As a working mom of two young girls—who has lived through a “stay at home order” and now a “responsible restart”—there is no escaping the reality of our new normal. COVID-19 has turned our daily routines upside down and amped up our innermost fears and anxieties. Yet in the current environment my husband and I are considered privileged. We are in high-demand industries, with the ability to technically do our jobs from home. But while the paychecks are still rolling in, so are the challenges.
Early on we decided not to over explain the situation to the curious little minds in our house. We kept answers simple. We’re staying home so we don’t get sick or get other people sick. But as time goes on, there’s no sidestepping the severity of living through a pandemic.
We’re months (years?) into this new dynamic and admittedly, I thought I’d feel more settled by now. Though not as peppered with questions from the kiddos as I’d anticipated, we’re still trying our best to keep them busy and distracted.
All while trying to work.
Working from home is one thing when the kids are at daycare and I’m sipping coffee in my home office with the dog nestled at my feet. It’s quite another in the current environment.
I feel for those who are quarantined or social distancing alone. I can’t imagine how isolating and lonely the days must be. But my challenges are different. My children are young, active (massive understatement) and in constant need of things to do. Crafts and coloring only hold their attention for so long before they’re looking to what’s next. My conference call schedule is in competition with every snack request, every “are you done working yet?” and every tattle of “she’s not sharing!”
Luckily my kids aren’t school aged yet, so I’m not also faced with the challenges of homeschooling. I can’t fathom trying to teach long division on top of our current workload. While my husband’s work has allowed him to pick up the brunt of the childcare for now, we still find ourselves in a stand off of whose-meeting-is-more-important. Who will be overseeing toddler activity of the hour while on mute and inevitably asking, “Can you repeat the question?” while the other “luxuriates” in our quiet home office?
My productivity is being stretched along with my patience. No, I’m not on the front lines of the pandemic, but I do work in healthcare, which means there’s no escape, no “this can wait ‘til tomorrow”. The situation changes by the hour and much like my children, demands my attention.
Each day has been go go go. Just survive. Just keep moving. A balancing act all while trying not to snark at the spouse. Just keep smiling, feeding, working, feeding again, bathing, reading, sweet dreaming, still smiling.
Then it stops.
My anxiety sets in at night. When the constant buzz of the day fizzles out. When I have to remember to breathe. When life finally settles and the world goes silent. I find myself in bed, eyes wide, looking at the ceiling. My heart thumping in my ears, only interrupted by the soft snoring of my dog (and my husband). I never used to find the darkness haunting. But with so many layers of fear and unknowns and trying to hold it all together…the night is where I let myself feel.
It’s where I tell the anxiety to come in and get it over with already. I make peace with its presence and I play out the what ifs, the horrible worst-case scenarios and eventually, I do remember to breathe.
Of course logic tells me there’s nothing to do but handle each day as it comes and try to regroup every night. My regrouping may look different than others’, but it’s how I’m managing. It’s my way of proving to myself that even if I don’t believe it to be true in a particular moment, I have to know we’ll make it through. As a family. As a country. As a human race.
So, for now it’s a day of chaos—and a night of anxiety—at a time.