How do I sit down and write a light-hearted lifestyle column in the middle of a global pandemic? This is a question I’ve been mulling over quite a bit over the last few weeks of social distancing. At the time of writing–and I say that because these days, things can change in a moment–my husband and I are both lucky enough to be able to work from home. This means we’re balancing two full-time jobs and the care of twin two-year-olds. It can be mayhem.
I’ve been trying to practice gratitude. That’s not something I usually put any effort into. I’m upbeat and cautiously optimistic as a default setting. But lately, I’ve found that in the overwhelm of managing toddlers and a very busy work schedule, the anxiety of not knowing what will happen next, and the general worry about my loved ones that I can no longer see, it can get very, very hard to stay positive.
So it is in these darker moments that I try very consciously to be grateful for more time with my kids at a precious age, to have pay coming in, to not live alone. It does help, I’ve found, to count your blessings.
This quarantine does not feel all that different from the first year of motherhood. It’s emotionally exhausting, isolating, and involves a rotating cast of track pants and leggings. There are other familiar aspects; too much time on social media, the desperate relief when the children go to sleep, the stir-crazy desire to get outside.
I’ve read that what we’re collectively going through now is grief; grieving the loss of feeling safe and secure, grieving small things like kid’s birthday parties. Destination vacations, weddings, funerals and poker nights have all been cancelled. So we grieve the life we had previously to this. And we grieve how things will change; with especially visceral stress in the not-knowing.
That’s similar to the first year of motherhood too. You grieve your former life, your former freedom, your former sleep schedule. That grief is pretty taboo to admit, but I think most new parents go through it in some way or another.
I have found that through the grief of early motherhood and the grief of a global pandemic, there have been lessons. I have learned from these phases that I am immensely resilient; I am able to be a rock for my little family, even when I’m shattered. I am resilient to pain and I’m resilient to stress and in particular, exhaustion. I am able to laugh through a lot.
I have learned that creativity and resourcefulness go hand-in-hand. I discovered that an inflatable queen-sized mattress makes an excellent mock rock-climbing wall and will tire two blissfully unaware toddlers out completely. I have become a person who makes up crafts using supplies from the recycling bin. I have drawn eyes on hard boiled eggs to the delight of my Humpty Dumpty-obsessed offspring. Anything to brighten up our repetitive days.
Possibly the most difficult lesson to accept has been how priorities can be distorted. Nothing matters much at all other than family, a home, and food on the table. That’s an easy one to forget in the pace of life and in a world that’s constantly selling you new-better-more.
As we all–and I mean that in the literal sense–work to overcome this crisis I admit there are good days and bad days and days that blend together. My house can be messy, my clothes worn for a few days, my kids bored. But, so long as we’re healthy and sitting down to a hearty meal, together, not much else matters in the long run.