COVID-19 story by Brittany Rusch, 2020

Brittany Rusch talks about her and her family's experience since the social distancing measures were put into place in Wisconsin in spring 2020. Brittany discusses what it's like working for Madison Public Library from home, and navigating homeschooling her children while the entire family is staying home.

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  • Identifier: covid19-040
    Narrator Name: Brittany Rusch
    Interviewer Name: Danny Atwater
    Date of interview: 4/21/2020

    [00:00:31] - What have the last few weeks been like for you?
    [00:01:44] - Have you developed a routine?
    [00:02:51] - Is your husband working full-time?
    [00:03:19] - What is it like being a teacher now?
    [00:04:22] - Can your younger children participate in the kindergarten program?
    [00:05:05] - What is your neighborhood like now?
    [00:05:43] - How did you explain the changes to your children?
    [00:07:04] - Have your children asked many questions?
    [00:07:27] - How are things for your friends and family?
    [00:08:13] - What are things that worry you right now?
    [00:08:34] - Are there good things right now? Or things that you imagine will result in good?
    [00:09:38] - Is there anything else you want to talk about?
    [00:10:20] - Thanks for sharing your story.


    Interviewer: My name is Danny Atwater, and I am a library assistant for Madison Public Library. This interview is being recorded as part of the Madison Living History Project, Stories from a Distance series. Today’s date is Tuesday, April 21, 2020, and this interview is being conducted via the video conferencing software Zoom. So, let’s begin. Tell us your first and last name, and what your connection to Madison is.

    Brittany Rusch: My name is Brittany Rusch, and I am a Madison city employee.

    Interviewer: Very good, Brittany. Thank you for joining us today. What have the last few weeks looked like for you?

    Brittany Rusch: The last few weeks have been very interesting (laughs); very, very interesting. I have taken on this new role of doing everything from my house, including things that I didn’t do before. So I’m trying to teach my six-year-old, who’s in kindergarten, so—help him do virtual learning, which is very tricky with a six-year-old because, while they use technology, they’re still learning how to use it. Even things like using a laptop, he hasn’t quite gotten to in school, so virtual learning is especially tricky, I feel like, for that age, because they just need a lot of assistance. At the same time I’m trying to keep my two younger kids entertained, while I can try and teach my bigger kid, and keep everyone quiet so my husband can work, and try and keep everyone fed and clean and (laughs) my house in order, and somehow get a few hours of work in myself, so it’s been chaotic.

    Interviewer: How have you managed to do that? Have you been able to develop any sort of routine, or is it really just moment by moment?

    Brittany Rusch: I would really like to say, when this all started, I thought I would be that proactive person that would go into this and have a schedule. Everything I read from parenting blogs, or just online, from healthcare professionals, or mental health people was like, “It really helps if you get up and have a routine,” and I am finding that very hard to do. Partially because I feel like there are times, like, if I would have a routine, or I try and stick to a routine, my kids are very content doing something, and to pull them out of that contentedness would just create a whole bunch of issues (laughs) I don’t want to deal with. Or just the fact that there are certain things that are scheduled throughout the day that you can’t change; you know, you still have work meetings, and you still have appointments, even though they’re virtual, so trying to stick to a schedule is just becoming impossible and I just can’t do it. (laughs)

    Interviewer: You said that your husband is able to work from home; is he full time?

    Brittany Rusch: He is full time, yeah. So typically what we do right now is he works probably seven to four, and then I try and do some work after he’s done, which gets tricky because there’s, well, obviously dinnertime and bedtime in there, so what really ends up happening is I don’t really start working until like 8 pm when my kids are asleep.

    Interviewer: What is it like being a teacher now? Is that—

    Brittany Rusch: (interrupts) Oh, my gosh.

    Interviewer: —something that you have experience with?

    Brittany Rusch: I have so, so, so much respect for teachers. I mean, not that I didn’t before, but what they do is amazing, because I cannot get one kid to sit down (laughs) and want to be enthusiastic; I just don’t have that motivation, and when I see him interact with his teacher via Zoom, or his class—it’s the cutest thing ever to see an entire kindergartener class Zoom together; it’s super adorable (laughs). But when I see their interaction and the way she just gets them excited and can keep them engaged, I just, I am failing at doing that myself, and I have so much respect for what they do. Their ability to adapt, to be able to do it in a whole different environment than they’re used to is incredible. I really think they are one of the heroes of this whole epidemic.

    Interviewer: Your two younger kids, are they able to participate in the kindergartener learning, or are they too young for it?

    Brittany Rusch: So my two-year-old is too young for it. My four-year-old is in preschool, so they have kind of like a shortened—their teacher made them all little—actually she’s pretty amazing too, she made them all these little craft kits with different activities to do, and then she posts stories, and different videos of yoga poses, and things to do with them. So they still get to kind of see her, and same thing, whenever she sees her, she just absolutely lights up that she gets to still see her teacher and her friends. Because that’s, I think, the hardest thing for them, is they just miss their friends.

    Interviewer: What does your neighborhood look like right now?

    Brittany Rusch: You know, I feel less isolated because of my neighborhood, because I feel like it’s been more people outside, and while we socialize from a distance, and kind of yell across people’s yards (laughs) and kind of stand on each side of the lot line, I feel like that’s one way that we’re all still connecting, is you can take a walk around your block, and you can say hi to people from the sidewalk. I feel like that’s something that I’m really grateful for right now, is to have that outdoor space to connect with people.

    Interviewer: It’s obviously a change for your kids; how did you explain this to them?

    Brittany Rusch: Yeah, so that’s been tricky, because I feel like I want them to know, but I also want to shelter them from how—specifically, I want to shelter them from images. I don’t want them to see newscasts of hospital rooms, or, you know, people going in an ambulance to a hospital or something like that. But we’ve been talking about it, and they know that there’s a sickness. For some reason I can’t get ‘coronavirus’ to stick in their heads, so they just refer to it as ‘the sickness,’ (laughs) which I think is kind of funny. But they know that we can’t get together because we could spread it to each other. My six-year-old is very good at knowing six feet away; “You need to be six feet away from someone!” (laughs) So we’re just kind of talking about, that’s why we can’t be going to school; that’s why we’re not going to the grocery store; that’s why I can’t take you with me when I run to the bank drive-through; that’s why we have to be separate, and they know that it can make people really sick and that they have a hard time breathing. But beyond that, I’m trying not to go into much detail about what can happen.

    Interviewer: Have they asked many questions about it?

    Brittany Rusch: Not too much. They know that it can make you really sick, and they say, “What happens if you get it?” They know that it can make you really sick, and I tell them that you’d have to go to the hospital, and they’d have to help, maybe get you on a machine that could help you breathe, but that’s kind of been the extent of what we’ve talked about.

    Interviewer: How are things going for friends and family right now?

    Brittany Rusch: You know, it’s hard, speaking to friends and family because, one, I feel like everyone’s got their own strategies on how to deal with it, and everybody’s taking a different amount of precautions, which can sometimes lead to some awkwardness, which is kind of challenging when people don’t always see eye to eye on how to handle it. My dad doesn’t think it’s a big deal; my mom thinks it’s a super-big deal. There’s just some difference of opinion there that gets challenging to navigate. It’s also hard knowing what to say to people who are losing their jobs, or getting their hours cut, and it’s just hard to comfort people when you can’t be with them.

    Interviewer: What are things that worry you right now?

    Brittany Rusch: You know, I think the biggest worry, and I think this of any parent, is the biggest worry is that you’re not going to be there for your kids. I mean, that’s my greatest worry, so I think my greatest worry would be getting it and having something terrible happen, and not being able to be there for them.

    Interviewer: Are there good things that you see happening right now? Or things that you can imagine will result in a good way at the end of all this?

    Brittany Rusch: Yeah, I think personally, at home, I am really grateful for this time; I really see my kids connecting in a way they didn’t really get to before. I mean, not that they’re not together, but life is busy; you go in a bazillion different directions, and everyone’s got things going on, and it’s kind of nice to just slow down, and not have anywhere to be, and just really get to hang out together. It also can get very long (laughs) and problematic, and cause problems, and people fight, but there are these moments that are just great, you know, where everyone can be outside together in the yard running around, and they’re just playing, and I almost feel like in a way it gives them a little bit extra of their childhood, or something it just seems more pure. There’s nothing else to do but for them to play with each other. So it’s kind of cool to see that bonding happening.

    Interviewer: Is there anything else that you want to talk about that we didn’t touch on?

    Brittany Rusch: I just would really like to say that I am so proud of parents, because this is very difficult, and I have so much respect for how people are trying to make it work and maintaining a positive attitude. Everyone I talk to is trying to be very positive and isn’t complaining, even though—well, that’s not true. We’re complaining, but we’re not doing it in a way (laughs), in a way that is meant to be super negative, or just being depressed about it all of the time. I think people are doing the best with what they have, and they’re trying to always find the good in it.

    Interviewer: Brittany, thank you so much for your time today. I appreciate you sharing your story.

    Brittany Rusch: Thank you.