Looking back at the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, as much as I was telling myself that everything was OK, I was dealing with my own internal panic:
- I can’t go to Trader Joe’s anymore because they don’t do Instacart. Eek.
- I am going to have to live with Instacart never getting my grocery order right. Eek!
- I am not going to get any work done because I will have to share my workday schedule’s blocks of free time to homeschool. Eek.
- My kids won’t have their normal Saturday activities and are going to become brain-dead from too much screen time and no social interaction. Eek.
- I will never have any space or time for ME. EEK!
- I am going to have to spend Mother’s Day with my family and not at the spa. Eek, eek, eek!
- I am not going to be able to hang out with my girlfriends because we really should be just hanging out outside (this was early in March/April). Eek.
- I like to work out online, and if I don’t work out I am not going to fit into my summer clothes. Eek, eek, eek.
- Summer camp is canceled and I still have to work full-time so they are probably going to have one of the worst summers ever (major mommy guilt). EEK.
I internalized my personal freak-out as to not add to the anxiety my friends were already experiencing (but definitely let my husband hear it a couple of times). In the absence of a full-on panic attack, these were the thoughts going through my head the first 45-60 days. There was no silver lining—just me holding on as tight as I could to “normal,” all while trying to help keep my family safe and healthy.
After a while, I unintentionally fell into a new groove—and one not marked by rushing home from school pick-up to do dinner and homework; one free from spending Saturdays running ragged trying to fit in grocery store shopping between kid activities. (Because yes, I am the mom who tries to fit in too much in an unreasonably small amount of time.) I slowly started to experience what I am calling my “pandemic slowdown”:
Sleep: I was not waking up for 5am workouts after too little sleep, and I was allowing myself to wind down and actually get in the bed at a decent hour.
Cleanliness: Something about a house out of sorts increases my stress level, so I became more consistent at doing a little every day to keep the house clean and neat, versus saving it all for Sunday afternoons and burning myself out. Not only did it bring my stress level down, but it actually allowed me to enjoy my home.
Hobbies: Typically, I used vacations as an excuse to dive into books. But with nowhere to go, I fell back in love with reading light, fun fiction. I also discovered adult coloring books (great for mindless relaxing!).
Exercise: Live Zoom classes are not that bad; they give me a sense of normalcy and something to look forward to in the absence of not yet being ready to go to the gym.
I have actually grown to enjoy this new normal. While I have never been a fan of working from home, I appreciate the absence of fussing with the kids to wake up and get dressed, and then rushing home from work and doing homework and cooking. I choose not to think about the brain cells that my children are annihilating every day with the exorbitant amount of screen time they are getting because, at the end of the day, they are not going to die from it. I have physically felt myself slowing down. And although my 7- and 9-year-old can’t articulate it, I know that they have felt the slowdown, too (in the absence of Mommy and Daddy fussing at them to move faster and hurry up).
Now, don’t get me wrong. While the slowdown has been awesome for my physical and mental health, I still grapple with my fair share of mommy guilt. My kids are literally screen zombies for a ridiculous amount of time each day. I still give my husband the occasional side-eye when I feel like he is not doing his fair share. Homeschooling while working is still like oil and water.
But at the end of the day, I feel blessed because when we do get back to normal (whatever that new normal will be), I know I am going to PAUSE and make sure that I am not just throwing my family back into the crazy tempo we once had. If there are any blessings from this pandemic, it will be me and my family slowing down and focusing a little bit more on what matters most. I hope that you are encouraged to do the same.