Jamie Lovely shares her experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic in Madison. She talks about balancing the many roles she plays in her family life, including virtual schooling and caring for children with special needs. She also reflects on the Black Lives Matter movement and what allyship and activism look like for her during this time.
COVID-19 story by Jamie Lovely, July 17, 2020
Narrator Name: Jamie Lovely
Interviewer Name: Andres Torres
Date of interview: 7/17/2020
[00:00:31] - I’ll let my narrator introduce herself.
[00:01:44] - Tell us about being an advocate for your children.
[00:02:51] - Does anything stick out from when the pandemic first began?
[00:03:19] - Do you have any other experiences you’d like to talk about?
[00:08:13] - Thank you for sharing your experience.
[START OF RECORDING]
Interviewer: Hello, my name’s Andres Torres. I’m here with Stories from a Distance, part of the Living History Project, which is being compiled by Madison Public Library. And now I’m going to let my narrator introduce herself.
Jamie Lovely: Hi, I am Jaime Lovely, and I have lived in Madison since July of 2009, and I have four children who have grown up and gone to school in the Madison Metropolitan School District. So, like I said, I moved to Madison in July of 2009, and my children started going to school here, and I have four: one is my step-child, the other three are my biological children, and three of them have special needs. So since the pandemic started I have had to fill a lot of roles in terms of being a mother. I feel like I’m also a provider for mental, physical, and emotional needs of my children. I feel like I have to be a teacher, a referee, an advocate, a zookeeper, a bookkeeper, you know, the list goes on. And I’m not perfect at all of those jobs, so I try to give myself some compassion and some, you know, some room to not be doing everything one hundred percent. Since the pandemic began I have spent a lot of time with my family, which is a positive thing, but it’s also sometimes longing for some time alone. I long for visiting some friends and having them be able to visit their friends. I feel like the pandemic has kind of gone on and on, and at this point I feel like there’s no end in sight. And I’m in no rush to hurry up and, put my kids in school. Today they announced that school is going to be one hundred percent virtual for the first quarter, and I am in support of that. I want to keep our teachers safe and I want to keep our kids safe. And, with that, I want to acknowledge the fact that I’m not a perfect teacher, and that each one of my children have vastly different needs as it pertains to school. One is a bit of an overachiever. One was basically like, Yeah, school’s out for summer. (laughs) I’m not doing any of this. Another did surprisingly well, and my youngest is four, so his preschool attempted to do some virtual stuff. We attended one Zoom call, and it was like the worst thing ever. (laughs) A bunch of four year olds and their preschool teacher: I don’t know how she survived, honestly. But I do feel a lot of pressure as the mom in my family to be the executive functioning body for every member of my family, including my partner. He lost his job when the pandemic hit, and initially we thought it would be temporary but it’s turned to a permanent. And so, we’re looking for him for a new career. He was in his career for eighteen years. So it’s a, (laughs) you know, and trying to apply that skill to different areas is really kind of tricky. And then, as far as my daily experience, I’m still doing the same things that I was doing before, which was largely just being an advocate for my children. It’s just that now my children are under the same roof with me, and I’m trying to juggle both of them, so it feels harder. And I am trying to value a different kind of learning experience for them. I feel like we’re living in some pretty unprecedented times, both with the Coronavirus and with Black Lives Matter movement becoming more of a forefront in people’s lives. And it’s something that I feel a great responsibility to teach my kids about, to challenge the way that I was raised, the way that my partner was raised, the way that I’m raising my children. So, having a lot of difficult conversations both in home, and then, you know, with extended family it’s really, really hard. You know, I feel like, as an ally for Black Lives Matter, there’s a lot of pressure to be a specific kind of ally with specific guidelines. Particularly when that stands out as to not be angry, and I feel like that’s the hardest one to accomplish with my family because I have less tolerance for, sort of the white supremacy culture that is alive and, and well in this country. So I do feel a lot of pressure to be the right kind of ally, but at the same time I just focus on doing the work that I need to do to be an activist without— You know, I’m not on the streets. I am at home with my four children, and I am preparing them to go out into society and the most important learning happens at home. I did sign up for us to do a Arts and Literature Laboratory activity; it’s called Activist Toolkit. And so it gives weekly PDFs of things that you can do to develop your activism skills in an artistic and literary way. So it’s kind of like a homeschooling activist, you know, raising little activists. In addition to that I am, reaching out to my community more than I was necessarily before. So, while Zoom calls can feel tedious and a little exhausting, in other ways they can feel really comforting. For example, I was in the UW Odyssey Project. I graduated in 2014. That’s a program for adults continuing their education who have faced adversity. And it’s a course in humanities designed to build your self-esteem and to help you realize that you’re not alone, and to learn side by side with a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds, a lot of different cultures. But once you’ve completed that program you become part of the family. And we have weekly Zoom meetings every Wednesday where we get together, and it’s not just the students: it’s, you know, Emily Auerbach, who is the director; Kevin Mullen, who is the co-director; and the professors that teach generally are there as well. And so they share, and we usually have a topic. And then afterwards there’s support, so emotional support and just talking. So I graduated from that program in 2014, and I’m more connected with the group, not just from my class but the whole program, now more than ever. So in some ways, you know, this pandemic is changing life for the better: people are forced to see the injustice that’s around us, and there’s really no escaping it and I feel like, you know, that’s a good thing. I mean it’s, it’s heartbreaking to see what people are going through on the streets, it’s horrific. And there is a lot of guilt for not being out in the streets, but taking care of ourselves is important, and taking care of our families, and showing up for our families while we’re raising children is really important. And activism can look really unique in each different house. So I commend those that are out there in the streets, and I also try to be compassionate with myself for not being out on the streets.
Interviewer: You mentioned being an advocate for your children. Can you talk a little bit about what that means?
Jamie Lovely: My children have social, emotional, behavioral disorders, as well as executive functioning delays, and sensory processing difficulties. So each one of them has like a mental health team, and that requires that I keep in touch with their providers every week. So I have three children that have different teams that I work with, and then I work with my own team for my own mental health because I’m a domestic violence survivor. And two of my children are from my previous marriage that—domestic violence was impacting that relationship. And so I do have a lot of empathy for the families out there that are still sharing the same house with their abuser, and the children who are going back and forth between their parents who are in litigation or I hear a lot of stories about kids not being returned to their other parent and using COVID as a weapon. And I, myself, have my own things that, you know, where COVID has impacted that aspect of my life. So, for example, currently I’m involved in a family court evaluation but because of COVID there is no deadline essentially. And so it’s really hard to know when it will be over, and when we’ll be moving on to that next step, and when I can see some effective change in my family structure. My children were involved in youth justice, and in the youth justice system they were under supervision, and the last, well, they ended in June, the last three months of their supervision was virtual. Which really meant it wasn’t, you know, they weren’t getting the services they really needed, and so that part of their supervision wasn’t really very effective. And time just kind of carries on and carries on. And my oldest is sixteen, and it’s just really hard to get services for him when he’s, you know, kind of a rebellious teenager and not really wanting to get services for the trauma that he suffered. So, yeah, I work with their mental health teams, to answer your initial question. And I work on their IEP teams with their schools. Two of my children have a children’s long-term waiver, and so, you know, I work with their facilitator with that, and getting them sensory aids, that sort of thing. It’s really a full time job.
Interviewer: Maybe we can switch gears a little bit here: I wanted to ask you if there’s anything that kind of sticks out about when this first began?
Jamie Lovely: Yeah, when they closed the UW, that was shocking. They never close the UW, and it was in that moment that I knew that my children weren’t going to be finishing school in the school environment. I remember, before the last day of school, which was March seventeenth, I believe, I told my children to clear out their lockers, and that they should expect not to return to school for the rest of the school year. And I remember their sense of doubt, and they sort of just giggled like, Okay mom, you know. They thought they were going to get an extended spring break and that was exciting to them, but it was also like, So can I have a sleepover tonight? (laughs) And, you know, then I immediately sort of became the warden: No, you can’t have a sleepover tonight. Why can’t you? Because of the Coronavirus. And I really didn’t have all the knowledge that I needed to explain to them, the spread and how it was different than the flu, and just all of that. So it was a little bit overwhelming for them, you know. I think they suffered a loss, and just the sense of uncertainty. My partner continued to work and it just felt like, for some people, they had like a lag in realizing what we were in the midst of, and for me, I felt like I knew, I had a, sort of a feeling like, I’d been following the news. So I just, I just realized that the rug was suddenly pulled out from under us. And for other people it was just really slow realizing. So that was hard because with children some kids’ parents were like, Yeah, go, go over to your friend’s house, no big deal. So it was really hard to, to be the, like I said, the warden of my children. One trick that I know is, it was the orders that we were under, it was the governor’s orders we were under, so I just put the responsibility on him. I said, Oh, I know. That really sucks but that’s our governor’s order, so we have to stick to that. (laughs)
Interviewer: Do you have any other experiences you’d like to talk about?
Jamie Lovely: Well, okay, I would like to just say a couple of things about the positives of COVID. Not COVID itself, but just of quarantine, I should say. And that is, on the one hand too much family time is too much, but spending time with my kids and with my partner and out pets has been kind of enlightening. We were all very, very, very on-the-go before COVID. Like, I can’t even express how many activities we were doing, and how many, how many obligations I felt like I had. I still have obligations, but I’m spending a lot less time driving in the car. I feel like I’m really comfortable in spending time just in my yard gardening, or what we really like to do is go to the dog park. Shortly after quarantine our family dog passed away, and that was really, really hard. And we didn’t wait very long, but we adopted a puppy not long after that. And then, about three days ago, we adopted another puppy. (laughs) So, yeah we’ve been spending a really fun time together as a family and going to the dog park. And I will sincerely miss the way that we as a family are always together. (laughs)
Interviewer: It’s good to see the silver lining in these situations, and I agree with you one hundred percent about the time spent with family. Well, Jamie, thank you for being here today and sharing your experience. And I think if you add a few puppies to any situation it’s going to really kind of turn it around, turn it around for the better.
Jamie Lovely: (laughs) Yeah, that’s our way of thinking. (laughs)
Interviewer: Thanks so much for being here, and I hope you have a great day.
Jamie Lovely: Yeah, you too. Thank you so much.
[END OF RECORDING]