This post was written by Liz Faria.
For the first 3+ months of the pandemic, my husband and I were both working from home, our three kids constantly underfoot. I say this literally. They’re young (6, 3, and 1) and I find myself literally tripping over the smaller two, along with various toys that I don’t remember allowing into my house. Despite the obvious obstacles, our family found a way to get by (more or less), although the sheer exhaustion of trying to work, parent, and homeschool a Kindergartener eventually took a toll.
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the “toll” I’m talking about, since I’m not exactly in a unique situation. This pandemic came along and crushed us all en masse. Some of us more than others, but I doubt there is anyone feeling unscathed right now.
At this point, a sort of resignation has set in for me, paired with sudden bursts of anxiety, anger, and frustration. I don’t want to admit that, but it’s true. I’ll hold it together for days or even weeks, and then I’ll get angry with my family seemingly out of nowhere. It’s the frustration boiling below the surface, spilling over. It feels inevitable.
Things have gotten harder recently, since my husband had to go back into his actual office to work. That, too, was inevitable. He had a long grace period to work from home, but eventually he was expected back, since his office is relatively small and it’s not that hard for employees to maintain social distance protocols at work.
For him, it’s a relief to be back in the office, able to work uninterrupted. For me, it’s the opposite.
When my husband and I were both home, things were tough. But, it was the kind of tough that was manageable, with a back-up adult always on hand. Having my husband at home made it possible for me to take my sons out in the neighborhood for a walk, while the baby was napping. We no longer have that option, and I find myself struggling with naptime schedules now. Our baby takes two naps a day, while our three-year-old takes one long, midday nap. The naps don’t line up with each other, making us all hostages to one sleeping child or another. In between the naps, there are endless diapers, snacks, chatter, and of course— the crying. Sibling fighting is normal but it seems to have intensified with constant togetherness.
And then, on top of all of that, there’s COVID. Trying to navigate what’s safe and what’s not is unexpectedly taxing. A simple errand feels impossible, and certainly doesn’t feel like a good plan with young kids, who want to touch everything they see. Playdates? Well, when the weather is ok, outside in small groups can work. Indoor activities? Not happening. Options are limited and stress is high.
“This is groundhog day,” my friend said to me last week. “It’s #@%ing groundhog day.”
I laughed. Because it really is.
Part of my frustration comes from feeling a sense of “unfairness,” although that hardly seems reasonable or relevant right now. What’s fair in a pandemic? Everyone is taking hits. But a lot of working mothers, in particular, are finding that their careers are taking a backseat right now. Deb Perelman wrote a great article about this in the New York Times recently. In families with two working parents (like mine), the reality is that with limited child care and most likely limited in-person school come fall, somebody has got to be home with the kids.
My work hours are flexible, and I already work from home. Technically, we can pull this off with minimal disruption. But in actuality, with everything else that needs my attention at home, that’s not really how it feels. The kids are little and not even remotely self-sufficient. I try to cram in a few working hours at the end of a long day with the kids, when my husband gets home, but there’s just not enough time, and there’s certainly no energy. It feels like my career has to be tabled for now, and there’s not much to be done about it. My family, like yours, is trying to ride the tides of this pandemic, watching the case numbers rise and fall, and for some of us, our careers along with them.
The pandemic is a long game. We were warned about that in the beginning. It felt like a sprint for awhile. We rallied to “flatten the curve” and we tuned in daily to find out how we were doing. But as time drags on, I find myself without that initial burst of ‘we can do this’ adrenaline that came at the onset of this crisis.
We are not even close to being done with this marathon yet. And my stamina feels a bit shaky right now.
Liz Faria is a Mommy Shorts contributor and a licensed independent clinical social worker. She’s been working with children and families for 19 years and chronicles her own tales of motherhood on her blog A Mothership Down.