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Checking in with … Emily Laufer of Northampton

Published: 5/11/2020 3:28:34 PM

Interview with Emily Laufer

Who lives in the same house as you? Bliss Lopez, 7 (Jackson Street School)

How are you juggling a child at home with your other responsibilities? If I am being completely honest, I have no “typical day.” However, I have been able to juggle parenting and keeping up with work. I work as a transition counselor for a nonprofit organization in Holyoke, The Care Center. I help young parents enroll in college, and stay in college, by supporting them through navigating systems such as day care, Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) and the college enrollment process. During these times, we are helping the students access as many resources as possible (food, shelter, DTA, stimulus, etc.). So my job right now is to be a support system to my students. I am usually checking in with students daily; I am able to do this via the phone. We also hold weekly Zoom meetings for staff and students. While I am doing this, I am generally telling Bliss to entertain himself. In the mornings, he has the options of going outside, drawing, painting, reading and listening to storybooks. He also has schoolwork like math, reading and science. And, of course, every 15 minutes, he is asking to watch TV! On a good day, by early evening, he wins the TV battle, and he is allowed screen time; on other days, he wins TV time by the afternoon. 

I am constantly feeling overwhelmed. And I am constantly hoping my son is going to be academically OK. I also feel guilty a lot because I HATE helping Bliss with schoolwork! It really tests my patience. Luckily, he can manage most of it on his own. 

How are you getting the things you need? Weather permitting, Bliss and I attempt to do 30 minutes of physical activity a day. We bike, hike, walk and skate. I enjoy being outdoors with him, but I mostly do this because I need exercise to help my anxiety. I also do YouTube workouts, usually on rainy days. Grocery shopping is so anxiety-provoking, especially with a child. In fact, sometimes Bliss is the only child in the supermarket. We always prep with hand sanitizing, and I tell him over and over not to touch ANYTHING, EVER. We also get free lunches provided by Jackson Street, and we get food from a Grow Food Northampton/Food Bank of Western Massachusetts collaboration. This is really nice because they come to us! 

What has been the hardest part? To be frank, the hardest thing about this time is being a single parent. I am not often able to have privacy or space from my child. My parents are kind enough to take him whenever I ask; however, during this time, I feel a sense of responsibility to really limit those visits to ensure that everyone stays healthy. But Bliss and I both need breaks from each other in order to have a healthy relationship — we’ve always been that way. So, that has been really hard. Also, there is no longer a consistent bedtime (oops!). 

What has brought you relief/happiness? There are so many thing I feel happy and relieved about. First, I am still employed. My job has allowed me to work from home and still pay my bills. My employers have been kind, flexible and supportive. I am relieved that I have affordable housing, so I know that no matter what happens, my son will have a roof over his head. I am happy I have a vehicle, so that I don’t have to put myself or my child in danger when riding public transportation. I am grateful for my son’s school, which has provided him with a computer, a virtual education and mental health support (his counselor checks in every week). I am grateful that my family, which is quite large, are all healthy; we check in with each other often. I am grateful for my friends. We are always texting and FaceTiming to keep each other’s spirits up. I am grateful for heat and electricity and the internet. Most of all, I am grateful that I am not isolated by myself. I have an active, brilliant, sweet boy who makes sure I wake up every day and puts a smile on my face.  

Any good suggestions to offer? One suggestion is that if you are having a hard time with food, come to Hampshire Heights on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the free school breakfasts and lunches (if you have a child under 18, regardless of whether they are a student in Northampton Public Schools), and on Tuesdays for the Grow Food Northampton/Food Bank donations.

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