It’s been about 360ish days since my sons have seen the inside of a classroom, thanks to a global pandemic and regional stay-at-home orders. Tomorrow, my second grader returns to school – a year older and hopefully a little wiser – to finish out the year. My sixth grader is still home, waiting for the day when he can rejoin his friends at school; at least he has Fortnite and Minecraft to keep his social life active. Where does this leave me? Exhausted – emotionally, physically and everywhere in between. And I know that I am not alone.
You see, moms have always been expected to be tough, roll with the punches and all of that. But COVID has been a real kick in the gut. Normally, we take care of everything. Yes, we get help here and there from our partners and families but, ultimately, we do the heavy lifting. The pandemic has just added to our already overflowing plates.
Moms are chefs, accountants, taxi drivers, nurses, personal assistants, and so much more. We get up early to make breakfast, get the kids ready, do about a million different things to keep the family going, then go to bed exhausted, just to get up to do it all again tomorrow.
There’s also a mental load that needs to be taken into account. Ask any mom right now and she’ll be able to tell you just how much milk is left in the fridge. Why does one need to know such a thing? So they can head to the store before the supply runs empty. Moms also remember other things that no one thinks about like, “It’s been a while since the kids called grandma. Better have them give her a ring this evening,” or “Aunt Susie’s birthday is coming up. Better grab a card the next time I’m at the store,” and “Soccer practice is starting up. Do Jimmy’s cleats still fit him?”
Now that we are dealing with COVID, these responsibilities and feelings have amplified big time. Not only are we dealing with the day to day of running a household, we are also dealing with everyone being home (kids from school, and partners from work) on top of everything else. Things are feeling crowded. Things are messy. Things are not right – and we aren’t sure when they will be.
On top of all this, many of us are struggling with a sense of loss. Some have lost family and friends to COVID, but for others it’s a more intangible loss. Parents are mourning the loss of seeing their kids off to their first day of kindergarten, or their last season of tee ball, no birthday parties, amusement park trips, or play dates. And while some might see these things as trivial, they aren’t. They make up everyday life. Life that was taken away for a whole year thanks to this pandemic. It all equals to feeling out of control.
Because of quarantine, our homes have also become our offices. Many of us have had to put our careers on hold to help with home schooling. Some of us have just plain lost our jobs. Others have desperately tried to succeed while performing a high wire balancing act of home life and work life rolled into one.
Even sleep is a far cry from a reprieve. As we let our exhausted heads hit the pillow at night, our thoughts often turn to how we could have done things better, how we could have been more patient, or how the kids really need more fruit in their diet. And more importantly, we think about how we can be more attentive to our partner’s needs. Because when was the last time we really put ourselves out there for some action? It’s hard to feel sexy when you’re knee deep in parental duties and fears about your family catching a virus that has wiped out more than half a million people across the nation.
Maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and put things in perspective. I know it sounds silly when such huge things are going on in the world. But just taking a moment to be present helps. And what really helps me when things get tough (like today when I found a withered, moldy tangerine in my son’s backpack that had been festering since March of 2020), are all my fellow moms out there are feeling it too. We might not know each other but we know exactly how each other is feeling. Right now, the exhaustion is universal.
So we’ve lived through more than a few historical events this past year. So what? We’re resilient. And even though we might not feel like it, we are strong. Oh, so strong. Who knows that the next 360ish days may hold, but chances are we will come out on the other side just fine. Tired, but fine.