I’ve been writing this on the notes app on my phone for two weeks because I’ve barely been able to sit down in front of a computer. I love to work, and I’m the least fun mom there is when it comes to activities with kids. And somehow I still can’t get anything done.
We discussed New Year's Resolutions several months ago, and if you had asked us then what we thought this part of our lives would look like, we wouldn't have been anywhere close to the mark. No one would have! This spring has taken the world on a wild and terrifying ride that doesn't appear to be letting up as we cruise into the summer.
I (Hannah) had grand plans of spending the summer at Carowinds, the closest theme park to us. That was it. That was my whole plan. Now of course I'm staring down the barrel of the decision to risk our neighborhood pool (assuming of course that it opens) or lose my mind in the house all summer with my kids.
Because one of the bigger parts of this time period, along with homeschooling our kids, losing wages, and making drastic changes to our lives to try to stop the spread of a pandemic, is that every single decision comes with a risk. And you have to weigh the risk of the sanity of you and your children, verses potential exposure to a very dangerous disease.
On paper, it seems like the obvious answer is easy. But in real life, we all know it's far from that. It is so so hard to constantly be worried about your safety and health while also trying to keep your kids' morale up, not to mention your own morale. It's also extremely exhausting to be the sole person on the receiving end of all their wild and beautiful energy. They are doing nothing wrong, but you don't have your village and that makes a big difference.
And we. are. burning. out.
Somehow my tolerance is only getting lower. I need more naps (in short segments before my kids discover that my eyes are closed and wake me right back up). I need more rest, and no amount of sleep feels like enough. I can only take a small amount of the full force of these kids before I need a break. My mind feels flustered. I know I need more of something for my own mental health, but I don't know what it is. I don't know if it exists!
Remember the scene in Game of Thrones, before it all went to hell in the final season, when Jon Snow was buried under bodies in the Battle of the Bastards? He's gasping for air and it seems like all hope is lost, but then the Knights of the Vale come through to save the day and he prevails in the end (woops - spoilers.)
That's the closest I can get to describing the low points during this time. It comes in waves, but when I hit the bottom of a wave it feels so defeating. And the harder fact to contend with is that I'm the main face my kids see all day everyday. I have to save my own day, so that I can get them through this with as little trauma as possible. I think I'm doing ok for them, but what am I losing of myself in the process?
The Catch-22 is to be a good mom, we need respite. And there is none right now, so it feels impossible to be a good mom.
And I know it's not just moms. My good friend told me recently that she tried to meditate to ease anxiety and ended up crying for 15 minutes. Another good friend is a teacher, and has found herself on an emotional roller coaster as she's no longer allowed to see or connect with kids who've been a part of her life for their entire high school careers now.
I asked Caroline to collaborate on this as well because as a full-time working mom, and now stay at home mom, and homeschool teacher, her experience is vastly different than mine but probably quite similar to many of yours.
Caroline here! As usual, Hannah has come with hot takes, fresh tips, and the solidarity that she exudes no matter what your station in life. As a working mom, all of this rings true to me. I'm marinating in what I need to do... should do... could do... can't do... won't do... all of it. In addition to wondering about camps and the pool, much of my mental load in the last couple of weeks has been spent wondering about childcare and poring over threads in working mom groups to see what the general consensus is.
When do I start bringing sitters back into the rotation? Where will I go work because I don't have an office anymore, and coffee shops aren't open for camping, and I know it's not fair to a sitter, myself, or my kids to have high hopes of productivity all under the same roof. I'm hopeful that the Y will reopen soon, and with it, the childcare center, BUT even that is questionable.
Additionally, I recognize with every second how good these quarantine days have been for my girls, and just how nonstop we were choosing to be before it. As a result, I truly can't picture how to resume our lives AND maintain the level of ease we have now, and I'm at odds with that. It's harder and harder to trust that my gut will know what to do... because it doesn't.
I've thought a lot about this, and here are the words I need to hear. Maybe you do too.
Understand that you feel all over the place mentally because of stress, not because you're doing anything wrong.
You (I) will not be as "on your game" as you usually are because your mind is telling you to survive and that's the priority. Your house being squeaky clean is NOT the priority. However, if the state of your house is a stressor to you but cleaning it all feels overwhelming, set the timer on your phone for 5 or 10 minutes and just do a quick tidy of the most-used spaces, like the living room and kitchen. Hopefully that will at least be a bit of a balm to the constant feeling that your (my) house is a mess. Whatever the stressor may be, a bandaid over the problem is better than a full fix if that's what you need right now.
Ask yourself what your expectations are.
Again, this is a crazy time and our emotions are all over the place. We need more rest than usual. If you feel sleepy, set your timer for 20 minutes and take a cat nap. There is nothing wrong with popping a show on tv for the kids so that you can recharge. Listening to our bodies is more important than ever right now. If I get too exhausted, my body reacts by exhibiting flu-like symptoms, so then I'm convinced I have Covid, which is a fun emotional roller coaster.
Practice not letting the noise get to you.
This is easier said than done, but I'm working to be ok with my house (and personal space) not being quiet. Kids cannot be expected to be quiet and calm all the time (or any of the time) so I have to adjust my expectations for now. I assume that one day, I'll have some peace and quiet again but for now the chaos is my norm and I have to lean into it. Maybe you're home with a roommate or spouse or partner or someone, and you're used to getting alone-time but aren't getting it right now. Is a walk outside enough to give you some semblance of alone time? What about a scenic drive? Try and get a few moments to start filling up your very empty cup however you can!
Each morning, think about what YOU need for the day.
Do you need your kids to be on screens? Do you need to not hear them calling you for a little bit? Do you need to veg out and binge a show? DO IT! And don't look back. And if the mom guilt gets to you, give yourself the space to plan something fun for them. We've been discovering that Charlotte has so many greenways, nature preserves, and spots to get out and spread out while still giving everyone else plenty of space. Hit the McDonald's drive thru and go on an outdoor adventure! My sister in law gifted us these cards and these scavenger hunt sheets early on in quarantine, and they've been huge hits! Totally recommend. (These are affiliate links.)
Give yourself grace.
And your kids, and your partner, and your pets, and your neighbors, and your parents who won't stop calling (they're bored - they need entertainment. Put them on facetime with your kids.)
Does any of this hit home with you? Or have you found any good tips? Share in the comments!
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