range in age from just a few months old to 22 years old.

From COVID to Acceptance

Joy Dupont '02 and her children.

"It’s been one wild ride,” said Joy (Galuska) Dupont ’02, a physician assistant with LVPG Neurology, whose COVID-19 was diagnosed in March. She quarantined away from her family during those weeks, which was “quite challenging,” she said.

“Shout-out to dad who took over the parenting responsibilities at that time,” said Dupont.

After recovering, she returned to work at the hospital while also, she said, “helping a second-grader navigate technology, worrying that my pre-K child was not learning her ABCs, hugging my 8-year-old who was in tears and struggling with the anxiety of it all.”

Later, when the children returned to in-person daycare and school and her husband returned to work, Dupont said she struggled with the uncertainty of the future, knowing that it was up to governors who could institute stay-at-home orders or districts that might move schools to virtual if cases rose again.

"It's been one wild ride."
- Joy (Galuska) Dupont ’02

“I’m not in control,” she said she realized.

But one thing Dupont said she was able to control was an aspect of her daughter’s quality of life.

“My daughter receives tube feeds, and throughout quarantine, she has thrived benefiting from extra rest, more time at home, a slower pace of life,” said Dupont, “and she has been able to increase her oral calorie intake and decrease her tube feeds this year.”

Meltdowns and First Steps

Stanford University research employing nationwide surveys showed that an astounding 42 percent of the U.S. labor force was working from home full-time in June 2020.

Dillon Colarossi Lukus ’10 was among that group.

She is a self-employed tax accountant who has been working from home while parenting during the pandemic.

“From a business perspective, the term ‘insanity’ doesn’t even begin to explain the year 2020,” said Lukus, mom to two boys, a 1- and 4-year-old. “The tax season deadline was a moving target, new regulations were constantly being released, and let’s not even discuss the confusion surrounding PPP loans and stimulus packages.”

Her husband, meanwhile, continued to work as a health care provider, and her sons’ preschool closed.

She is the alumna who admitted to “meltdowns” by children and parents alike.

“There were phone calls to clients drowned out by yelling babies and barking dogs — both of which were quiet for an entire hour prior to the phone ringing,” she said. “Thankfully, my clients usually had a screaming child on their end, too. If not, they were compassionate or at least pretended to be. We’d laugh it off and try our hardest to get through the call. It usually ended in both of us just following up in email, which would sometimes take all day to write.”

It was all difficult, she said, but “not all was lost in the craziness of this year. My husband and I witnessed my 1-year-old’s first steps and first word. We would have missed it had it not been for being home.”

A Pod

“The pandemic has forced our family to slow down, prioritize things and really enjoy the everyday moments together.”
- Mike Short '99

Mike Short '99 and his son.
Mike Short '99 and his son.

Mike Short ’99, president of Short Family Agency & Financial Group, said spending so much time with his son during the pandemic made him realize the moments he took for granted beforehand.

“Family meals were sometimes missed due to work, and weekends were often packed with places to be,” he said. “The pandemic has forced our family to slow down, prioritize things and really enjoy the everyday moments together.”

Because Short has a “flexible schedule and really amazing employees,” he was able to form a small pod and host what the family called “summer camp” at their house.

“We knew the other families really well, so we felt comfortable that they were also taking the pandemic seriously,” said Short. “It turned out to be an amazing summer of swimming, hide-and-seek tag, soccer, art and fun. My son says it was his best summer ever.”

Virtual Pop Star

“Everything being virtual has made it a bit easier to juggle everything all at once."
- Catherine F
ox ’14

Catherine Fox ’14, who works as the student life coordinator at Lackawanna College, has an 8-year-old girl, Hayleigh, and a newborn, Jackson. She is also vice president of the Scranton school board and is a board member of the Day Nursery Association.

She’s working from home, and her service work is virtual too, which she sees as a convenience.

“Everything being virtual has made it a bit easier to juggle everything all at once,” she said. “Parenting has been interesting. My daughter normally takes gymnastics and art classes so we have been focusing on ways to have her still do the things she loves while safely at home.”

Fox is especially grateful to her daughter’s teacher. Virtual school has helped Hayleigh, who is usually shy, “come out of her shell,” said Fox. She is “now sharing her art with her classmates and actually asking to read out loud. She wants to be a pop star one day, and she has been recording herself singing for her music teacher. These are all things she never would have done normally, and I am hoping it sticks when school goes back in person.”

Strength from God

Health care workers such as Rudmilla Raphael G’22 have not only struggled with time management this year, they have not had the option to work from home. There is the added stress of being exposed to the virus or bringing it home.

“I try to stay positive, but it is very stressful,” said Raphael who is working toward her master’s in healthcare administration at Scranton.

Raphael’s husband works each weekday morning while she takes care of the newborn, helps her kindergartener with school and does her own schoolwork. Then she works full time as an administrative assistant at the hospital beginning at 4 p.m.

There’s just not enough time in the day, she said, admitting that she has not gotten enough sleep over the past nine months.

“I get my strength from God because, if not, I would not make it,” said Raphael.

Growing Together

Some parents found that being forced to make a big decision during the pandemic ultimately benefited the family long term.

Meghan Mitrus G’12, who is director of the Human Resources Association for Vision Rehabilitation and received her master’s in human resource management from Scranton, opted to homeschool her fourth- and seventh-graders this fall, after being unhappy with the quality of education they were receiving through their school in the spring.

“I had gone back to the office full time in June, so the first couple weeks of homeschooling were a bit rough, with everyone getting used to content and finding a quality curriculum, but we now have it down to a science,” she said. “My kids miss seeing other kids during the day but enjoy doing their schoolwork at their pace and keep schedules that are meaningful to them.”

It was a big decision and she’s questioned herself, she said, but she is feeling confident recently that the children are succeeding.

“My kids have learned to work as a team."
- Meghan Mitrus G’12

“My kids have learned to work as a team, tackling some subjects such as current events, French, and health together,” said Mitrus. “They still have days that they drive each other nuts, but they seem to have grown together, not apart, and with a 10- and 13-year-old, this is beyond what I could have ever imagined happening.”

Growing a Garden

That sense of togetherness has been more than welcome, agreed Jessica DiDonato Zazzera ’04, a mom of three who is an account manager at an energy advisory firm.

“There were moments where I’d be crying in the bathroom 30 minutes before a meeting with a high-end client because things were so tough, kids were crying, and I was trying to juggle it all,” said Zazzera. “But this pandemic has allowed me to work from home, be there every morning, every lunch, every waking moment with my children, and for that I am eternally grateful.”

Zazzera and the children planted and tended to a new garden this summer.

“The deer ate most of the vegetables, but it was such a great experience we did every day together,” she said.

Small Rewards

It’s those small rewards that seem to have gotten the parents through.

“It is blissful to spend so much time with my children,” said University of Scranton health administration faculty specialist Gunjan Bansal ’12.

While Bansal, who is pursuing her doctorate, is appreciative of this time with her family, she also struggles to manage all the responsibilities in what seems like a short day.

“I struggled with time management while managing my work, life and school obligations, and some judgmental people's comments like, ‘It is your own choice,’” she said, noting the pushback she gets regarding the situation she is in. “Yes, I chose to work full time and pursue Ph.D. studies after having two kids, but I did not choose this pandemic. I was thrown into this like everyone else.”

Staying Safe

Above all, alumni parents expressed how lucky they felt to have kept their families relatively safe this year.

Katy Madden ’94, a school nurse at the Developmental Disabilities Institute, said “keeping everyone safe” was the most difficult part of the year.

As a nurse, she moves between two buildings in two different towns, and her 16-year-old was on a hybrid schedule at school with no available transportation. Her 22-year-old is finishing his computer science degree from home.

“It’s been a little crazy remembering where everyone is supposed to be,” she said.

More Family Time is ‘A Wish Come True’

Paul DiPietrantonio ’97, AVP of Financial Reporting at Sentinel Real Estate, also said he felt lucky to have stayed safe, but he was glad to have extra time with his wife and daughter.

“Being a part of my wife’s and daughter’s (aka ‘the ladies’) every day has been a wish come true,” he said. “I am usually in the office and don’t see everyone until I arrive home for dinner. Seeing my ladies wake up in the morning, making breakfast for them, singing songs, being goofy, enjoying family games, while still crushing our work responsibilities and academics makes me one proud man.”

For DiPietrantonio and his wife, the pandemic was an experiment in just how productive they could be outside of the office. And, it turns out, the experiment worked. Both parents feel more productive than usual, and Lucy, their daughter, has maintained her A-plus average in school.

“I know that I will look back thankfully upon 2020 with a smile on my face and warm feelings in my heart,” said DiPietrantonio.


And for those parents who have struggled this year, Dillon Colarossi Lukus ’10 leaves you with this:

“Two thousand twenty was difficult, but if we can handle this year and all of its hurdles, we can use it as a learning experience and continue to do what Father Pilarz told us at graduation, ‘Go forth and set the world on fire.’ Godspeed to all of the parents with yelling kids in the background of your business meetings. You’re in my heart.”

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