I’m Really Freaking Tired Of Being The Family Pandemic Decision Maker

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
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In so many ways, I’ve been one of the lucky ones during the pandemic. As far as I know, our family did not catch COVID-19, and although I know people who got very sick with COVID, no one close to me died from it. Neither my husband nor I lost our jobs, and our kids’ mental health stayed intact despite being strictly locked down for the first year of the pandemic.

When it came to navigating the pandemic as a working parent, I had a partner who stepped up to the plate big time. Not only did he equally help our children with the shit show of online school while we were both working from home when COVID first hit, but he took a leave of absence from work for the 2020-2021 school year so that he could help our kids with online learning (which ended up turning into full-time homeschooling for our little guy).

While home, my husband took on more household responsibilities than usual, without complaint, and without too much instruction. I mean, he’s pretty much a saint.

And yet.

He has not nearly shouldered the emotional or mental load of the pandemic like I have, nor has he taken an active role in pandemic family decision making. I don’t fault him, really. Getting all bent out of shape about things he can’t control (like, ummm, a global pandemic) is just not in his nature. When it comes to making important safety decisions for our kids, I’ve just always been the one to do it. Plus, he knows I would override any decision he might make if I felt it was that important.

So I get it. And I don’t blame him. But it’s a lot.

Let me paint a picture for you. I have pretty much made all the decisions about how much socializing we’ve done during the pandemic, and in what way. When the world started to open up in the summer of 2020, I decided that visiting our relatives outdoors with masks was the only option, because no one was vaccinated and it was hard to trust that someone hadn’t inadvertently picked up the virus somewhere and might pass it along to us (or vice versa). I made the decision, he agreed that it made sense, and he was happy to go along with it. If he had felt otherwise, he definitely would have said something (and he assured me of this), but he thought my decision made sense and he went with it.

When it came to what to do during last school year, my husband generally agreed that sending kids back to school during a pandemic was a kind of crazy proposition, especially without knowing yet whether the safety protocols put into place would work.

But while he shared my sentiments, he didn’t stay up all night reading every study available about COVID in kids, transmission with masks, ventilation standards, etc. He didn’t wake up at 4 a.m. agonizing over the decision, about balancing our kids’ mental health with their personal safety.

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And he ultimately wasn’t the one who made the final decision. It wasn’t just because he knew I would likely have the final say. He just didn’t feel strongly enough one way or another to really have a clear opinion. Again, he definitely was leaning toward keeping our kids home, but it wasn’t like this intense, all-encompassing feeling and opinion like it was for me.

Now I’m seeing this play out all over again as we enter the Delta phase of the pandemic. It was such a freaking relief when three out of four of us got vaccinated this past spring. We had like two months or so where I finally didn’t feel the emotional/mental burden of the pandemic. We still needed to keep our unvaccinated child safe, but that felt pretty easy and didn’t involve too many decisions.

But now, with Delta at play, we are back to “WTAF do we do here?” mode and it’s a lot. I think it’s partly just because every parent was thrown for a loop with Delta. Suddenly, cases started spiking all over the place when we thought the worst of the pandemic was over. And the idea now that vaccinated people can more easily catch and transmit the virus to others means that parents (especially if they have unvaccinated kids at home like I do) have a whole new set of decisions to make.

Lately, my mind has been busy obsessing over things like what protocols to take when we see our vaccinated parents so that they don’t inadvertently pass the virus along to our unvaccinated child. I’m trying to figure out what the best quality mask is for school, and whether school will even be safe for my unvaccinated child. I’ve had those late night worryfests again, just like I did last year. I’ve crumbled in corners crying more than once.

I am just so tired. Tired of the pandemic, and tired of trying to figure out how to navigate it. And while my husband thinks it sucks that things have gotten worse again, he isn’t completely wrecked by it in the same way I am, and that’s partly because he knows that I will shoulder the emotional and mental burden. He knows that I will decide what is best for our family.

I am thankful that he trusts me to make the decisions, and again, it’s just not really who he is to stress and fuss over these things. I’m not even sure I want him to. Honestly, it’s a good thing that at least one of us has the ability to stay level headed throughout it all.

Still, it’s just so much, and sometimes I wonder if there’s some way he could step up in the mental load/decision making department. Then again, I’m really not sure what that would look like. Fake his way into having stronger opinions about what we should do? Realize there are decisions to make before I even start fussing over them?

In all honesty, I’m not sure what I want or what I expect to change. But I feel burdened by it, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. The pandemic sucks for us all, but when you are the designated family decision maker, it sucks in its own special (and highly freaking stressful) way.

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