Mothering Through Turbulent Waters
The world as we know it has shifted and the uncertainty can be overwhelming at times. We are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is unprecedented in its effect on the entire globe. Quarantining. Isolation. Social Distancing—all of these have never been a reality before, and we are all learning a new normal as our lives shift drastically. Homeschooling and working from home are part of that new normal—and as my friend, Lauren says, “Mamahood through quarantine is next level,” and I couldn’t agree more.
Last Sunday I woke up with the feeling of utter panic as the reality of the magnitude of this pandemic started to sink in. Like many, I ran through the roller coaster of emotions from fear, paranoia, and anxiety to hope and optimism. I was home alone with my kids and did not know what to do with all of the emotions that I was feeling.
Parenting might be the only job where you can’t take a break when you need one.
At that moment, I wished I could just say, “Hang on, Guys, Mommy needs a time out to process the fact that our world is about to change in ways that you cannot even begin to fathom”—however, that timeout doesn’t exist and so we mamas have to keep on keeping on. We have to find that balance between modeling honesty and truth and shielding our children from paranoia and fear.
The humbling thing about children is they don’t care about external circumstances—they live in the present. Everyone was still hungry and still wanted their mommies to play with them. Their innocence and ability to live in the present are some of the greatest lessons that we can learn from our littles.
They give us hope in times of doubt.
They challenge us to remember what’s really important.
Re-discovering the value of family
This process has been very eye-opening and interesting so far. As we are in isolation, all we have is each other and the value of family has been made clear now more than ever. I have no idea where this experience will take us as a nation, a world, or a community—but I can say where it will take us as a family.
Our bond through this time has intensified as we are spending more time together than we ever have. Despite the chaos and stress and sadness, there are aspects of this time that I am truly grateful for. I have loved the opportunity to homeschool my kids—to work with them at their developmental level and to navigate this “new normal” to form a structure that supports everyone in our home. It is “next level” and definitely has its challenges, but I believe this time with my children is time that I will look back on fondly.
Yet I know that not everyone is having a positive experience right now for a variety of reasons, and this is one of those situations where two things exist at once. The turbulence is still there—the anxiety and the fear—the sadness and the worry–but also the gratitude and the joy exist as well. I learned from my friend Rose’s yoga class that the remedy to anxiety is joy and inspiration, and the remedy to fear is love and therefore, I have been trying to find the joy and inspiration and leaning into the love.
As my anxiety intensifies, I find ways to shift my energy by being present with my children–remembering what’s important, working on passion projects, connecting with others (in a safe and virtual, socially distanced way). When the fear gets real, I look at the little faces who are looking up to me and allow myself to feel the power of love.
AS HUMAN BEINGS, WE MAKE CHOICES EVERY DAY AND AS MOTHERS, WE HAVE TO REMEMBER THAT OUR CHOICES AFFECT MORE THAN JUST US.
Re-framing the current reality
When school closures were announced I was already feeling the panic of these times, but I made a conscious choice to frame the current reality as something positive. “We get to homeschool for the next few weeks, Mikayla!”
She responded to my enthusiasm with a matched elation, “Sounds like fun—does this mean we have to have a snack at the same time as we do at school?”
That was challenging for me as internally, I felt panic about our changing world, not seeing our extended family and deep sadness for all of those who have lost their lives so far. But externally I decided to lean into optimism for the sake of my children. And leaning into that optimism was actually a gift that I gave myself.
Times like these call into question how we want to show up for ourselves and as mothers, how we want to show up for our children. Two scenes from films about parenting through turbulent waters have always stuck with me. First of all, in The Pursuit of Happyness when Will Smith is homeless and living in a subway station with his son how he makes the experience into a game (about dinosaurs, I believe) and then in Life Is Beautiful when the father pretends that his time at the concentration camp is a game with his son. As I mentioned, our children give us the gift of innocence, and we can take some of their lightheartednesses to these grave situations for a mutually beneficial experience. They will not feel the gravity of the situation, and as a result, we may forget how grave it is as we are present with them in the “reality” that we create together.
Mothering through turbulent waters feels like another form of activism. We are the ones who help mold our children’s experiences. We are the filters that shape the lens through which they interact with the outside world. And we are the ones who can choose to meet our children where they are and learn from their innocence and ability to be with their feelings in the present moment.
As I write to you at the beginning of this crisis, not knowing the implications that it will have on our lives long term, I want to wish you the gift of being present with all of the feelings and the strength to continue the activism that it takes to parent through turbulent times. We are in this together—now more than ever—and I wish you all the best as you navigate these murky and unprecedented waters.