Hi and HOW ARE YOU? Are you OK? Is everything terrible? Fine? Normal-ish?
I, like most of the adult American (world?) population, waver between totally fine, empowered, even, to I can’t do this I hate everything make them go away sad weird little person who wants to hide in a corner.
Official scientific memes tell me that this is normal.
I see lots of mothers online having some thoughts on this whole quarantined with small people business, and “the hardest thing” is a strongly debated topic.
The hardest thing is knowing what they’re missing.
The hardest thing is not knowing what is safe.
The hardest thing is feeling like I’m sucking at it all.
Since I am a mother and I work almost exclusively with mothers, I hear this and feel this so deeply. It’s ALL hard, for sure for sure for sure. What’s hardest? That so many things are trying really hard for first place at suckage?
I’ve been feeling recently this massive urge to just be left alone. Like, I’d like a day alone to clean my house, meal prep without interruption. I’m totally cool if my kids are happy and I can kind of adult on my own. I haven’t had tons of cravings for social time or going out or fun, but I get super pissy when my inner kid is like “they literally will not let you wash THEIR OWN CLOTHES without whining and crying.”
Of course, because kids don’t know better and they want to play with me all the time. I get it. I also absolutely will not be one of those parents that does all chores after bedtime so that I can playyyyyyy all day. Nope. Not happening.
So the days go like this: kids wake up, and we feed them. Easy! Carbs help. Then, the morning drags on and on and on until lunch, when we feed them. Easy! Carbs help. And then Will naps pretty much all afternoon and Beck performs a routine of not being tired in which she begs for TV and I say no and she refuses to play alone but doesn’t actually want me to play with her, really just the screen is her life partner, so she pretty much comes in and out of my office every 13 minutes for over an hour until I let her watch TV and get reasonably shitty with her because nap time is my ONLY time to actually work and then she tells me, no joke, that I am being a brat.
I am definitely on the internal “failing at everything” struggle bus. I get the bare minimum done, for sure. We eat food. The kitchen gets cleaned and yet somehow stays dirty. People bathe, not on a schedule. Sheets get changed and washed, but pretty much only when someone has expelled a bodily fluid on one, and I’d be lying if the thought “Urine is sterile, it isn’t even that much” hasn’t legitimately gone through my head.
At the beginning I was soooooo hopeful. More time! Accomplishments! Togetherness! Rest!
Former me was so sweet and innocent.
Instead, the stress of … everything and nothing … has yielded me pretty much unable to do much that is EXTRA except for food-related stuff, because I can’t write more than 6 minutes at a time to save my life but leave me alone in the kitchen and LOOK AT ME GO here’s 6 freezer meals that we don’t necessarily need.
Productive procrastination, you’ve heard of that, right? I am amazing at it. Only with food stuff. My toilets tell a different story.
Where my heart hurts and my sense of accomplishment really suffers is that lack of ability to do extra, the lack of focus, lack of humor and joy. It’s due to worry about health and the world, so I give myself a pass, but that doesn’t mean I like it.
I miss having the bandwidth to think of cutesy activities. To register for a work webinar and actually take it + apply the lessons to my work. To think ahead with meaningful goals and growth in mind. It’s not just there.
And, I know I’m not alone. What I wonder though, is if this lasts for more time, where does that leave us? When do we say “screw it, both of you go to daycare” in the name of our brains not turning to Little Baby Bum mush? And, what kind of mother am I that I wouldn’t keep my kids home in perpetuity if it means they are safer?
The world isn’t safe, but you know what I mean.
The stress of not knowing what is best for me, them, and everyone in the middle feels insurmountable. I’m pretty good at sifting through information and studies and figuring out what is real, what is too unclear, what is totally fake, but still. What if I mess it up? What if we stay home and never get sick but the kids forget how to interact with other humans? Will is a million percent clingier than he was 2 months ago. What if we go out and everything gets worse and secondary infections become more widespread and deadly and how did I think that seeing anyone ever was worth the risk?
What I’ve figured out with this endless back and forth is that it’s how lots of mothers feel all the time about every little decision, but with media and over-information to really prop up the swirling thoughts, to give them lots of roots and strength. Neat/hate it.
As for the kids, they’re just bored. Bored of me, bored of each other, bored of TV, if you can believe it. We went to Jay’s dad’s house last weekend to sit outside. It took me a lot of thinking and considering and crying to even agree for Beck to go, but seeing her run around a big yard putting out deer feed with her grandfather was, I think, worth the risk, somehow, not that that can really be quantified.
At home, I’ve done a little bit of “after THIS we will go into THIS room!!!” and honestly it kind of helps a little bit. It gives a sense of structure, silly as it sounds to have a plan to go upstairs, but yesterday when I did it we walked upstairs into our very empty bonus room and Will ran around gleefully yelling RECCCCCC ROOOOOOMMMM for at least 3 minutes and that felt like a parenting win.
And then Beck plowed into him and he fell teeth first into a train, so that ended quickly.
The little things we are missing definitely bum me out, but for the “missing stuff” I do think that my kids being this young is somewhat helpful. This is the time when Will would be learning to swing and slide, and Beck’s drive-through last day of school was SO sad, but it wasn’t graduation from college, and they both have time to make up for this kind of lost time – I think.
I know that what we are all missing is different things to break up the day. Chunks of time for school, the gym, seeing people, even quiet time in the car getting to and from places. There are also days when I don’t miss about 90% of what we’ve lost, and that’s given me something to think about as well.
The monotony, though, is killer. Endless tidying, walks around the neighborhood, saying NO to TV (don’t worry, I say yes a LOT to TV), and oh my god the prepping of fruit. I realize that things can be purchased pre-cut, but both of my kids still eat not-adult bites of things, so even that has to be modified. Every. Single. Thing. They. Eat. besides microwaving peas and corn has to be washed, peeled (usually), and cut into two kid sizes. It’s not that I dislike it, it’s just that restaurants that serve applesauce as the “veggie” are the best and I don’t care who knows it. I miss them.
What I keep reminding myself and others, though, is that it is normal to not like our lives totally flipped upside down with very little information. It doesn’t make me (or you!) a bad mother, it makes me a person.
Another thing that I find really useful is kind of a “get used to this right now young lady” self talk with the changing information. I don’t like it, but that actually doesn’t change how fast we learn more, make better plans, know what the future will look like.
I’m not mean to myself, but I spend some intentional time correcting my thoughts to “right now this is our plan, subject to change at any time,” and being OK with that is very useful. I also don’t let myself think much about the future at all, because knowing whether we should go on vacation in July or will feel good about preschool in August is futile, and pretending otherwise honestly feels more stressful.
Two resources that have helped me a lot are! Emily Oster’s latest article on the decision making process and this explanation of exposure + time. I use pieces of both of these articles whenever I make almost any decision, and it’s been really useful for me owning my choices with well-informed information at hand.
So! I’d love to know how things are for you, wherever you are. Are you in, out? Easing up, no where close? Scared of takeout, or obsessed with drive-thrus? I want to know it all, and would love some other similar links (emphasis on peer review, science, etc) to help us all out!
Or how to safely teach a 4 year old to do all her own cooking and laundry, is there a link for that?
And like seriously why can’t my 18 month old just get on board with television?
I took these pictures with my Canon 6dMarkII which I absolutely love. Beck was very excited and then the whole thing went to pot, which is exactly what happens during family photos. There are more camera items in my shop! Not sponsored, but links are affiliate to help support the site – your cost is the same. Thank you for reading!