Parenting under quarantine is quite a catch-22: the very things keeping me sane are also threatening my sanity. In some ways, this time with my family is a gift. It was hard to leave the baby every day for work, and that rush from the office to pick-up then home for dinner, bath, and bedtime was very stressful. Those hurried evening hours were the only time I had with my kids, and this often left me feeling frustrated, angry, and tired.
Then the coronavirus happened, and I reached a new level of exhaustion I didn’t even know was possible. Being a mom nonstop is hard. And, of course, I’m not just a mom; I’m also an academic advisor, wife, and individual person, all at the same time and all from inside the same small apartment. There has been more yelling than I would like to admit.
My family has gotten better at it, though. Week one was just insane, everything coming at us all the time, changing every hour. My husband, a live audio engineer, was laid off. My in-laws, our childcare, moved back to Boston. School was canceled. My sensitive, social, structure-loving five year old was an absolute wreck. “Is there anything you’d like to know about COVID-19?” I asked him one evening. His reply: “Mommy, it would take all night.” Between his nightmares and the baby’s teething, no one was sleeping. The days blurred together into a never-ending to-do list, and I was too overwhelmed to feel anything.
Week two brought me more space for my own process and I cried a lot. I was also carrying around too much rage so tried to squeeze in self-care every day, whether it be a 20-minute run or a 2-minute meditation. Still, I couldn’t get rid of the edge.
By week three, my family had adjusted(ish) to our new routines and started to relax a little. Ironically, this is when my anxiety ran wild. The sweeping scale and long-term effects of the virus felt overbearing. The redundancy of our days made it hard to get out of bed. All the unknowns weighed heavily. I decided to give up the news and round out the week with a practice on gratitude: every time an anxious thought intruded into my brain, I replaced it with something I felt grateful for. Most often, I came back to the sweet little moments with my family.
As we moved into week four, this practice allowed me to enter a new phase of just embracing it all, which was great timing as week five brought the official announcement that school is closed for the year and many summer camps will also not open. Life in quarantine is our new reality for a long time yet.
Instead of lamenting this, I’m choosing to make it okay. We are so busy over here, in wonderful and in challenging ways. Some days are good, others are terrible. All of them are exhausting. But they’re also all full of love.
I do still wonder if I, in the middle of a global pandemic that is forever altering our society, can be everything my kids need me to be. The honest answer: probably not. But I can be enough.