It's morning. The sun barely leaks through the blinds as I wake up suddenly, my sixth sense alerting me to one or more of my children silently staring at me. The strength of their hungry gaze accompanied by sleepy eyes and wild hair has a power that I never fail to succumb to, no matter how deep my sleep. "Mommy, the sun is up. I'm hungry." The day has begun. It wasn't always this way. Months ago, I would have awoken to my alarm going off before the sun rose and immediately started scrambling for the inevitable relay race my husband and I performed every morning—sharing the parental baton of responsibilities including breakfast, backpacks and bemoaning of toddlers. However, as COVID-19 has created an upheaval in all of our lives, our days and schedules have changed dramatically and changes were forced to be made. Right before the wake of the virus, I had taken a part-time job after working full-time, which allowed me the flexibility to work at home while also financially supporting my kids to still attend school in the morning. A balance had been achieved as I managed my responsibilities and career, and was available for all the things toddler motherhood demanded of me. Despite the swirl of drop-offs and pick-ups and everything in-between, our family had achieved a state that was predictable and manageable.
A particular moment of unexpected joy also came shortly after discovering I was surprisingly pregnant with a rainbow baby—it felt like a pure gift. The news was a catalyst for change once again as our family began preparing for another new normal. I relished in the idea of holding another infant, especially after my miscarriage that had devastated me. And then March happened. Uncertainty clung to the air as our climate slowly changed. Schools closed, work became strictly remote, and we were all forced to adapt. Socialization outside of our home was non-existent and I suddenly had four little eyes looking up at me while I worked, demanding snacks, attention, security and routine. Everything in the outside world had shifted, but my personal and work demands had remained the same, if not grown, with any sense of boundaries evaporating right before my eyes. My husband's long days made me C.O.O. of our house, struggling to meet deadlines and remain available for my team—both professional and petite. The early stages of pregnancy left me with little energy beyond doing my best to give hugs and participate in Zoom meetings, usually leaving me a few spare moments to vomit or nap when needed. Screen time limits for the kids went out the window. Attending all of my prenatal appointments and ultrasounds alone post-miscarriage was also emotionally draining, and balance simply went down the drain. And then came April, then May, and with little reprieve in my life, I began to break down alongside the maniacal monotony. It does not escape me that my family was lucky to not have faced much worse as so many others did during the pandemic. We both had incomes, food on our table, and a roof over our heads—my gratitude for all of this during the wake of so much chaos runs deep. However, the mental and physical load I was carrying could no longer be lifted. Something needed to change before my headspace continued to grow darker. The only malleable movement to be had? My job had to go. With no clear end on the horizon, I had to make a decision that I feel like I'm not alone in making during this pandemic. After crunching the numbers, we realized we were lucky to be financially safe if I lost my job, however simple we may have to live for the foreseeable future and sticking to strict budgets. I always enjoyed working, but we needed my husband's job to eat and live in our house. We needed me to stop crying every night. We needed me to have the mental capacity to care for our children who were also spinning in a world full of masks, hand sanitizer and uncertainty. I had asked for help while drowning and was lucky enough to be pulled out of the water. So I quit. Although I long for the professional stimulation and social outlet and struggled with feeling like a bit of a failure for not being able to "do it all," the first morning I was able to worry more about making breakfast than scrambling to sign on for a Zoom meeting made the decision worth it. During these unprecedented times, my children have become powerful teachers for me. Undaunted and blissfully unaware of the high expectations I had set for myself to be their mama, I've realized all they truly needed from me wasn't another snack or another movie, but my time and my arms firmly wrapped around them.