Katie Porter was “extremely busy” when she squeezed in a phone call with Heard on the Hill this week. She took the call in her pajamas. At 9:30 a.m. (on the West Coast), it was her fifth one of the day.
Like millions of Americans, Porter was working from home on Tuesday — and trying to figure out how to occupy her kids as the coronavirus pandemic redefines the word “parenting.”
So far, it was going pretty well. The California Democrat, who is serving her first term in Congress, is a single mom. Her Wi-Fi connection for work stuff was holding up OK, thanks to her “first line of defense”: telling her kids to “stop streaming,” which they take in stride.
“They’re good kids,” she says.
One side effect of the coronavirus is that it’s highlighting the sheer amount of teamwork it takes to keep a young human being fed and busy for an entire day. Now try all that while hunkered down for a period of social distancing.
“As a single mom of 3 kids serving in Congress, I have some experience with being distant — and needing creative ways to stay connected and have community support,” Porter wrote in an Instagram post this week, sharing a photo of a whiteboard with ideas.
Among them is a grocery group: “one shopper for 5 families per day.” Porter says she’s benefited from something like that already, since friends often help her shop while she’s away in D.C.
Other ideas include setting up Skype playdates, using the e-book service at the local library, and picking one “kid helper” per meal.
TV host Chelsea Handler showed her approval in the comments section. “You’re awesome and you know it, clap your hands!” the comedian wrote.
The final suggestion from Porter? “Having family contests jumping rope and shooting hoops in our driveway.” That one seems a little aspirational, verging on the tightly choreographed schedules that some parents have been sharing on social media as examples of how much can be accomplished when schools are closed.
“Staying home today w/ kids?” tweeted Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser. “Plan living room camp out! Throw a bedsheet over some taped together brooms. Plan a menu & ‘pack’ sandwiches, salads (S’mores optional.)”
Other parents have pushed back with sample activities of their own: Movies. Videogames. More movies. Poking fun at high expectations, they looked at the reality on the ground: Sometimes you just have to park your kid in front of “Frozen 2.”
Porter acknowledges that her advice dropped right into the middle of a glut of parenting memes driven by the coronavirus. One thing is clear, Porter says: “They show appreciation for what teachers do every day.” (She was a teacher herself before she came to Congress, though not in grade school — she was a law professor, hence the enthusiasm for whiteboards.)
When it’s time for Porter to move on to her next call, her sign-off stays on brand. “We used to say, ‘See you soon.’ Now we say, ‘Stay distant,’” she said.