As schools closed and life turned upside down, the coronavirus pandemic has brought special challenges to mothers, including difficulties in distance learning for children and managing their careers.
More than 4,000 miles separate the cities of Fredericksburg in northern Virginia and Schwetzingen in western Germany. For two women, their shared experience reflects the different support systems that have helped during the lockdowns. But their stories – as they told the Washington Post – also highlight global concerns about money and family stress and how their rearranged lives will find a new foothold in a world changed by the pandemic.
Their stories, as they put it during interviews in April and May, offer two snapshots of countless adaptations to a new global reality. Their accounts have been slightly modified for clarity and continuity.
Birgitte Brumbacher looks out the window of her home in Schwetzingen, Germany. Wendy Latella looks out a window at her home in Fredericksburg, Virginia, on May 13.
At first, we were all very scared. Then in March, when they said they were going to do the shutdown, I couldn’t believe it. All schools were closed, and we were at home. We were all three of us in this little apartment. I was like, ‘What does the future hold, and how long is this going to last?’
We were in a two-room apartment: all day and all night with my kids. Everything was happening in my room. And then we had a children’s room, which is the second room.
Maja, my eldest daughter [who just turned 21]Sometimes she stays at her boyfriend’s house. But his parents were also people at risk of contracting the coronavirus, and at first, Maja had to stay in quarantine. His family said, “No, not in our house.” So she came to our place and it was really hard for all of us.
There was an opportunity to move to Schwetzingen and she has three rooms. This costs more money. This is why he made the decision to take the other job. Before, I was doing all the administration, all the organization in the church’s kindergarten.
Now, I run Kinder und Jugendhilfe, which is for families in difficult situations. It’s really horrific. Before the pandemic, these families had problems. These problems are now a plus 1000. For children, it is really dangerous. Here in Schwetzingen, families are well located.
I knew I would need more income. I moved here and thought it might be enough. But after a month, two months, three months, I had to realize that wasn’t enough. I canceled a lot. I canceled [10-year-old] Riding Felicia. I canceled all the insurance I had. Get Kindergeld [child support payments] For both children, because Maja is still studying. Altogether, I get about 480 euros per month [about $586]. Without that, it won’t work.
I started this business with great enthusiasm. I also saw a lot of people who really had nothing, and I wish I had enough money to give the kids a good standing. Felicia is going to a private school in September.
So I have two sons. I have Robert, and he’s in kindergarten. I have George and he is in the third grade. My husband, Jason, works as [government] contractor. And so it was actually considered a key factor. It’s been in business this whole time, while we just closed.
[She breaks off to talk to her son George]: “Mom is on the phone and your teacher needs your focus and respect. A turn. Back to your desk. Thank you.”
The closure happened last March [in 2020]. We had a lot of plans. We are deeply involved in the church. I was actually the children’s music director. This is shutdown. We are deeply involved with Cub Scouts. This was the first time Robert went to a scout camp. Everything has been closed.
We had our last [Cub Scouts] Leadership meeting on March 19 It is a Thursday and it was during spring break. The following week was Robert’s birthday. At this point, Jason hadn’t even come home because of [he] was necessary [worker] in the Pentagon.
We were kind of alone. It was Robert’s birthday [he] I just wanted to see his father. So my dad came home, and he was there for his birthday. Then the next day, Saturday, I was cooking dinner for the boys. I was feeling fine. There was nothing wrong with me. Suddenly I had a fever of 103.4. And I was like, “Oh shish kabobs.”
The office of Schwetzingen Mayor Rene Böltel in the town hall. The German club meets at Eileen Café in downtown Fredericksburg.
Maja Brumbacher takes online university classes at her mother’s home in Schwetzingen. Robert, 6, attends a virtual school on the roof of his Fredericksburg home.
When Maja was in school, I wasn’t a fan of private schools. I thought why? We had good public schools, but I think Felicia needs this. Last year in summer vacation, we had the thing that you no longer want to go to school. It got kinda bleak after the lockdown.
[Maja’s] Scores have actually improved over the past year. But when you’re 20 and there’s nothing you can do, it’s hard.
In November, [Maja] Owns [covid-19]And her boyfriend, too. For three weeks, they were completely expelled. It was really hard for them.
For children, it is not easy. They do not have vaccines. They haven’t seen a normal school life in a year. When I think of my students in kindergarten, those who started this year in school, it’s a disaster, they have to learn how to write.
right Now [Felicia is in school] From Monday to Wednesday.
On Thursday and Friday, at this moment, her father breaks into the stage [care days]. Usually, by [the pandemic], you had 10 days that, as a mom or dad, you can take off work when your child is sick. Then the government decided… It was 30 days [for each parent] You can quit with almost full salary. They said they have to find solutions for parents when the children are at home. [Her father] At home with her and homeschooled. For Felicia, this is boring. Previously there was theatre, musicals and action. Now, they are not allowed to exercise, nor are they allowed to sing. Dancing is online now, and riding is hard on the internet.
there is nothing [emergency school] If you can’t find childcare. But you don’t have to use notbetreuung, you can also use those 30 days.
[Felicia] She went to a notbetreuung before the Easter holidays, but there is another boy her age and she doesn’t really like him.
Now, at the moment from Monday to Wednesday, she can go to school three days, so [her father] It only needs two days a week.
And now we’ve come to an agreement with [another] Illiterate. Monday through Wednesday you pick them up and pick them up in the afternoon. Every day, you have to stay flexible.
There is a Birgit Brumbacher bed in the family living room. Wendy Latella gets into her car after running some errands around Fredericksburg.
I had double pneumonia. I have been tested for Covid three times. All three times it came back negative. My doctor and the Virginia Department of Health doctor said they were positive that it was Covid, but he didn’t test positive.
[Jason] He went and stayed with his parents. His parents live in Springfield, [Va.]. Because I was sick and he couldn’t risk getting sick. But his parents also worked at the Pentagon, and then the Pentagon approved them to work remotely. And at that point, his parents were like, “Well, we have a little house, and we’re much older, and if you’re still going in…”
So he started having to commute from home. At home, he would stay downstairs in the basement at first, then move into the guest room. We had all this where I met him on the balcony and he would go and take off his shoes and all that stuff, and he would go straight to the bathroom where he would shower and change into the clean clothes I made. And he’d go into the bedroom and hang out there all night, and I would bring him food, put it outside, and go away.
And I was cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. We’ve been doing this for five months. We even did it [the public health experts] They finally decide they know more [about the coronavirus transmission]. Because you have to understand, everyone else was sitting at home. He couldn’t. But we couldn’t take the risk, you know – I was still beating pneumonia. It was only because that was what was happening and no one knew anything.
If my husband wasn’t working, it would have been absolutely devastating to our family. I work in the television and film industry. I do a lot of production, training, video and commercials. One hundred percent, without a doubt, [the pandemic has taken a toll on my income].
We are very specialized in hiking and camping. So, I mean, most of the things we do don’t cost much. And I hate to say it like that, but the way I budget for our stuff is… I [income] They were mostly used towards fun things. my husband [income] It comes and is really customized for billing.
Anything I’ve been doing has been put on future trips, dinners, or outdoor things, otherwise we eat at home, we don’t go out much. We personally know four people who have died from the coronavirus. all in [television and film] Making.
Schwetzingen Palace was photographed during lockdown on May 4. Visitors must book an appointment using a code. Downtown Fredericksburg.
Felicia Brumbacher prepares for an online dance practice in her mother’s home office. Wendy Latella pulls weeds from the garden outside her Fredericksburg home.
I think sometimes people… need more patience. The government and politicians can try to save people from the coronavirus, but they can’t do everything for everyone.
So I see that they are deciding things and trying to do their best. I think you can work with the situation and try to get the most out of it. I trust them. I really trust them. I think about it like: What do I do? And I don’t know what to do either. And I’m glad they act and try to save people.
I’m glad I’m not sick, I’m not in the hospital, and my kids aren’t in the hospital.
I am from Atlanta and am one of six children. I have a brother who thinks the whole thing is a hoax. The small area I am from, there are a lot of naysayers out there. I have a lot of people on Facebook on “mute”. Four of my five brothers live there in Atlanta. So there are a lot of cousins running around constantly, and everyone goes to a different school. There are a lot of opportunities to get it [the coronavirus]. My mother came back for a liver transplant when I was in college. So she is one of those people who was perfect [shutdown]. my mom has [now received] her shot. So when everyone gets the shot, she said, then we can all be friends again.
This is kind of what we’ve been waiting for. She was, yes, looking like 10 years old. This last year was something.
My youngest son’s birthday [last year] – He had planned his own birthday party – and it was going to be a Pokemon Ninja birthday party. It was really hard telling my 4-year-old at the time, “No, you didn’t come to the Christmas party this year because there’s this horrible thing going on” because you can’t really tell a 4-year-old who – that. So it was heartbreaking because when you have plans, and you pin your hopes on something like Robert with his birthday party and then it just stops so hard. It’s hard to wrap your head around it. But then, you’re sitting there—and we’ve played Monopoly three times this week, playing Chutes and Ladders, and I’ve had to walk my neighborhood with my kids for five days this week—and it kind of starts to change your perspective.
The photo shows Birgitte Brumbacher and her daughter Felicia in their home. Wendy Latella attends a cub meeting with her son Robert, 6, in Fredericksburg.