This is some intense mothering. Like most of you, I haven’t left the house in weeks. The things I have learned in quarantine do help me recognize the good when those inevitable moments come when I’m feeling awful.
I haven’t mothered this intensely and non-stop since my three maternity leaves with babies who wouldn’t take a bottle. Even then, I got to sneak out once in awhile for a Target run or someone would stop by with dinner. Like most of you, we haven’t left the house in several weeks. With both myself and my husband in education, we are fortunate to be able to work from home and count our blessings. I’m torn between appreciating every minute and feeling like we are caught in some sort of science fiction movie.
Above all, this has definitely been a learning experience. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from sheltering in place with 2 teens and a 9 year old.
1) It’s really hard to keep teens off screens, especially when it’s their only connection to the outside world. We struggle here. Now that they have school assignments, most of those are on screens too, and team zoom meetings, and even talking to the grandparents. We do require some outdoor time every day, and help with chores, making their own lunch and often family dinner, and helping entertain their younger sister. That still leaves a heck of a lot of hours, which are being filled often with screens. I think one of the things I’ve learned is I just have to realize that’s the way it might be for awhile. Can you imagine sheltering in place without all of our current technology?
2) I have so many projects that have been put off since baby #1 sixteen years ago, that a year of quarantine would not be enough time to get them all done. So far we have tackled the basement and a few closets, but there is plenty that remains. I am trying to learn to pace myself. Working from home doesn’t leave as much time for grand cleaning and reorganizing as one might hope. Another thing I have learned is that we need to learn to not compare our productivity against others.
3) I don’t have enough leisure wear. Apparently I didn’t relax enough in my pre-COVID life as I own only one pair of sweatpants and a couple pairs of leggings. This has not been nearly enough for this new lifestyle. I may have to invest.
4) We are more introverted than I thought. The kids are missing their teams and practices, and their friends. But honestly, that part has not been as hard a transition as I thought. Maybe they were ready for a break? Maybe through technology, they are not feeling totally isolated. But I’ll tell you what – they are happy so far to be away from the social drama and pressures and the constant need to get together when really they just want to stay home and chill. You may still find them in their rooms, or playing cards with each other, months from now. They seem to have found their groove. I on the other hand, do miss my mom village, but something else I have learned is that we are finding ways to connect virtually, and that has been fun, and needed.
5) We eat A LOT of food. When we were “stocking up” before the Illinois shelter in place order, I spent several hundred dollars on food, thinking that would last at least a few weeks. Much of it was gone in the first week. Since then I’ve done Wal Mart pick-up, Instacart, Hy Vee pick up. With 5 of us to feed, 3x/day (wait, I mean 10x/day), the amount of food we’ve gone through is mind boggling. I miss free school lunch (never thought I’d say that). I mean, this week – we ate 12 bananas, 15 oranges, 2 big boxes of cereal, a dozen eggs, 10 yogurts and 2 loaves of bread in TWO days. WTH? Part of it is, we actually have time to eat – and cook. No one is rushing off to practice grabbing McDonalds on the way. We are making healthy meals, and eating as a family for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a few times in between. That I love.
6) We kind of like each other. I sort of already knew that, but liking each other in passing between school and practice and games is a lot different than liking each other 24 hours/day. I was a little surprised that the fighting and disagreements have really been at a minimum. But then I thought, maybe a lot of that came from the busy-ness, from only having a few minutes to connect each day. In this state of almost constant connectedness, we have started to appreciate each other in a different way. I hope this is a lesson that we will not soon forget, and make more time to connect as we can.
7) I am scared of technology. My kids are right. But I have learned to zoom, and google hangout, and facebook live! Turns out we can all do hard things when we need to. Another thing I have learned is that quarantine has definitely pushed my comfort zone.
8) Living under this kind of stress is not normal. There are moments, and even days, that are starting to feel almost normal. Then the news comes on. Or the kids ask if they can go get a drive-thru coffee and we’re hit with small decisions that become big. We wonder if it’s ok to get the mail. We watch a video from the kids’ teachers about how much they are missed, and sadness hits us out of the blue. One of the things we have learned is nothing about this is normal.
If the kids watch a little too much screens, or if you can’t get around to sorting out the basement, it’s okay. Living under this type of underlying stress and vigilance will impact everyone differently. Let’s try to breathe and look for the next silver lining or normal moment, and rejoice in those.
What have you learned so far?