Like mothers all over the world, I'm currently homeschooling my kids and have been for two weeks ever since our governor announced a "shelter in place" for our state, closing schools as a result. I've run through the gamut of emotions we likely all have while in quarantined-grief: shock, stress, worry, fear, anxiety, anger, acceptance and love.
Three weeks ago, a video of my 6-year-old son doing a tutorial of how to wash your hands went viral, which feels like a lifetime ago. Both of my sons were still in school and most of us parents hoped with a little extra precaution we could keep them safe. But of course, that was before.
My first week in this new altered reality of life turned upside down felt like a bad dream. I was exhausted by the pressure of homeschooling and trying to keep my house in order, all while also trying to make this experience somehow fun for the kids. I felt lucky to have a partner at home who has always been helpful, but I was still mindful of the fact that he had his own pressures going on with making sure his home office was running smoothly.
I was functioning in a constant state of worry as I tried to accept this new normal that wasn't normal at all. My new not normal role was that of: hybrid mom/teacher. I was running around my house frantically trying to print pages and pages of lesson plans and worksheets with a loop of the news playing in the background while setting up Zoom calls with speech and behavioral therapists.
As organized as our "homeschool" was, I had to reference the lesson plan about 25 times to see what was next. I had 15 passwords to remember and six websites I kept having to log in and out of for reading, math and science. Not to mention the electives, which we had barely been getting around to doing—music, art and Spanish. All the while, I also had to prepare three meals a day, clean the house and try to get some semblance of my own work done with two kids who would log off of their schoolwork to play Minecraft any chance they got.
It was pretty clear to me after that first week of forced-homeschooling—I was not meant to be a teacher.
It was also clear that the stress was too much to bear. I was consistently asking myself: Will we be okay? Will our loved ones and friends be okay? Will we be able to flatten the curve? Will the economy be okay? Will people who have lost their jobs be okay? Will the people who don't have enough food to eat go hungry? Will our children be okay? What effect will this have on them?
It was all too much.
I ended up making a few video diaries highlighting some of these moments which were then featured in a segment on Good Morning America. The response was overwhelming, as the experience is shared by so many of us. I had parents reach out to me saying they felt heard and seen. It helped me more fully realize the magnitude and power of sharing our collective struggles—especially while in isolation. We are all on this roller coaster together.
Week two has felt a little better, the schedule has been more consistent but most importantly, I have taken a lot of the pressure off of myself. I'm trying to enjoy the moments that are beautiful—because there is so much to be grateful for. While still overwhelmed, I have ditched some of the lesson plans and decided if we get through two or three subjects a day, we've won.
I am trying to focus on the fact that my kids are home and safe and that's all that matters. We laugh and play, take long walks and cuddle, bake and clean together. We have had dance parties and movie marathons. We talk about how we are a part of history that will be studied by our children's children and their grandchildren. We discuss how healthcare workers are superheroes who leave their capes at home during the day to put on scrubs.
Looking into my children's innocent and soulful eyes reminds me of our collective resilience. They somehow know and trust it will all be okay, and that gives me the strength and power to feel it too. I'm also inspired by the mamas out there who are struggling right alongside me, knowing we are in this together.
I know there are many people who have it harder than me, and I'm sure there are also many who have it easier than me, too. I think it's important to remember to have empathy for everyone as we are all going to—and are allowed to—feel a conflicting sense of overwhelming grief and gratitude during this intense experience.
What we are being asked to do is nearly impossible. Continue to show yourself grace and compassion, and know you're not alone.