I am being consumed, not only by pandemic fatigue, but also by decision fatigue with no end in sight.
Earlier this week, I shared with my partner how tired I have been feeling recently, despite getting adequate sleep most nights and the slow down in our routine with COVID-19 restrictions in place.
I have been convinced that this fatigue must either be the coronavirus itself, or some other underlying disease that causes debilitating exhaustion. I wake up tired, and by the end of the night, my brain and my body are mush.
It didn't occur to me until recently, after reading an article on burnout, that the constant need to make decisions right now and the worry about whether or not those decisions are the right ones is causing a level of mental exhaustion I never knew existed.
I have never felt so tired trying to make decisions that I am not equipped to make. I am being consumed, not only by pandemic fatigue, but also by decision fatigue with no end in sight—and it is just too much.
Every day I find myself questioning every move I make.
Is it safe to go to the park? Are they wiping down the equipment? Do we wear masks if we are the only ones there? Will the bathrooms be open? Would we even use them anyway?
Long gone are the days that you could unload the kids and let them run around while you enjoy your coffee alone or possibly even send a text to a friend uninterrupted. I am now watching them like a hawk to ensure they don't touch their eyes after going down the slide or put their hands in their mouth, which let's be honest, is pretty much inevitable. Scratch the park.
What about play dates, are those okay? If the kids stay with the same group of kids, surely that eliminates the risk, right? But then how do I know if those kids are being exposed, do I ask their parents? Do they stay 6 feet apart during the play date? Do we have a set of rules that all the parents agree on for the play date?
And how will we know when it is safe to put the kids back in sports? Will they even have sports this year? Which sports are safe? How exactly does a mom of a 10-year-old boy with ADHD survive a summer without sports?
I miss the days when I worried about whether or not the 45 minutes of screen time I gave my toddler was educational enough, or if I packed the snack my son asked for before sending him off to camp.
As parents, we are still making the thousands of decisions we were already making before, but we have now been given the impossible task of having to carefully calculate each one of those decisions with little guidance (and conflicting information) as to how to do that.
And it's not just decisions that are causing cognitive overload. No longer can we run a quick errand, like a visit to the grocery store for coffee creamer or the one ingredient we are missing for dinner. A once simple task now requires a step-by-step plan of mask prepping and childcare coordinating to ensure we are limiting our family's risk of exposure.
And it seems each day we are given a new set of decisions to think about. The latest one that is hanging over me like a dark cloud is what we will do if our kids don't go back to school.
Will we still be able to work? Will our nanny still come? Will our kids fall behind? Will we actually survive another season of Zoom meetings and distance learning?
And then my husband and I get to play the fun game of whose career is more important and who is deemed the homeschooling parent.
Parenting during the age of the coronavirus is a completely new level of burnout and it is not only causing monumental levels of stress, it is also causing many of us to completely shut down. Because I don't know about you, but I don't want to make one more decision.
Experts say that we make approximately 35,000 decisions per day and that is on a "normal" day. Our daily lives now are far from normal so I can only imagine what that number is as a parent in the middle of a pandemic. And as a mom of six, with four kids under 10, I am accustomed to making tough decisions from their education choices to their sleepover requests; but what we are being tasked with now just isn't sustainable.
But we also know that the coronavirus isn't going away anytime soon, so how do we overcome decision fatigue?
One of the strategies that specialists recommend is eliminating some of the basic decisions you make throughout the day, such as your outfit and your food choices. By wearing the same clothes and preparing the same meals each day, it provides more brain power for more complicated decisions that need to be made. So go ahead and wear those yoga pants for the sixth day in a row without any guilt, mama.
Experts also recommend doing your best to make the good-enough decision or the "safe" decision when you just don't know what to do. Unfortunately, most decisions we have to make right now aren't going to be 100% risk-free, so rather than constantly going back and forth trying to weigh the risks, it might save you a lot of stress by simply deciding to stay home or taking the path of least resistance.
Decision fatigue is real and we are all experiencing it right now in this unprecedented time. Allow yourself to have your moments, mama. Take breaks throughout the day to check in on your mental health and remember that just showing up and doing your very best right now is more than enough.
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