When I was young stay at home mom, I was happy. SO happy. A lot of the time, at least. I loved to read my babies stories, and teach them shapes and colors, and sing songs and play Memory and all of that fun stuff.
But when babies and toddlers and preschoolers demand things of you pretty much all day, every day, it gets lonely. I had wonderful parents and in-laws who were SO helpful, but my husband traveled a lot so I craved adult interaction and sometimes only got it at the grocery store by talking to checkers and baggers (Seriously, we would pull up in the parking lot and my kids would say “Do you have to talk to EVERYONE in here for a long time??). By the end of of most days, I would be so exhausted from picking up toys and making PBJs and wiping up spills that I’d be yelling at them five times in a row to brush their teeth and get to bed…..just…..go….to….bed!! I’d feel guilty when I fell into bed because I loved them so much and knew how lucky I was to spend my days with them, but I often looked forward to easier days. I wanted my kids to be more self sufficient so I could watch MY shows in the evenings and make playdates with MY friends so I could talk about grown-up stuff.
And in the blink of an eye, easier years were here — sort of. My two oldest boys, Isaac and Alex, could eventually make their own PBJs but were so into sports that they had some kind of game or practice almost every day of the summer and every night of the school year. My daughter Anna, 5 years younger than Alex, was dragged along to every activity her brothers had, and our family togetherness consisted of a discussion around the table when we got home– often while eating Taco Bell at 9 p.m. I was happy when we were together, but poor Anna would request a family board game after a long day at the field and we were all like “No…way…” as we all ran to shower and get into comfy clothes and crash.
Before I knew it, Isaac got his license, and things got even easier for me. On most nights he was busy with friends or his girlfriend, but he could drive Alex to practice or a friend’s or wherever 14 year olds “need” to be — leaving me some extra time to hang at home. But by then Anna was always asking when she could have a friend over — and she rolled her eyes if I said “I’m here…I’ll play with you!” Yes, I was finally at the point of watching my own shows and being able to go out with my friends on weekends, but I was also almost at the point of wishing so badly that I wouldn’t have rushed the younger years. I knew Isaac would be choosing a college soon, and Alex would be driving, and Anna…well how long would it be until she wanted nothing to do with me?
Then three weeks ago, everything came to a screeching halt and changed. I rarely tune into the news because I don’t like to know about bad things (I know…I’ve been told by several folks to open my eyes but it’s the way I’ve chosen to live….que sera sera). I had been subbing in our school district during gaps in my freelance assignments, and I remember showing a CNN video to 5th graders in February about some deadly Coronavirus sweeping across China (honestly as a sub, I didn’t pay much attention since it was the easy part of class where I could sit back and breathe). But then one day last month, I received an email stating that my kids would be learning from home starting the next week because that same scary virus was now in our country. I honestly didn’t realize at the time that we were heading into the STRANGEST, most emotionally conflicting time I’ve ever experienced.
When we started school at home, the boys were kind of excited that they wouldn’t have to get up early to make first hour, but then sad when they realized there would be no high school baseball or prom. Anna was happy to be on the couch watching TV on a weekday morning, but then bummed when she realized we wouldn’t be socializing with anyone outside of our home. But as days went by and there was nothing else to do, we all settled into a new normal. The kids started coming out of their rooms for snacks (SO many snacks), and we chatted in the kitchen as they ate them. Throughout the day, they’d head outside to shoot hoops and even included Anna (which she was thrilled about!). Now in the evenings after their dad gets home, we all have dinner together (I’m even cooking a few edible things) and we play board games around the table that we haven’t played in years. Tonight, we spent hours in the backyard, and none of us even looked at our phones. With nowhere else to be, we’ve slid into a routine of enjoying our down time together, and I feel as if I’m getting back the time that I once wished away.
But as blessed as I am to have my family safe at home, I go to bed each night sad and terrified for others. I feel awful for employees who aren’t making a paycheck right now. I’m afraid for my parents who might get sick — and I hate that I can’t hug them just in case I’m sick. I’m afraid for my husband who is more at risk because of his Diabetes. I’m afraid for my friends who work in health care and are exposing themselves to this virus to save lives. And I’m afraid for the checkers and baggers whom I relied on for social interaction during my early years as a mom — who are now sacrificing everything so I can feed my family.
I don’t know what to do with all of these mixed emotions. I’m having the same kind of guilt that I had when I’d fall into bed at night so many years ago — when I loved my babies so much but also wanted time to move forward. As I continue to make the best of these uncertain days and cherish each new memory with my kids, all I can do is pray. For strength for those on the front lines, for relief for all those suffering, and that these days — no matter how nice they are for some of us — will come to an end very, very soon.