I was on a roll. I had this mat leave schedule figured out. I was feeding my creative side by pumping out one blog post a week and sharing regular nutrition/health/mom related content on the gram. I was really leaning into a routine, joining several group workout seshes a week with fellow mat leave-ers, and soaking up quiet moments at home with Austin while pouring into Ayla when she got home from daycare. I had it all!
And then COVID hit. A tragic and impossible-to-anticipate world-wide pandemic that I certainly hadn’t imagined experiencing in my lifetime. And, like it did for almost everyone, it derailed any version of normalcy and routine we had. Nearly overnight, we were all pushed into some super uncomfortable territory. All of our kids were home… all of the time. Many people were told to work from home and to avoid going anywhere or seeing anyone. Others were deemed essential and asked to potentially put themselves and their families at risk with a virus we knew little about, while carrying out duties that supported the rest of society.
Suddenly, my two year old was home full-time. It was an abrupt full stop on the daycare scene, picking Ayla up at 5 on a Friday and learning by 6:30 that their doors would be closed on Monday. I was forced to quickly navigate life at home with a newborn, as well as with a busy toddler. All parents were asked to keep their children entertained, happy and educated without leaving their homes or relying on the support of anyone else. Working parents were asked to do this while simultaneously keeping up with their full-time work schedules and figuring out a new way of getting this done from their, likely, non-existent office.
We’re in month three now, so I don’t need to go on about how unnatural these asks were. I don’t need to tell you that we were never meant to live this way and do it all. You know this. I know this. But we’ve all had to figure it out anyway. Because when there is no other choice, humans adapt and evolve. That’s how we’ve managed to survive on this planet for so long.
So, like everyone else, I pushed through the growing pains (and, oh, were there growing pains). I am not afraid to tell you that I was in a dark place for a few weeks, mostly mourning the loss of the cushy mat leave life I had been lucky enough to create for myself, but also dealing with the incredibly hard transition for Ayla, which presented itself through big, sporadic emotions for the first month (her’s… mostly). It was rough, to say the least. And needless to say, any kind of social media presence or blogging inspiration went directly out the window, along with any other “me” time. I was struggling to find much joy in my days. I barely had time to shower. I was too busy helping Ayla through this massive life pivot--one she was too young to understand--and also taking care of the laundry list of needs of my very young children. Like most parents, I was drained by the end of the day with nothing left to give anyone. I would go to bed at night dreading the groundhog day effect I was bound to wake up to the next morning.
As if this wasn’t enough, Ayla decided to drop her nap. I legitimately couldn’t believe it. She was a new two and no nap felt extremely unfair, given the circumstances. After about three weeks of fighting her on this and wondering what kind of sick joke the universe was trying to play on me, I moved on to acceptance which, as it turns out, is an easier place to live in than denial. I began creating yet another new routine for Ayla by implementing mandatory quiet time in her room. A girlfriend introduced me to a great iPad app where a moon turns to a sun when quiet time is over and we have worked our way up to 35 minutes of independent, quiet play time. She tells me through the monitor when the sun comes up and, for the most part, is pretty good at staying in her room and playing with her books and blocks until I come retrieve her (this was after a couple of weeks of knocking on the door every 10 minutes. Teaching her that we could communicate through the monitor was key. “It’s like walkie-talkies!” I told her). Edit: today she partially ate a crayon. So… it doesn’t always go so smoothly.
Like I said, we adapt. Very slowly, we started to fall into something that resembled a routine. And, as more time passed, I tweaked that routine so that eventually it resembled something that I even enjoyed for the most part. I made it to a place where the idea of sending Ayla back to daycare made me sad. Don’t get me wrong--it will happen eventually. But we are full-out besties right now, spending every minute of every day together, and I’m going to miss her when she heads back to her classroom with her friends and teachers that she’s missed so much (my poor little extrovert).
The other thing that helped is that we basically jumped from winter straight into summer over here. Sunny, warm days that invited more outdoor play and relaxation helped everyone’s mood and opened up a few more opportunities for activity (even though we’re still missing our parks). Warmer weather also meant longer days, helping me to have more energy after the kids had gone to bed, to do more things for myself, or at least for the family, that left me feeling accomplished. Getting outside for a solo walk or errand, or spending some time in the garden, all made me feel a little more human again and gave me a chance to regain some sanity after a busy day fulfilling the needs of my kids.
So, here we are, like everyone else who was asked to navigate these unchartered waters, three months deep and feeling like we’ve done not too badly. The thing about discomfort is that you will almost undoubtedly break through the other side a little bit stronger. That uncomfortable feeling is where the change lives. It’s where you do the work to emerge a better human than before. And for this, I am thankful. I also have a lot of gratitude for this unexpected time with Ayla. At first, I mourned the loss of the mat leave I had envisioned and had guilt around the attention I wasn’t able to give Austin. I think these were important emotions to acknowledge and work through, but eventually I was able to let it go. Although very hard, at first, to balance a newborn and busy two year old, I can say with confidence that I know and understand Ayla on a very deep level, something I never would have gotten without this amount of time together.
As difficult as some days have been, a lot of good has come from this strange, strange time in history. I am thankful for being pushed into a slower-paced and simpler way of living. It allowed me to stay present with my kids and not worry if something wasn’t getting “done” all of the time. Nowhere to go and no one to see meant agendas weren’t so important anymore. As more information becomes available, strict distancing guidelines lift and businesses begin to reopen, I am thankful for the joy that very simple activities bring me today. Things I wouldn’t have thought twice about a few months ago now make me so happy (coffee from a local cafe, a walk with a good friend, time alone to read a book--time alone to do anything, really).
So that’s us. Despite it all, we managed to push through the dark days and come out the other side a little bit stronger and pretty happy. With a new-found comfort and routine, I’m looking forward to getting a little bit more content out and rejoining the rest of society again (even if it’s just virtually or from a six foot distance).
Tell me: how are you doing?