A New Yorker contemplates back-to-school season from the countryside–a mother’s call to arms.

“I want to do the right thing. I just don’t know exactly what that is right now.”


I don’t want to go back.

As a lifelong New Yorker, I hate to admit that.

But it’s true.

I’m worried.

Worried about what will happen to all my kids’ three schools next month.

Will they open?


For what hours?

How will I manage all the varying, perhaps staggered, schedules of the four kids?

I’ve gotten used to a complete lack of logistics management, something that used to hijack my brain for hours each day.

Life is so much simpler without having to rush everywhere all the time …

pick-ups, drop-offs …

having to debate which meeting/school event/board meeting/book launch/social situation to pop into …

when really I just want to snuggle with my kids, put them to bed every night, and not leave the house past five p.m.


I miss parts of city life, like hosting book fairs …

Book fair mingling pre-COVID.

… and being around new and old friends, authors and readers, enabling book magic IRL.

But I don’t want to go back.

What’s waiting there for all of us?

What is “the City” with all its unique stores boarded up, restaurants fileted, theaters dark, people gone?

I may not have a choice.

Schools will likely try to open.

My situation — like many of ours — is complicated in many ways as I try to meet competing needs of key players in my life.

My own needs and wants can’t really be a factor now.

And yet, they bubble up.

I don’t want to go back.

And yet.

And yet.

And yet.

How can I transport my newly honed corona life lessons with me?

Will I be *allowed* to skip what used to be required of me, in favor of time at home — or, somehow, in nature — divided simply between work, husband, and kids?

These are luxury problems.

I know that.

I’m sorry to even share them when so many people haven’t had the option to leave the city at all.

But these are the issues that jolt me awake from sleep in the dark morning hours every day, demanding I address them.

I want to be the best mom possible.

I want to keep my family safe, a mama bear with a giant paw hugging her cubs impossibly close.

I want to do the right thing.

I just don’t know exactly what that is right now.

Or when/if it will become clear.

Does anyone?

So I’m taking it one day at a time.

Trying to plan.

Trying not to plan.

Trying to enjoy the summer, the flowers, the squeals of glee as the kids run around the backyard in the sunshine.

Trying to stay in the moment.

Trying not to think about the global unknown.

But I can hear the clock ticking.




The only thing getting me through is the thought that, perhaps, I’m not alone in this.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the modern-day requirements of motherhood for years.

The medical forms. The parent/teacher conferences. The essentials for class each day.

Perhaps this is my chance — our chance — for a do-over.

Perhaps we can all, especially the mothers, stop competing.

No more trying to get a leg up.

For admission. For teams. For anything.

Can all of us moms agree to just be in it together?

It’s the only way we’ll get through.


Zibby Owens is a CEO, podcaster, writer, literary influencer, thought leader, and mother of four. She is the creator and host of the award-winning literary podcast Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books. She has written for Good Morning America, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and many other publications.

She really doesn’t want to go back to school.