Around the country, millions of families are wrestling with the litany of challenges posed by the current coronavirus lockdown and school closures that have accompanied it. To date, over 55 million students in the US have been affected by school closures, both public and private, and in most cases, the responsibility to educate America’s children has fallen to parents. What has made that job even more difficult for parents is that many are simultaneously figuring out how to work from home for the very first time.
While that would be a lot for any family, for parents of twins it’s an even bigger adjustment.
Robin and David Conradi have experienced that challenge firsthand over the last few months. The Southern Californian couple are the happy parents of Christopher and Maggie, age five, and have learned on the fly how to be a homeschooling family with two parents who work. Robin works in Human Resources for a software company and David in the claims insurance industry.
“We still have full-time jobs and work during the normal business day,” explained Robin Conradi to Twins Magazine, “and now we have the additional responsibility of managing the twins during the day: homeschooling them, feeding them, ensuring they get activity/exercise outside in the backyard, meeting their needs, refereeing squabbles, and then general household stuff—laundry, dishes, food preparation, etc.”
Keys to quarantine success with twins
While juggling the responsibilities of work and homeschooling twins hasn’t always been easy, the Conradi family has found several things particularly helpful in keeping their family running like a well-oiled machine.
For one, they have a detailed Parent on Duty (POD) schedule which clearly defines which parent is on call to help the kids for each hour of the day.
Let the kids try to do more on their own, it’s good for them and they might surprise you.
“We quickly realized it’s hard for the kids when they don’t know who to go to when we are working and they need something” explained Robin, who later referred to the family’s POD schedule as a “real lifesaver.”
Both Robin and David have altered their approach to parenting during the coronavirus lockdown, and now see this time as a great way for their twins to develop independence. With mom and dad needing to take time to work, Christopher and Maggie have had to adapt and learn to do tasks they usually asked help for, on their own.
“Last week I came downstairs to find the taller of our twins helping the other twin reach the toaster!” said Robin. “Genius. Working together—great independence and self-sufficiency.”
Robin sees letting her kids try things for themselves as one of the most important lessons learned thus far and considers it advice she would give other parents of multiples.
“I’d say let the kids try to do more on their own, it’s good for them and they might surprise you.”
The third key to the Conradi family’s success at weathering the coronavirus lockdown with twins has been making a solid schedule and, for the most part, sticking to it. And while there are undoubtedly many who have used schedules to great effect before the pandemic, the Conradis were particularly well equipped—because of Christopher and Maggie.
“We began our twin journey in the NICU, where they taught us a schedule and we’ve never stopped – it literally saves our sanity,” noted Robin.
And while the family does stray from their schedule from time to time, those times are the exception and not the rule.
For the Conradi family, the schedule includes starting homeschool around 9:00 a.m. and getting as much of the necessary school work as possible done in the early parts of the day, when the kids have more energy and can focus more easily. The afternoons are reserved for time for the twins to play on their tablets, free play time, and arts and crafts. Family time, where all four members of the Conradi crew set their work and school aside and take time to be together, usually happens in the evening hours.
The nighttime routine is rounded out with books and stretches before the twins are tucked in around 8:30 p.m. Most nights, Robin and David return to their work after Christopher and Maggie go to bed, and work until they “run out of steam.”
Altogether, all the time
Though this schedule has helped the Conradis thrive in isolation, there hasn’t been much opportunity for Robin and David to spend time together, alone. Aside from watching TV together occasionally, the present reality doesn’t allow Robin and David to go on dates and spend time together outside the home, away from the pressures of parenting and homeschooling.
“Our wedding anniversary is approaching this month so this is the first time we will be faced with – ok, how do we do this in a quarantine world?” explains Robin.
Robin went on to explain their tentative anniversary plans of ordering in and letting the twins play restaurant with mom and dad.
“We will have some time alone in between our “restaurant employee’s service” and then we’ll all enjoy a special anniversary dessert together and watch our wedding video with the kids, they love seeing that, they call it the ‘mommy daddy love movie.’”
After the lockdown
In many states, restrictions are being lifted and lockdowns are starting to let up. For many, this is a welcome reprieve from the humdrum of quarantine. But for the Conradi family, things won’t go back to normal for another year or so, if not longer.
Because the twins were born at 28 weeks, they have respiratory concerns and Robin, David, Christopher, and Maggie will need to continue with quarantine until the coronavirus has more thoroughly subsided—most likely sometime around April 2021.
When asked if such a long quarantine is daunting, Robin put things in perspective.
“We’ve watched our kiddos struggle in hospitalizations in the past so if all we have to do is stay inside to keep them safe, we are happy to do that,” she offered.
“Yes – we’re all going a little stir crazy after just 9 weeks but we just focus on what the grave alternative would look like and we are just fine with our circumstances. Ask me again after week 42.”