Emily Oster is a certified parenting guru, and her latest book, The Family Firm: A Data-Driven Guide to Better Decision-Making in the Early School Years just helps solidify that. But even so, at the end of the day the author, professor and economist is a mother of two, and she’s just as burnt out as the rest of us as we begin another pandemic school year. Luckily, she has some tools up her sleeve to help make the best decisions she can for her family.

On the latest episode of The Motherly Podcast, Oster talks to Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety about why data and intentionality are the best tools for parental decision-makiing, especially during a pandemic.

Oster and Tenety start their conversation chatting about the key pieces of The Family Firm, like writing a family mission statement and implementing “The Four F’s” to help make a decision, before delving into one of the hardest choices parents will be making this year: should they send their kids back to in-person school?

Like all of her decision-making tips, Oster urges parents to look at the data to help make the best choice for their family. In this case data has shown that though the Delta variant is more contagious, it’s not making kids sicker; however, it will surely disrupt the school year.

“We are seeing very, very mild symptoms, but we are seeing COVID particularly in lower vaccination states at levels that are going to be disruptive for in-person school,” she explains to Tenety. “And that doesn’t have much to do with whether [kids] get infected at school or not, but just that , there are going to be a lot of quarantines. There’s going to be a lot of teachers and students out. And so I think that’s, that’s the reality of at least probably the next month or six weeks.”

Pandemic or not, Tenety notes that summer is always a hard time for children and asks how “parents can reset this season of life with intention”?

“I think the main thing I would say is to just take a step back, think about what you were doing before. I think we all have this kind of instinct, like, okay, I want to get back to pre-pandemic. I’m going to go back to all the stuff I was doing before, but I think there is a moment to sort of say like, ‘Hey, are there pieces of what happened in the pandemic that I want to keep? Are there interactions we had? Are there things I don’t want to go back to?’ And I think that’s the frame I would give a lot of people,” Oster says. “That amidst this sort of desire to go back to normal, to make sure that you’re going back to the pieces of normal that you’ve liked and not the pieces of normal that maybe in the moment you were like, ‘I can’t believe I agreed to do this.’ And I think it is a moment for that kind of intentionality.”

To hear more about Oster’s experiences in motherhood and her career, listen to The Motherly Podcast for the full interview.