As I lay in Shavasana listening to the calming voice of my yoga teacher quietly say, "deep breath in, deep breath out," I can feel my heartbeat slow down and my body melt into the mat as I complete my afternoon class. Suddenly, vibrations on my wrist jolted me out of my relaxation moment. I see a text message on my Apple from my daughter's preschool, informing me when school lets out that afternoon, it will be closed for the next two weeks.
The date was March 12, 2020, and the preschool was shutting down because of the Coronavirus. Their plan was to reopen in 14 days. I picked up my daughter from preschool, got my older one off the school bus, and headed home. I turned the television on to our local news station and watched our governor speak, making the announcement that all schools needed to shut down because the virus was rapidly spreading.
If someone told me then that one year later, I would still be facilitating virtual school, living in a bubble and trying to work with both my five-year-old and six-year-old home with me full time, I would have laughed out loud. That was never a possibility in my mind, considering at the time it felt daunting to get through two weeks of no school.
Yet here we are, one year later, parenting in a pandemic. I wish I could say I had any idea what this last year was going to look like in terms of my parenting style, but that would be a lie. What I can say is I exceeded a lot of my expectations in terms of staying sane and much of what I believed one year ago no longer rings true today. So, without further ado, here are eight lies I believed about what it would be like parenting during a pandemic.
I believed schools would only be closed for two weeks
Clearly, this was not the situation. Schools across the country were closed for the remainder of the 2020 school year and many, including my first-grader daughter's, are still closed. And many of those that are open operate with a hybrid model. Last year, I was nervous thinking about how I was going to entertain my kids for two full weeks…who knew?!
I believed I would be ready to send my kids back to school when it became a possibility
When I found out schools would be closed indefinitely, I felt overwhelmed, anxious and stressed. Considering that reaction, I figured my kids would go back to school as soon as it was a possibility. But when it came down to schools actually reopening, I was shocked at how upset I felt and realized I wasn't ready to send them back into the world. I'm still not ready. I'm worried and scared and opted to keep them home for a bit longer. After nearly a year of pandemic parenting, I've gotten into a routine and a level of comfort I wasn't anticipating. I'm struggling with the thought of re-emerging into our new sense of normalcy—an emotion I was unprepared to feel.
I believed we would stick to a schedule
Monday, March 16, 2020, was our first day of "homeschooling." On that day, my daughters and I made one of those color-coded, hour-by-hour schedules parents all over the country posted on Instagram. Our playroom became our schoolhouse, with an art station, a library station, and a writing station. We taped the schedule on the wall next to our work table and followed it for that day. And only that day.
I believed I would get dressed every day
Three weeks into our stay-at-home order, I decided I was going to dress how I wanted to feel. I showered, blow-dried and curled my hair, picked out my jewelry and put on my cute, comfy tie-dyed jumpsuit. In October, I wore jeans. But now, my getting dressed consists of changing out of my nighttime matching jogger sweat outfit into my daytime matching jogger sweat outfit, which many times happens around lunchtime. We don't stay in our pajamas all day, but calling it getting dressed is a stretch.
I believed my husband's schedule would drastically change
My schedule drastically changed as a result of the pandemic. I went from having my kids in school to being a mom, 24/7. I thought the same would happen with my husband—that his work schedule would shift to take into consideration our new parenting responsibilities. At the beginning of the pandemic, that happened, and he worked remotely. But as the months went on, his schedule slowly went back to what it was pre-pandemic, 10-to-12-hour days in the office. He is home for dinner and bedtime and helps around the house, so I can't complain. But I thought his flexibility would last throughout the duration of our pandemic parenting experience.
I believed my kids wouldn't learn anything
I'm not a teacher. Teachers get years of training before going into a classroom and I have none of that. Therefore, I had no idea how my kids were going to learn during this time. When the pandemic started, my older daughter (6) was just learning to read, and my younger daughter (5) couldn't recognize numbers or letters. Now, my older daughter is reading chapter books and my younger daughter knows all her letters, letter sounds and numbers.
I believed we wouldn't have fun
I couldn't wrap my head around how we were going to have any fun during this time. I felt stuck and paralyzed. In retrospect, this year has been filled with laughter, love and quality family time we wouldn't have gotten otherwise. For months, we had lunch and dinner as a family. Now, we do puzzles, play outside, watch TV shows, play games and enjoy the company of our pandemic bubble, which includes a few friends and family members.
I believed my feelings were unique
Over the past year, I've had all the feelings. I've felt sad then happy, anxious then relaxed, stressed then calm, scared then confident, angry then grateful. I feel like I'm on an emotional rollercoaster. I believed I was alone in this until I started talking about it and realized, all of us, parenting in a pandemic, have all the feels. And with each new day, comes new sets of feelings.