In China, "mythical creature" is a term of endearment usually used to describe naughty toddlers or troublesome schoolchildren whose antics drive their parents crazy.
As schools and kindergartens nationwide postponed the spring semester for nearly four months in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, many children have spent long periods cooped up with their parents and even grandparents.
Women, who shoulder most of the responsibility for parenting and household planning, have felt under greater pressure during this challenging time.
Along with the economic impact of the epidemic, it poses challenges to family members' mental health and parenting strategies.
Dong Zhenglu, the mother who claimed she had been dealing with "mythical creatures", jokingly suggested that she needed psychological guidance to resolve the madness.
"I have my work, my children and my parents to deal with," she said.
Her younger daughter is in the first year of primary school. She had just become accustomed to the new environment when the coronavirus outbreak struck.
To ensure the 6-year-old will not fall behind when school resumes, Dong has mugged up some basic knowledge and teaching methods to coach the child.
"I became either desperate or crazy when coaching my kid with her Chinese homework. I have been preparing teaching materials about monetary units, which is part of the math curriculum for the next semester," she said.
On a handwritten teaching plan titled "Counting CNY" ("Counting Chinese yuan"), Dong listed several sums using different units, such as the yuan and its smaller denomination, the jiao.
Dong, who left primary school nearly 30 years ago, said she has given her daughter some primer lessons ahead of school resuming.
She is less patient than qualified teachers and often feels frustrated when the girl is not in the mood to learn and is so distracted that she hardly absorbs any new knowledge.
On the night of April 14, the day before Beijing released online courses for all primary school students, Dong and other family members held a meeting to discuss how to arrange the schoolwork, including extracurricular online classes.
She was especially keen to do so as her children are very young, with one in the first grade and the other in the fourth.
Sometimes Dong has disagreements with her mother, a former primary school principal.
"As a teacher herself, she interferes a lot in my older daughter's studies," she said.
She added that though she appreciates the efforts to ease the burden, she doesn't agree with some of the traditional disciplinary methods her mother used on her and has tried to impose on her daughter, such as setting a tight schedule, irrespective of whether it is a weekday or the weekend.
A complicating factor for Dong is that the coronavirus outbreak has wreaked havoc with her career.
As a stage director, mostly of fashion shows, and co-owner of a workshop, she has endured a serious loss of income due to the cancellation of all planned events in the first half of the year.
"Cultural activities have been frozen to prevent large gatherings. That has also frozen my career, and I can't stop worrying about the consequences while I'm keeping an eye on my daughter," she said.
Some women are wary of having no work and no income, while other remote-working mothers are itching to separate their family and business lives while quarantined at home with their children.
Li Yu works in the sales department of a technology company headquartered in Beijing. When the government began relaxing restrictions on movement, the 32-year-old resumed visits to clients and sometimes went to the office to handle business.
"My work time is flexible, with no need to clock in and out, but having a child at home all day can make a working woman in any position fall apart," Li said.
Her 6-year-old daughter developed some learning habits in the first months of primary school after September, but the extra long winter vacation has almost dragged her behavior back to the preschool level, according to Li.
The school's regular online classes only account for one hour a day, so Li has to act as an extracurricular tutor because her daughter's nonschool activities have also moved into cyberspace.
The girl now practices calligraphy and piano online under Li's supervision. The mother's "homework" is to download her daughter's weekly homework, such as a piece of music to be studied and played.
"The most annoying part is the piano class. Neither her father nor I have even a basic knowledge of the instrument, but I have to urge my daughter to review the pieces. Also, she was reluctant to obey my instructions because her piano teacher hadn't said anything, so why would we ask her to play?" she said.
Li said that her daughter is a loving girl who can spend an entire afternoon quietly reading books without bothering her. But reading doesn't meet all the family's requirements for the girl. "Our expectations are infinite, while our energy is limited," she said.
One Friday evening, Li had a video meeting with the school principal and other parents to summarize their children's study over the week.
At 9 pm, the principal called a halt to proceedings as it was getting late. Li was pleased that the meeting had ended, but was not prepared for what came next.
"Actually, it was not over. The head teacher closed the meeting given that it was so late, but the next day we had another meeting to discuss arrangements for the following week," she said.