My biggest goal in life has been learning to speak my truth — out loud. And there are times I pretty much still suck at it.
My latest virtual book club was no exception. The conversation quickly went from thoughts about the book to moments of misery as a mother during quarantine. Everything from the struggles of homeschooling to the endless ways it takes to get a grocery delivery time slot were recounted.
Everyone was swapping tales of how hard this all is. And I know those struggles, because I live them too.
But in my head I said my secret prayer: “Don’t end yet. Please. I’m not ready.”
I remember so clearly the week before my family went into quarantine. I was driving to work and felt a familiar tightness in my chest. I had to force myself to breathe. I mentally went through how good my life was and I told myself there was no reason for this anxiety. I had a job I loved, a side business that was taking off, three healthy children, and a loving husband. When I needed help I had a support system of people who were always willing to lend a hand.
But the pain in my chest was there. And it came quite often.
Because I was busy. Always so damn busy.
Being busy led to guilt. When I crawled into bed at night, exhausted from a day that started at five o’clock in the morning, I felt a sadness that my children were going to grow up and I would never have felt like I had spent enough time with them. It seemed like vacations were the only time I slowed down and felt the presence of being with them. The thoughts would race through my head, wondering if I had spent enough time with them during the day. The answer always felt like no. When I got up in the morning to drive my daughter to daycare I would reach behind my seat, grab her foot and just hold onto it, trying to soak in as much as I could before we parted ways. I knew it had to change. I wanted it to change. But no matter how much I focused on paring things down, we were still busy.
For the past six weeks we have been home. And before I get to the magical glorious moments, I should be clear that it has been as real for me as it has been for everyone else. The yelling — to get off the Xbox, to clean up your breakfast, to leave me alone for five minutes — happens daily. And the news, well, that breaks my heart. So much so that I make my husband and sister filter it for me.
The moments we have had during quarantine have been so magical that I want more of them.
I’m not ready for it to end yet.
When my children want to tell me one more thing before bed, I let them. When they want to stay up late to watch a movie or play a game, we do. Family dinners? They happen every night. My kids help prepare them and clean them up. My oldest son and I take long walks around the neighborhood and just talk. He’s thirteen.
All my kids are learning how to be better cooks and how to care for our home. They have time to talk with our extended family on a consistent basis. They are finally seeing that family comes above all else. Although we’ve always preached that, we haven’t been practicing it. Homework, sports, commitments, they ruled our life.
And they ruled everyone’s life. I know this because I have been an elementary school teacher for 19 years. The basic life skills teachers have to incorporate would shock most people. It’s a drastic change from when I started teaching. We teach children how to have a conversation — because they’re not having them. We teach them how to write a story, because they aren’t being read to or hearing family stories. We teach problem solving because they don’t know how to persevere. Creativity is lacking because there is no boredom for children anymore — including my own.
And me. I was going to work everyday to a job I loved where I was surrounded by an amazing community of people. My husband pitched in every darn way he could. My family offered to help when I needed it. And still, I felt a loss in my life. There was always a craving for truer connection and a stronger sense of community. There never seemed to be enough time to really sit down and talk with the people I loved.
But lately things have felt so different. I have felt connected — to my own family and my neighborhood. I am present with my kids. I have noticed that my mind isn’t always rushing to thoughts of what I have to do next. I love that when we take a walk we see almost all our neighbors. It feels so different.
And things with my husband have changed. We bark at each other less (we still have three kids, two jobs, and a house to run). Quarantine date nights were just what our relationship needed. It’s easy to forget why you fell in love when you’re always busy. Last week we stayed up until two o’clock reliving every moment since we’ve met. The laughter and stories we shared made it a night I will never forget. Quality time can do wonders for a marriage.
But most of all, I feel like I can breathe.
How in the world could I say that out loud? Those ladies were miserable. People are sick and dying. I didn’t have the courage to say that I was glad to be stuck at home.
And once the conversation turned to summer camp, I knew I wasn’t saying a word.
All I could think of was my kids finally having a summer like I had growing up. Lazy days that are boring unless you find a way to fill them. To this day I think those summers made me the creative person I am today. Hours were spent daydreaming, reading, riding my bike, playing, and just being.
The exact type of summer we all need.
I just don’t think we are ready to go back to normal yet.
At least I’m not.