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Challenge: Stretched Too Thin

Pandemic moms are not OK

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I know. This pandemic has been hard for everyone, not just moms. But hear me out.

Before COVID-19, I was a normal stay-at-home-mom who started every day optimistically and ended it exhausted, depleted and somehow still rewarded. I was stressed, tired, and overwhelmed. Actually, I thought I was overwhelmed. The word has taken on a new meaning since the beginning of this global crisis.

Like most families, our life is very different right now than it was a year ago. My husband works from home instead of being in an office full-time. My two older children were yanked out of preschool last March and never ended up going back or even getting to say goodbye to their friends properly. We had a baby in late February last year and brought him home only a few days before our state started locking down for COVID-19. His first year of life has not gone quite as pictured.

I’ve had to homeschool my now-kindergartener instead of sending him off for his first year of school that we built up and got him so excited about. We haven’t been inside a restaurant, a kid’s play place, or any other unnecessary public places in a year. Our children have not been inside a grocery store since March last year. We haven’t seen most of our family this whole time, and there are friends we haven’t seen in almost two years because of my pregnancy prior to the pandemic. (Some people might think we’re being overly-cautious, and that’s fine. We have our reasons for it and we don’t actually care what other people think as long as our family is safe. And quite honestly I don’t have the energy to debate anyone on proper pandemic behavior because I am an exhausted mother of 3 kids under 6 and my brain is running on about 3 bites of Chex Mix and some cold tea from this morning.)

I feel like I’m on an island, by myself, with no sign of rescue.

Pre-pandemic, if my kids were getting too rambunctious and needed to burn some energy I would pile them into the car and drive them to one of many kid’s play places in our town. We would go out to lunch at least once a week with my mom. We would go to playgrounds and parks and frequent our local library and spend the entire afternoon playing and reading books. They would go to preschool 2 days a week and get some time out of the house without me. I would get some time without them.

Now, I can’t do any of that. None of it is even an option for us. I’ve been with my 3 children for every minute of every day of this pandemic, with no breaks, for almost a year. And I am not okay.

The baby sleeps like a newborn even though he is about to turn a year old. The three-year old is...three, so that’s fun for everyone. The six-year old might be prematurely morphing into a teenager, but signs of that are only shooting out of his mouth and eyes so far, and typically only directed at me, so the jury’s still out. But I can tell you it’s not cute and I don’t have enough years of parenting under my belt yet to effectively deal with such trying behavior. I thought I was supposed to have a few more years to toughen up before Zack Morris was my kid but here we are.

So every day we exist, in this house, together. Always together. There is so much togetherness. Like….SOOOOO. MUCH. TOGETHERNESS.

I am pretty certain after a year of what must count as intense immersive research that humans are not designed to be together this much. Husbands and wives need time apart, kids and parents need time apart, siblings need time apart. And frankly, moms need time to be apart from all of it.

Before this pandemic, I thought I knew the value of alone time. The sporadic trip to the store alone or an uninterrupted shower used to feel like almost enough. It used to be at least enough to recharge my batteries and get me through the day. Now I realize it was never enough on its own, but coupled with the option to leave the house and get a change of scenery anytime we wanted, I felt like I could do this whole SAHM thing. And I could. I was.

Now, I feel so desperate for time alone that I feel like crawling out of my skin sometimes. I am physically yearning for some time where I am not around a single other human being, and where no one will ask me for a solitary thing. I need some time to be 100% selfish and not think about the needs of anyone but myself. I want to take a bath with the door open and watch 5 episodes of Real Housewives in a row. I want to order the takeout no one else in my family ever wants and eat it all in one sitting and not even feel bad about it. I want to take a nap at 2pm because I can. I just need to do whatever the hell I want, whenever I want to do it, and not care about anything or anyone else at all for at least 48 hours. Then, I think I’d be okay again.

You may think I am being dramatic with my 48 hours instead of 24 like a normal person, but let me tell you something: my husband did take the kids to my sister-in-law’s and leave me alone with no one around one time for 18 whole hours. I did all the things I wanted to do and I was totally selfish. Except I wasn’t. Because it takes way more than 18 hours for moms to decompress and get out of “mom mode” and actually relax. The entire time I kept thinking of things I should be doing around the house or feeling guilty that I should be doing some writing instead of watching Netflix. A baby cried on TV while I was falling asleep and I jumped out of bed and rushed to the nursery, only to remember too late that the baby wasn’t here. I know I needed more time to turn off my brain and switch to selfish-mode after a whole year of being on swivel non-stop.

I don’t know when this will be over, and I don’t know how long it will be until I get my full 48 hours. I do know that I can’t be the only one feeling this way, and even feeling guilty about feeling this way. Society makes us feel like if we’re not forcefully enjoying every second of time we are afforded with our children that we are somehow failing. I think society needs to have three kids in a pandemic and then get back to me with that parenting advice. We’re in survival mode right now, waiting anxiously to switch to selfish mode briefly. Until then, I am going to keep powering through this, knowing somewhere on the other side, waiting for me, is a 48 hour luxury vacation where not a soul will bother me unless it’s to bring me food. And then they will leave because….selfish.

You can do this, moms. Hang in there just a little bit longer.

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