Stretched Thin and Exhausted: A Glimpse into life as a Pandemic Parent, Student and Business Owner
Today’s blog is going to be a bit different than you’re used to reading. It’s going to be personal. You’re going to get a glimpse into the struggles my family and I have been dealing with this week as well as an unfiltered view of life as a Wife, Mom, Business Owner and Student during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I have two beautiful children. They are my entire world. Olivia is 5. She’s strong-willed, but extremely sensitive (just like her Mom). She has memories of what life was like prior to the pandemic. She attended Virtual Junior Kindergarten in 2020/2021. There were no vaccines yet and since there are two immunocompromised people in our immediate family, we just couldn’t take the risk. This year, she started public school and while there was a huge adjustment period we worked through it and she flourished. Then her school was shut down because of an outbreak in December and is now shut down again as we enter our first (and hopefully last) provincial lockdown of 2022. Watching the tears fall down her face when she found out she wouldn’t be going back to school after Christmas was heartbreaking. My son, David, he’s three. He was just a year old when COVID hit. He has no memories or knowledge of the world prior to the pandemic. He has spent all his life at home. No play dates. No social interactions. Most of his extended family hasn’t even met him and if they have it was when he was a fresh infant. He’s never had a big family birthday party. Since he's spent his life at home that means he’s never been exposed to a simple cold or Influenza virus. Last year, I made the decision to return to school to further my education as a Digital Marketer. A huge decision for anyone to make, but I felt it was necessary so that I could offer my clients a more well-rounded selection of services as well as give myself the personal satisfaction of taking on a challenge and getting that diploma on my wall. It has not been easy. Between major family problems, me contracting COVID in April and being so sick I thought I was going to be part of statistics that no one wanted to be a part of, and dealing with everything else that a mom, wife, student and business owner could have to face…2021 was overwhelming to say the least. If someone would have told me that I would be a parent in a pandemic I would have laughed. Yet, here I am. We are in the ‘lucky’ group in the respects that my husband is considered an essential worker and has been able to remain working through the pandemic. My business and my college classes are virtual so I have been able to keep up with my work while taking care of everything else, but my plate just seems to be getting fuller and fuller and now the cracks are being held together with unicorn stickers and white glue.
The last few weeks have had my mind swimming with important decisions to make and there are so many questions surrounding each decision that I spend more hours a day than I care to admit on the floor of my bathroom, crying. Questions like who’s virtual school am I going to give the most attention? My daughter’s or mine? Will she actually be returning to school in two weeks? How are these continuous locks downs affecting her mentally, emotionally, socially, and educationally? How long can I continue to juggle the ever changing and challenging roles of Mom, student, teacher, homemaker, business owner, and wife before I completely crash?
A particularly hard situation for my family right now is should we pull David from daycare? It’s the first social exposure he’s had his entire life, but his immune system is weak from not being exposed to any cold or flu viruses so he’s contracting virus after virus and has been sick for almost three months. This means my three-year-old has had more COVID tests done than all of the adults in his life COMBINED. He’s scared of q-tips – I don’t blame him. He was so sick in November that our family doctor told us to keep him home and we had to pull him from daycare for the entire month of December. He’s been back a week and he’s already sick again.
The hardest part about it all is that there’s so many things to consider when making any decision these days, but it doesn’t matter what option you chose they’re all shitty.
On top of all these questions, stresses and worries that all pandemic parents and caregivers face, I have daily struggles of my own to contend with as I suffer with a handful of mental illnesses that make ‘regular’ life difficult let alone the extra complications and responsibilities that are associated with the ups and downs of pandemic life. It’s become a social norm to be stretched thin by the expectations there are for everyone to maintain relationships (virtually), run your business (virtually), stay healthy (virtually), keep your kids educated (virtually), stay home and stay safe but also go to work and pay your bills (virtually). I don’t know about you, but I’m tired. Only this kind of tired can’t be fixed with sleeping in on Saturday or taking a nap. My soul…my entire being…is exhausted. So what do we do? The answer is…I have no idea. Will these lockdowns end? I don’t know. Will there a be a day where we don’t have to wear masks or be scared of sneezes? I don’t know. Will our kids come out of this pandemic with traumas or deficiencies that will affect the rest of their lives? I don’t know. I don’t know anymore than anyone else does and frankly the ‘experts’ don’t know either. You want to know what I do know? We have each other. While it definitely feels like we are sitting, terrified, in our boat by ourselves, being thrown around in waves that come so close to causing our boat to capsize that we are almost wishing it would just happen and get it over with…we are not alone in the storm. This week, I challenge every one of you to reach out. Reach out to a friend, or family member, a member of your community, a coworker, a neighbor or a classmate. Just reach out. Start the conversation with “how are you really doing”? Have that virtual coffee you’ve been putting off. Just reach out.
I challenge you to take care of you. Rest. Put your phone down (unless it’s to follow the first challenge), take a social media break, go for a walk, make your favorite meal, have some quality time with Ben & Jerry and Netflix. Do something good for you. I challenge you to say ‘No’ to virtual school for a day (or two) and instead opt for spending time with your kids teaching them life skills like baking or cooking, and how to ‘self care’. Lord knows most of us were never taught how to self-care and look at where we are? So let’s teach our kids. Feed your hungry soul with love, self-care and friendship. That is what we need right now. Set aside just one day to take on the challenges I gave you and I can guarantee that the hopeless feeling that sits in the pit of your stomach will ease. As always, I want to remind you that I’m here for you. Whether it’s business or personal – I want to hear from you. So reach out. I’m right here. Hugs, Cali