I’m sitting here in front of my computer trying to think of something to write to all of you–something to lift up and inspire during this time of uncharted territory and endless new decision-making.
If you are like me, this pandemic era–this six months of constant parenting has taken a toll on your very being. I have been a parent for 12 years and this has been by far the hardest season for me. After deciding not to have a fourth baby, sending my youngest off to preschool every morning, and finally getting to take a deep breath alone, I was ready to find my next chapter. I was ready to dive into what I want to be when I grow up. And then after a few months of dreaming and planning and rediscovering who I am when there is not a child in my arms…all three of my children were suddenly home. And oh, were they so home! My mornings went from silent meditative coffee-sipping to “No, you may NOT watch TV just because there is no school.” My afternoons went from researching jobs to “Stop bouncing off the walls and GO OUTSIDE!”
My evenings went from being joyful at having my family together again around the dinner table to being overwhelmed about the focus that family dinner implied after an already family-packed day. And dishes. Dishes. Dishes. For six months, the dishes have kept coming. I’m not sure they have all been clean at the same time since the Before.
If you are like me, you are SO SO SO sick and tired of parenting because it’s ALL YOU ARE DOING, and you are longing for dinner out with friends or a date or a long interrupted nap. Maybe you would settle for just being able to go into work. Maybe you are going into work and feel guilty about how much you enjoy that break from kids (don’t).
If you are like me, you have had to sacrifice time with people you love because of different levels of comfort regarding masks and work conditions and exposure. You have had to make hard choices that have hurt the feelings of people whom you never want to hurt, or those people in your life have made hard choices that hurt you. You are dying to hop on an airplane bound for a new and exciting destination (anywhere but the inside of your house with the same five people). You are maybe even still aching for the hugs of your dearest friends, or your brother, or your mom, whom you haven't seen since last Christmas.
If you are like me, the decision whether or not to send your kids back to school has felt like life and death. You have been lying awake at night worrying about them falling behind at school and about their social development at such a critical time of their lives, weighing that against the risk of them getting sick, of them infecting Grandma at such a critical time in hers. You have worried about whether or not they can keep masks on all day, whether or not others will. Or you have questioned whether virtual learning is really going to provide them with the education you imagine for them and how much to weigh their opinions about these choices. You have chosen to keep yours home in this never-ending limbo. Or you have chosen to send yours back to school, with accompanying anxiety and/or guilt.
If you are like me, you need to hear that this hasn’t been the hardest six months because you are doing it wrong; it’s hard because you were promised a village to help you raise your children. You brought children into a world where there were grandparents and babysitters and daycare providers and teachers and guidance counselors and friends’ houses and camp counselors to help you. And it’s been hard because you have been doing it alone for six months and you are weary and tapped out from doing it ALL…all of the time.
If you are like me, you need someone to say: This is so hard. Unique in our lifetime. You need the reminder to look around at your messy house and your yoga pants and know, deep in your core, that you are doing the best you can. That this is a time for grace (grace for you, grace for me, grace for those making well-intended different decisions) and that this is only a season. A long season, but a season. Hang tight, mamas and papas, better seasons are on their way.