The new normal
There has been no school since March 16, and homeschooling formally began April 6 for our family. The hubby and I have been working from home almost every day since March 16. Yet, it feels like day #431,986 of Quarantine 2020.
Undoubtedly, there are many wonderful things for which I am grateful like – my health and well-being; that my husband and my children are home with me; that I can work from home and continue to provide financially for my family; that no one in my house or immediate or extended family has been diagnosed with COVID-19; and that I serve a mighty God who daily goes before me and covers me with his unfailing love, His grace, and fresh anointing.
But this ain’t that type of post. This is my raw and real post – my truth about life under quarantine.
I’m working way harder
I am working harder – like all the way harder. Moms, is it just me or are you feeling the same way?
I’m still working. I know some of you are experiencing more free time during the day, but this is not my reality. As a board certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist, I see patients Monday through Friday. I either call my patients on the phone or via a Zoom telemedicine session. Like everyone else, people diagnosed with mental illnesses ranging from depression and anxiety to ADHD to bipolar disorder to schizophrenia have the same basic needs. They need to feel safe and secure; they need an outlet for their worries about the pandemic and to make sure their feelings are not only heard but validated; they need money for food, rent/mortgage, and other expenses; and they need to ensure they can continue to mental health services and their medications.
I’ve got to successfully manage all my patients spread over multiple clinical sites all while navigating homeschooling three children in three different grades (kindergarten, third, and seventh) with three different learning styles. School is for learning and home is for family and fun and a little bit of homework. Now home is for learning, too. That requires a mindset adjustment. Clearly, I am no teacher. Just ask my kids. I often feel like I don’t have time to help them with their Google classroom assignments or play referee to their bickering when I have a patient who is so depressed she is contemplating suicide or a mother whose child is on the Autism Spectrum and is decompensating in the absence of structure and his normal routine. But mommying never stops. My children don’t always knock. Sometimes they come barreling into my makeshift office, somebody yelling and another crying. My urgently whispered, “Hush, mommy’s talking to a patient” means absolutely nothing to them; so, I apologize profusely to my patients because, well, quarantine.
Managing my own mental health and theirs
One of the biggest challenges I face is adequately addressing their needs while trying to manage my own angst. The status quo no longer exists. I miss my friends, and they miss theirs. I want to work out with my Godspeed family, and they want to run wild and free at the park or in our back yard. We want to go out for dinner and eat at some of our favorite spots. My husband and I and the girls want to watch Evan ball out on the baseball field, stealing bases and hitting homeruns. I desperately desire an end to the uncertainty so we can get back to regular, degular, schmegular living; but if I’m being honest, life as we once knew it will never return. While we limit the news, we do watch tv here and there which leads to lots of questions from my kids because they get scared sometimes.
I struggle between doling out discipline and tossing consequences to the curb because the uptick in their acting out behavior merely reflects the emotional stress they find difficult to verbalize. I’m acting out, too; it just looks different – my irritability and impatience to their whining and rule-breaking. So, I take a deep breath, lean into the Lord for guidance through prayer, and then pepper their cheeks with kisses. I liberally belt out “I love you’s,” and the hugs are tighter and longer. The hubby and I are ‘Netflixin’ and chillin’ a whole lot more often, and I fall more in love with him and the way he grounds me and leads our family. But the pressure refuses to let up despite our best efforts to lighten the load.
The invisible workload of motherhood
Then there’s the invisible workload of motherhood, all the usual tasks like getting kids ready for school, cooking dinner, and the bedtime routine but also the mental load of keeping up with it all. There’s no more toilet paper or paper towels; who’s got what activity when and where; filing away birthday party invitation dates and field trip schedules and fees, planning said dinners complete with keeping up with what I need to pick up from the grocery store; rescheduling doctors’ and dentists’ appointments; registering for STEAM camp and summer camp; and remembering that child 1 and child 3 need new shoes for school and child 2 needs her leotard for dance and new ballet shoes. It’s e-x-h-a-u-s-t-i-n-g! None of this has stopped. Now it’s just tacked on to my already full plate.
Some days I’m good. Start my day with morning prayer with my church. Get my morning work out in with my hubby. Every patient answers the phone when I call. Each kid wants to the eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and they all remain on task for the day’s homeschooling lessons. Sadly, days like this are rare. So, what is a momma to do on the more frequent off days?
Set boundaries – set work hours if you are working from home so you don’t end up working well into the evening, schedule some alone time for yourself daily
Unplug – turn off the tv, no social media, no phone calls
Rest – make sure you are getting enough sleep, establish a healthy bedtime routine
Visit – social distancing does not mean social isolation so connect with your friends and extended family through Facetime, Zoom, or other outlets
Invest – invest in your health (spiritual, mental/emotional, physical) through prayer and mediation, exercise, reading one of the many books stacked on your nightstand, learning a new language, starting a blog, cultivating your entrepreneurial pursuits
Vent – let it out, tough days are just that – tough, if you need to cry then cry then call a friend, just don’t get stuck there – get it out then move on
Evolve – uncertainty is the only sure thing in this pandemic so it’s critical that you remain steady yet flexible and able to weather changes as they come, evolution is an integral part of building resilience which is an individual’s ability to adapt and thrive in the face of stress