I’ll never forget the day. It was March 13 around 4:30 pm. As the world was shuttering in response to COVID-19, the email announcement came that my daughter’s day care would close. It was supposed to only be for two weeks, but it ended up being more like 12.
The panic and dread immediately set in and I defaulted to my usual approach to problems. I set out with my husband to plan for all of us being home in our 1,200 square-foot apartment trying to make arrangements that would accommodate both our demanding work schedules and my toddler’s short attention span.
On paper, my plan was strong. I would wake up early and start work while my husband took care of our daughter. Around midday, we’d switch and I would pick up the rest of my work hours while my daughter napped. What I realized very quickly (and likely already knew) was that toddlers are unpredictable and don’t conform to schedules – even during a pandemic.
The anxiety and stress I felt rushing to finish my work to relieve my husband so he could start his was overwhelming. Everyone always talked about it taking a village and ours (consisting of day care and family) had been taken away overnight. I was constantly worried about my child interrupting one of the many Zoom calls I had. I had always maintained a very professional appearance and tried never to let my work impact by mothering or my mothering impact my work.
But everything collided a couple of weeks in when I was already feeling the added stress of the shutdown extension. I was on a Zoom video call with all men when my daughter decided it was time for a meltdown of epic proportions. Moms know what I’m talking about—it’s the kind of meltdown that involves screaming and thrashing. No amount of reasoning or pleading will help. It’s the sort of tantrum when your child only wants you and nothing else will do.
I had to mute myself on the call and turn off my camera. At the end of it, my shirt was off so my daughter could nurse, she needed a new diaper, and both of us were crying. I felt so defeated and small. Even though my video camera was off, I felt like everyone was looking at me like a failed mom with an uncontrollable child.
That day was certainly a low point and a struggle, but it was also a turning point. After much sulking, I realized being a working mom is hard. Being a stay-at-home mom is hard. Being both at the same is the hardest.
By no means were my daughter and I glowing examples every day, but we were getting through it. Some days ran smoothly, and others ended up with one of us half-dressed, but we made it work. I found power in facing these new challenges and finding a way through, however difficult they sometimes were.
Our children are always teaching us in ways we don’t necessarily immediately realize or appreciate. During that meltdown call, it was like everything was working against me. Little did I know it was exactly what I needed.
It was a reminder that as moms, we are stronger and more resilient than we know.
It was a reminder that there were probably many other parents experiencing some version of that experience.
It was a reminder that we all need to be compassionate with ourselves and each other.
I decided to always tell people on my calls and video chats that they should not worry about any interruptions from children. I don’t go into detail, but I tell co-workers that I completely understand the challenges of the new normal.
I have my daughter to thank for this new perspective. It’s certainly eased my mind and I hope it’s helped others as well.