Roles of a Pandemic Mom

Hello Bend!  As we work our way through our FOURTH week in self-isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our family is finally beginning to settle into our “new normal.” I, however, am still trying to find the right balance between all the extra job descriptions and responsibilities that have been bestowed upon me as a pandemic mom, stay-at-home primary caretaker, 3rd grade teacher, 6th grade teacher, chef, screen-time patroller, full-time-job working mom, Realtor, wife and friend.

Not only are parents working out a new “normal” with their families, careers, kids and childcare providers, but us moms have taken on a whole new identity crisis. No matter what our “normal” looked like before, navigating life in a pandemic is unprecedented. As we scramble to care for our families, our own identity and balance has shifted. I found myself on the verge of tears recently, when discussing the intricacies of our new schedules with my husband: “I think I’ve hit my peak, and I am now working hard to flatten the curve on the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on for the past few weeks.” Pardon the pun!

Despite these heightened emotions, I keep coming back to this idea that seems to bring me down to earth and that is this: my kids are old enough to remember this time. They are old enough to remember how we responded and reacted to our nation’s—our WORLD’s healthcare crisis. Add THAT to my new multi-faceted “Pandemic  Mom” job description: “Be Intentional About What My Kids Are Learning From This Pandemic.”

Below are my reflections as a woman navigating this experience so far:

I AM HEARTBROKEN…

I am heartbroken for those of you that are experiencing the absolute worst of this crisis—the loss of a loved one, becoming ill, losing work, wondering how you are going to pay the bills, not knowing where your next meal will come from. The fact that people are SUFFERING because of this crisis is overwhelming! I see you, you’re in my heart.

MY HEART GOES OUT TO…

My heart goes out to all of you who cancelled trips, plans, birthday parties, family reunions—it truly hurts to explain to your children that it isn’t safe to do the fun things we’ve been looking forward to. In the beginning, we had to come to terms with the fact that our Spring Break trip to Arizona was no longer happening. With so many unknowns, we hoped for a miraculous change of course that would allow us to hop on the airplane and continue with our itinerary that included Scottsdale, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon. As things began to escalate, we decided it would be socially irresponsible to travel and pulled the plug on the trip, as we didn’t want to contribute to the spread.

We have been called to make sacrifices for the greater good. Our children are faced with this same cause: they have an opportunity to learn that they are part of something larger than themselves. “They will learn that they matter and that we belong to each other and that sometimes in a divisive world we are called to come together and sacrifice for each other and that is what makes us great” – Glennon Doyle, Author, Wife, Mom. This is an incredible opportunity for growth, however it does not make it easy. For those of you experiencing the difficulty of navigating this crazy time with your kids, my heart goes out to you.

TO THE PARENTS THAT ARE IN ESSENTIAL ROLES…

To the parents that are in essential roles and are tirelessly working on the front lines to protect us, I salute you! Your commitment to the people in your community is inspiring. To those that are quarantined away from their families to keep them safe, I feel your pain and am in awe of your strength. To the mothers that are bringing new life into this world without the support of a partner next to the hospital bed, to those who are still needing childcare and are struggling to find it, to the single parents navigating this pandemic on your own: your love and multiple sacrifices are seen, heard, and changing the world.

TO THE CAREER MOM…

To the career mom who was thrust into a new limbo of continuing to work towards her professional goals while adapting to having the kids home full-time (and taking charge of their education): I see you. You’ve worked so hard to provide for your children. You’ve tirelessly sought to find balance in your work and home life. You’ve relied on your routines, schedules, and plans, just to have your entire world turned upside down at a moment’s notice.

As a Real Estate Broker, I have a fairly flexible schedule, which has allowed me in the past to create my own narrative surrounding how I approach my career, professional goals, and spending time with my family. All of a sudden, I’ve found myself hurriedly trying to design a new structure that includes school, screen time, physical activity, AND my work. All of this seems to be fluid, ever changing, and with no concrete “end” or “goal” in sight other than to make it through this as unscathed as possible.

TO THE HUSBANDS AND WIVES…

To the husbands and wives (and all partners) quarantined together and learning more about their relationships—I see you, I’m thinking of you. With close quarters, the kids home, and piloting new routines and work-from-home life, tensions can rise. A friend of mine who works from home pre-pandemic gave up her home office space to her husband. She said that although it was a tough decision, and has put a lot of stress on her, they mutually decided it was necessary for him to have the more rigid workspace. These decisions, role delegations, and tough “them or me?” questions can put a lot of strain on a relationship. Did you know that during this pandemic, domestic violence incidents have increased dramatically? To those of you keeping your chin up and working through this time with your partner, hang in there. You’ve got this.

TO THE MOMS STRUGGLING WITH MENTAL HEALTH…

To the moms struggling with mental health: I see you. There is no script for this. There is no easy one-size-fits-all solution to managing this situation. So many times, the encouragement can become discouraging: “I just need to stay positive”, “I just need to be thankful for what I have”. At a time where we’re all trying to find the light, it can become overwhelming. Instead, what if we change the narrative? “It makes so much sense that you’re struggling right now.” “There are so many unknowns and that can be scary.” “You’re allowed to feel like you’re falling apart. You’re allowed to be afraid.” “This is real, heartbreaking, and hard”. “Your feelings are valid, you’re human.” “You are not alone, I feel the same way”.

What we CAN do for ourselves right now?

WHAT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR?

My son is a 6th grader, and soon enough, he will naturally begin to gravitate more towards his friendships and social activities. This is my chance to spend quality time with him before he becomes a full-on teenager! I may never have another opportunity like this. I am trying to find unique ways to embrace this time with him. Since he had Foods class as an elective this semester, we are now doing cooking classes together at home. It is one of the highlights of my day!

HOW ARE YOU RESPONDING TO THIS CRISIS?

One of Drew’s assignments this week asked him to write about how his parents are responding to COVID-19—he first mentioned that he wanted to write about how stressed we are! HA! It reminded me to become more aware and intentional about my stress response—it doesn’t have to be all sunshine and daisies, but I can control my reaction!

ACCEPT THAT IT’S NOT A TIME FOR PERFECTION

Not from you, your husband, or the kids. If you burn the 3 loaves of banana bread you’re making for the 40th time this week, do NOT let it get to you. If the kids get an extra hour (or 5) of screen time, do not let yourself feel guilty. Similarly, let them be imperfect too. If they’re acting out or struggling, help them lean into their feelings, and be their support.

MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF:

IF IT brings you joy and peace: Take a long shower, Zoom with your girlfriends. Go for a walk or read a book. Call a friend, write a letter! Tell someone you love them. Lock yourself in your room with a pint of ice cream, splurge on your favorite bottle of wine. Challenge yourself to do AT LEAST one thing per day JUST for you.

Check out these resources I use when I need to keep the kids busy for a moment to myself:
  • Bend North Star Elementary School Virtual PE Classes – North Star Elementary School teacher Jenny White is creating mindfulness movement brain breaks and instructional exercise videos to keep kids active and engaged during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Virtual Museum Tour –  10 free museum tours making it as if you are there in real life!
  • Smithsonian Story Time – Immerse yourself in tales of presidents, artists, inventors, athletes, and more! Join us live on Facebook every Wednesday at 11 a.m. for storytime with a Portrait Gallery educator. Each week will focus on a new person. Children will learn more about familiar names and faces, plus they can get to know new people from U.S. history as they hear their stories! Select storytimes will be in Spanish. For children ages three and up and their families.
  • Smithsonian Animal Webcams – View these animals in their natural habitat at the National Zoo.  Exhibits include elephants, giant pandas, lions, cheetah cubs, and naked mole rats!
  • OMSI Virtual Science Pub – Find virtual experiences and fun activities!
  • Virtual Rides at Disney Parks  – Did you kids miss going to Disney Land during spring break? Fret no more; they can attend from their couch.
  • NASA Virtual Tours and Space Missions – Launch into space and visit NASA fantastic faculty!
  • Live webcam at the San Diego Zoo! – Looking to see a panda roll around and eat clearly! The San Diego Zoo has you covered.
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium – Want Shark week every week? View the whole aquarium!
  • Lego Land Virtual Tour! – Missing Lego Land? Bring it right to the living room.
  • Cooking Courses for Kids  – Want to take a break from cooking, have your kids start cooking simple recipes for you.
  • Music Fest – Have your kids learn all about music virtually!
  • Minecraft Education Edition – Build with friends in the classroom project that are challenging. Choose the subject that you like, Math, Reading Science, and many other subjects.
  • Dance Fit Virtual Dance Party – Times change weekly! Fun virtual dance party where kids can let all their energy out.
  • Jordan Kent Daily Workout Challenge – Workout with former NFL Football player from the Seattle SeaHawks and St.Louis Rams. Before that he was a football, track and basketball player at the University of Oregon.
  • Free Audiobooks Kids Books from Audible  – Have your kiddos get some reading and listen to free audiobooks
  • Learning and Educational Activities – From online drawing classes, Music Classes and performances to storytime and educational lessons you’ll find hundreds of scheduled time to keep your kiddos concentrated

We’re all in this together. We are moms…pandemic moms! Our roles are always changing. We are adapting and creating a space for our children to grow, and we grow with them in the process. We make our plans, set our goals, create our vision boards and then: LIFE HAPPENS. All of a sudden, with a slap in the face by a global pandemic, it reminds us that it’s not about what we’re building, it’s about WHO we’re building it with, and WHO we’re creating it for. Moms, “Perhaps in the waiting, we are not wasting time, but doing the hard work of finding new rhythms in a quieter, slower version of life” -Morgan Harper Nichols.

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