HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Sarah Click remembers feeling resentful — bitter really — when she realized she was going to have to choose: Her kids or her job.
“I felt really burned by the system,” Click said, speaking recently via Zoom. “What I struggled with the most is it really did not feel fair.”
Click teaches fifth grade at a public school in Hawaii and when the pandemic started and campuses were closed, she started to work remotely. Her three young children were home with her as the scope of the pandemic grew.
When the new academic year resumed, most Hawaii students were still on distance learning. But teachers were required, with few exceptions early on, to go into campuses to teach those lessons, in part to avoid some of the chaos seen earlier on.
Many teachers were also told they couldn’t have their own children in their classrooms with them.
And so Click found herself in a position that tens of millions of other parents ― especially women ― have encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic: With school campuses shuttered and child care options nonexistent or out of reach financially, Click took a personal leave from teaching to watch her kids.
The military spouse says she tried to find another solution.
Her children are 7, 5 and 4, and the Click household had budgeted for child care this school year for only one of them ― the youngest.
The other two are attending public schools, but are learning remotely.
Click submitted telework requests twice and was denied both times. She couldn’t afford to put all three of her children in care ― conservatively, that would have cost $3,400 a month, about what she brought home after taxes from her job.
After realizing she couldn’t make it work, Click put in for special COVID-19 leave so she could stay home with the kids. The leave afforded her a portion of her paycheck for a few months as she tried to find another solution.
Once she’d submitted the paperwork, an exhausted Click realized that fuming about the situation wasn’t helping. She decided to throw herself into serving as her children’s teacher, helping them get the most out of remote learning.
“I love teaching. It is my passion,” she said.
She started her leave on Aug. 30, and immediately set to work creating a little school at home for her little ones. She wanted to craft an inviting and fun learning environment, especially for her kindergartner.
Having a purpose allowed her to let go of her anger about having to take leave, she said.
“I just kind of let it go,” Click said, reached in mid-October. “I just said, if I’m meant to work this year then I’ll go back to work. It gave me peace.”
And Click also realized she was lucky, relatively speaking. Another earner in the household meant she had the luxury of taking a pay cut ― something some of her colleagues couldn’t do. “I couldn’t imagine doing this as a single parent,” she said.
Like many parents struggling to juggle homeschool with countless other responsibilities, Click has tried to embrace the quiet moments, too and be a little more grateful for what she has (and worry less about what she doesn’t).
She said weathering the ups and down of the last seven months, with the shutdowns and disruptions, also brought her family closer together.
The little ones live for “movie night” at home, and had a ball over the summer with a blow-up pool the Clicks put in their front yard. In August, when hiking trails and beaches shut down because of a surge in cases on Oahu, the family got a little stir crazy. But now, they’re getting out more ― “safely, of course.”
Click said the pandemic has also taught her the value of not beating yourself up over things you can’t change. “For all the parents out there, have patience.”
This is a first for everyone, she said, including teachers.
“As much as you’re struggling, they’re struggling, too.”
Those are words that Click hopes her own students' parents take to heart.
Shortly after her interview with HNN, her request for telework was finally approved and she was able to return to her fifth grade classroom, remotely.