One year ago I was in my final spring semester of school. I was taking 15 credits, working as a part-time manager of a chocolate shop, and volunteering as an events coordinator on the UVU interfaith council. I was also taking a seminary teacher training class weekly, and on top of all of that, and church callings, I was pregnant and sick.
The morning of my commencement ceremony I couldn’t stop throwing up in shower. I was running late and barely made it in time to walk. That whole experience felt fitting of how my life was going at the time. Running myself ragged, but getting by.
I took three classes in the summer to finish up my degree, the last one ended in August. Two weeks after my diploma came in the mail, and I had put in my two weeks at work, I had my son. It had been a year of constant rushing and stress, and trying to push myself while meeting the expectations of others, it was the hardest period of my life so far.
In the months to follow, once things began to normalize, I realized after so long of juggling so many responsibilities, I now had only one: keeping my new baby alive. On further thought, I had another, without which I could not accomplish the first, and that was foremost taking care of myself.
I’ve been thinking about how there are several parallels to the advice I have regarding this “new normal” we are in as we try to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and what I wish had known as a new mother. I wrote this in my journal of January 29th, and I’m surprised how fitting it is in our current crisis.
“There’s so much I wish I could go back and say to my newly minted postpartum self, and the main thing would be this: go slow, be patient with yourself. These days, though seemingly endless are fleeting and will pass quickly. Also, don’t worry about what others think about how you are spending your time, productivity does not equate worth.”
Just weeks before stores began closing and events cancelled, our active, social lives changing dramatically; my husband came home from work and sat down and inquired on my day. I burst into tears with the words, “I am so lonely.”
At first as steps were being made regarding Coronavirus, and many school, work and social interactions all moved online, I thought, “well nothing is really changing for me, I shouldn’t be that sad about this, I’m not very affected.” But that was the sad part about it! As others shared how hard it was for them to be stuck inside, and not have things back to normal, I felt validated: “this is how I’ve felt for months.”
This realization has brought a lot of clarity for me. I missed school, I missed working, I missed the social and creative interaction of completing a project or planning an event. My career and personal goals were put on pause to have my baby and to be his primary caregiver.
It was okay to mourn those things as they are not able to happen in the immediate present, just as it’s healthy and human to mourn the current changes in our society.
It’s okay to wonder when the sleepless and tearfilled nights with a little one will end, just as it is to ask about our health crisis, “how long is this going to go on?”
Parenthood is hard, sometimes it feels crushingly hard. That doesn’t mean you’re not doing your best or love your kids any less! My heart goes especially out to those with multiple kids at home, trying to figure out various school schedules, work routines, and making time for yourself.
I came up with three things that have helped me to navigate both being a stay-at-home parent and the current quarantine era that I thought I would share:
Go outside. I know this isn’t possible for everyone depending on location. But spending time in the sunshine has worked wonders for me. Taking my son on a walk to the park, passing neighbors on their patios, enjoying the spring blossoms as they start to emerge, all of these things have helped me conquer my own anxieties, get out of my head and my house, and feel normal.
Create. Having a creative project or outlet is an amazing way to channel pent up energy to something beautiful, useful, or fun. I decided to do a weekly virtual “pasta night” on my Instagram to share a recipe or pasta tips as a way to reach out to others and have something to look forward to.
Connection. What would we do without technology right now? Connection comes in many forms: marco polos from friends, pictures sent of my baby to his grandmas, a virtual counseling session, concert, or movie night. All of these things can help us to feel like we’re together with loved ones even when we need to be apart. Don’t be afraid to open up to a close confidant about how you’re really doing. We all need support systems, now more than ever.
There’s so much to look forward to in the future, but there’s also added pressure with all the uncertainty. We don’t have all the outlets available to relieve that pressure as we did before. Something that I remind myself of, as a mother, and I’m reminding myself at this time, is that if I want my son to be patient and kind and to see the best in himself, then I want him to see that in me.
I’m so grateful to Sarai for sharing her story and sage words of advice. She is a dear friend and a beautiful person inside and out. If you would like to learn how to make all things pasta, follow along on Sarai’s instastories on Thursdays!
It can be so easy to focus on the loneliness of our walks in life and it gives me so much hope to know that as mamas we are all in this together.
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