Have you ever been an athlete or had an exercise routine? Maybe you headed to a bootcamp before work every day or ran three miles a couple times a week. Have you ever then had that routine halted for an extended period? Perhaps it was for a sprained ankle that took six weeks’ rest to repair. Perhaps closer to home is a nine-month hiatus due to motherhood.
Either way, coming back is always the hardest—not only is it physically taxing, it’s also emotionally frustrating. Whereas before you could run a mile without breaking a sweat, in your return, you now struggle to reach the end of the street. You used to squat for 60 seconds straight and now your legs feel limp after squat number two, or you struggle with the three-pound weights whereas you once curled ten pounds with ease.
That’s motherhood during the coronavirus—for me anyway. Knowing what your capabilities were and feeling frustrated that no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to get back there.
But coronavirus has changed me, and my parenting capabilities.
A freelance writer for a nationwide corporation and several local publications, over the past month I have lost every single job one-by-one (an unfamiliar experience, having held a job every day since I was 16). My husband is now home every day, a temporarily unemployed contract worker, and so is my daughter, her daycare having shuttered indefinitely. We miss our village, our playdates with our neighbor, my best friend who has a son the same age. They were our saving grace on chaotic days when we needed support. We lost our playgrounds, our places to adventure, our daycare teachers who provided discipline and additional creative outlets.
It’s stressful. I love my child, but I was never built to be a stay-at-home mom 24/7. Even my friends who have loved the SAHM role are at their wits’ end. I’m impatient. I’m terrified. I’m protective. I’m human.
But what cuts the most is that I know what a good mom I used to be. I know those miles I could run and those squats I could do with ease. But now here I am, struggling to get through breakfast without crying or screaming or dreading what to do for the next few hours until lunch and then nap, and then…
In the beginning of quarantine, I hit it out of the park as a mom. I rallied our neighborhood to partake in a scavenger hunt. They placed items in their yards, like a purple turtle statue or a globe, and I created a map for neighborhood children to find them. It warmed my heart seeing families up and down the sidewalks with their maps. We painted pictures for Nana and Pop-pop and had impromptu Easter egg hunts. Simultaneously, I worked two jobs. I was a rock star.
Today, 30+ days later, we’re on hour two of Daniel Tiger because it’s the best I can do as I send out résumés and figure out what bills we can defer or what we can cobble together for dinner. I tried to get my toddler to eat yogurt—the snack she loves—but a 12-minute meltdown about how she suddenly no longer likes the taste has caused me to cave and give her the box of Cheez-Its.
And I struggle. I know this is temporary, but I want her to eat healthier, to have more constructive and educational play, because I know I’m a better mother than this. I fight myself, then forgive myself, then beat myself up.
Yesterday my husband showed me a post on Instagram—I wish I knew who it was by to give them credit—but it read: “You’re only unproductive by the standards of the world we lived in two months ago.”
That is not your world today.
There are no truer words—even if today’s world is only temporary. We are all doing our best, even if it’s the worst we’ve felt. Even if by our past standards it feels weaker. Are you still getting up out of bed every day and moving forward? Is your child being nourished and laughing? Are you showing them, or telling them, how much they are loved?
Maybe today you’re not making homemade applesauce or creating sensory bins with the rice in your pantry. Maybe for the first time ever you’re not contributing financially, which is 100% out of your control (forgive yourself if this is you). Maybe it’s been weeks since you wooed your partner with bold red lipstick and cutesy outfits. But doing at least one bicep curl today with the can of beans in your hands is still strength. Giving your child one big hug, kicking a ball on your front lawn or providing them an apple today, even if they don’t eat it, is still strength.
Don’t measure your best by any other standards than what you can achieve today. You’re still a Rockstar, Mama, and eventually the band will get back together.