The corona crisis presents all of us with unusual challenges. Families with children are particularly hard hit. What to do with the youngsters, how do you manage the balancing act between home office and homeschooling? Presenter, actress and author Collien Ulmen-Fernandes (38) illuminates the new everyday life of families in Corona times in the new social factual “Families alone at home” (April 25, 7:30 pm on ZDFneo). “When I suddenly became a substitute teacher myself and had to motivate my child to do schoolwork, I wondered how other families are doing at the moment,” explains the mother of an eight-year-old daughter, and in an interview with the news agency spot on news also insights into her own corona isolation with husband Christian Ulmen (44).

Collien Ulmen-Fernandes: It was lightning fast. When I suddenly became a substitute teacher myself and had to motivate my child to do my homework, I wondered how things are going in other families at the moment. Home office for the parents doesn’t mean that you suddenly have more time to teach the children. On the contrary. There are currently a lot of emails coming in with the message “Please do it by tomorrow”, since some people assume that you have a lot of time right now and are just waiting for work. We usually sit at the computer until late at night. Others suffer from the fact that they have nothing to do right now. That too can be very grueling. It is an exceptional situation for everyone. I wondered how other families are doing, what their everyday life is like. How do we, as non-teachers, help children to concentrate? And anyway: how does root pulling work again? I told my producer Ina Eck about the idea, which convinced ZDFneo the same day to make this documentary.

Ulmen-Fernandes: Our life changed in one fell swoop. We should stay at home, school and work take place at home, grandparents should not be visited, we only meet friends online. An unplanned concentration on ourselves. This situation puts life on a microscope slide, everything appears much more clearly under the microscope, every small skew becomes visible. We want to know how is the corona lockdown for families? How can we manage to cope with everyday life with all the new challenges? What does this time show us about ourselves and about the society in which we live? And what can we take with it into our future? You can already tell that political failures and imbalances also determine this extreme social situation. There are people who live in rural areas, who would have to do their work in their home office, but who are unable to do so due to the low Internet speed. If you take a step back, it becomes clear that there are nothing but open questions that have been struggling for answers for years. Also within families: How much media time do I allow my child and how much of the unpaid workload is still primarily done by women?

Ulmen-Fernandes: The team wore masks and we kept a good distance from each other during the shoot. We also avoided public spaces and filmed them on private property.

Ulmen-Fernandes: Since I am currently shooting documentaries, I was able to make the crisis a topic. Actually, I would have made another show this month, but this other show was postponed for now. Right now I’m shooting for “Families Alone At Home”. When the filming is finished, I have talk show appearances for my program, I also work as a columnist for the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” and work on part two of my book, which deals with gender prejudices among children, so I’m just very busy. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about my existence. The same goes for my husband. I am very, very grateful for that.

Ulmen-Fernandes: We are lucky enough to live in a large house and to be able to avoid ourselves from time to time. That is why we only have limited storage capacity. If my husband annoys me too much, I go to the supermarket, you always need something. Then I take my time and come back with a big purchase.

Elm Fernandes: Phew. Difficult. My daughter went on a strike for half a week before Easter break. Since then I have greatly appreciated what the teachers do every day. In theory, the homeschooling app gives her homework that she should work through. Theoretically! In practice, it works rather semi-well at the moment.

Ulmen-Fernandes: Not me, but the experts at “Families alone at home”. I speak to brain researchers, educators, psychologists. It was all very insightful.

Elmen-Fernandes: I’m worried about my parents and in-laws. I wish they would just stay at home, but my father, who belongs to the high-risk group due to various previous illnesses, is constantly going to the hardware store. He just can’t sit still. He is always on the go. I hope they stay healthy. This is the biggest concern for me at the moment.

Elmen-Fernandes: The uncertainty. How long does the state of emergency last? Will there be a second wave? How many people will the crisis drive into bankruptcy? What does this do to our society? When will there be a vaccine? All of that concerns me. But: I am glad that science is heard again in this situation. Trump, the AfD, conspiracy theories and their spreaders on social networks – there had previously been a real contempt for science and research. It gave way to an unbearable mixture of know-it-all and the so-called “alternative facts” were rampant. At best, the crisis could lead to a return to the achievements of science.

Ulmen-Fernandes: Going out for dinner with the family on weekends. My husband is currently cooking. There is spaghetti bolognese. Every day. For weeks. That’s great too. Still, I’m looking forward to the restaurants opening again.

Elmen-Fernandes: None yet. I have not been able to do so far, but I am looking forward to when there is more time. Then I would first like to muck out the closet and re-tile the bathroom. Then come books, films and series.


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