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The Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics

ISSN: 2472-7318

Quarantine Mothering, Teaching, Teeth

Rachel O'Donnell

Table of Contents

Keywords: parenting

Categories: Parenting as (Im)possibility in Impossible Circumstances; Visual, Sonic, Tactile, Interactive Texts as Self- and Collective Care

During quarantine, in May of that first pandemic year, I taught my students on screen from atop my daughter’s ballerina bedspread, where she also had Zoom ballet classes and met with her teacher, trying to finish first grade from home. Sometimes she would ask to sit on my lap during classes and put her head between me and the screen, wanting to see herself in the camera, or have a rare chance to interact with others. My only outings were to the grocery store, where I waited in a long line of shoppers in masks.

My daughter eating a pickle and watching Zoom storytime.


After the suddenly online semester ended, I graded final papers and turned in grades. And then I gave up. My children were still not in school. I went back to overeating and not exercising. I dropped my book project. My summer course was canceled. I attended Zoom faculty meetings about hybrid courses and students in quarantine and international students who could not travel to campus. I tried to play outside when the children wanted to and went for walks around the block, which I used as time to cry, hidden behind my mask. 

That was two years ago. I look at a picture of my daughter two years ago, who during quarantine, lost four top teeth at once.

My daughter with a big smile showing four missing front top teeth.


What else has been lost and then reappeared without notice? 

My daughter with her hair fixed for the first day of third grade.


No one else had a chance to see her toothless smile.



Rachel O’Donnell is Assistant Professor of Writing at the University of Rochester and teaches courses in the Writing, Speaking, and Argument and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies programs. Her work has been published in the Women and Social Movements International database with Alexander Street Press. Her more recent work on the history and political economy of bioprospecting in the region is part of an international project to be published in 2022. She has also published her creative work on mothering in many collections with Demeter Press.