The Pandemic Has Turned Me Into Someone I Barely Recognize

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woman inspecting her face in the bathroom mirror
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After being quarantined for five months with three young children, I’ve lost many things; chief among them, my temper and my sanity. During this pandemic, I’ve morphed into a drastically altered version of the mom and woman I used to be.

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I’ve always been the perfect mom. Having young kids has been a challenge to say the least, and our day-to-day lives resembled a three-ring-circus. But we were managing.

Enter COVID-19.

I’d like to take a moment of silence for the days when I so naively believed that my role as a mother couldn’t possibly become any more onerous and exhausting than it already was.

My husband is an essential worker in the healthcare industry so I’m alone with three little boys. I truly love these three kids more than I love glazed donuts, but after being home with them 24/7 for months on end, we have all reached our limits. At this point, my parenting style could best be described as: Lord of the Flies.

My pandemic parenting makes Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest look like a saint (which is ironic, given that I have the same name as her long-suffering daughter, Christina Crawford). My patience is stretched thinner than my worn-out yoga pants. I joke with my husband that screaming is now my love language. But it’s no joke. I’m ashamed to say, I scream almost as much as I speak most days.

Previously, I ran a tight ship. We used to have all kinds of rules for behavior such as “kind words and kind touches.” Now, I basically run a preschool fight club. The rules are: there are no rules. My husband arrived home from work one day and remarked that it looked like an MMA match took place in the living room. I told him that’s because it did. The boys are engaged in hand-to-hand combat the vast majority of the day. Sometimes they stop to eat, sometimes they don’t.

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Homeschooling was an unmitigated disaster. I don’t think the kids lost any skills, per se, but I certainly don’t think they learned anything. I take that back. We did learn a thing or two about Zoom. For instance, if your microphone is not muted, the entire class can hear you muttering obscenities while you frantically search for the end button. Or, that you really should supervise your naked toddler better if you don’t want your older kid’s class getting an unwanted anatomy lesson.

I’ve always considered myself to be a reasonably smart person. After trying to understand and teach first grade math, it has become clear this is not true. In fact, I’ve begun to question the institution that issued me a master’s degree.

I can unequivocally say that I am not cut out to be a homeschool mom. I can either be a loving and patient mother, or I can homeschool. But I cannot do both.

Pre-pandemic I was in fantastic shape because I worked out multiple times a week. I also practiced yoga which is good for the mind, body and soul. Recently, the only exercise I’ve gotten is rage cleaning the playroom, which coincidentally, is also good for the mind, body and soul. I derive a sick pleasure from picking up toys off the floor that I requested to be cleaned up ten times and throwing them into the donation box. I’ve also found that applying sunscreen to the kiddies serves as a much better cardio workout than running anyway.

I used to value grooming and personal hygiene and I prided myself on always looking my best. These days, I can’t remember what it’s like to look in the mirror and not see the crypt keeper. The other day my husband announced, “it’s time.” I thought he was referring to sex, so I already had an excuse on the tip on my tongue when he gestured towards the shower. We argued about it for a minute before I announced that dry shampoo and a spritz of perfume would be my final offer.

I’m a writer, so I used to rely on the five free hours a week my youngest was in preschool to get all my work done. The kids being home all day has blurred the lines between “work time” and “mom time.” Now, essentially all time is “mom time” which makes it impossible to get any work done. My answer to this is screen time. And lots of it.

Flash back to me having lunch with a friend and her toddler who was playing on a device. I remember chastising my friend for letting her kid have an iPad during mealtime and warning her about the dangers of screens. Presently, the only thing I consider dangerous about screens is not having them fully charged and within reach at all times. In fact, just yesterday, I told my kids that their screen time was out of control and the next day we were cutting way back, to 10 hours, max. At this point, I’ve relinquished all parental rights and responsibilities to Netflix.

Pre-COVID, I was what my husband lovingly called a “health food nut.” I was against feeding children processed foods. I would spend hours each daily preparing healthy, fresh and organic meals from scratch for myself and my family. These days, I’m not saying I’ve completely lost the will to care, I’m just saying the kids are swimming naked and eating frosting out of the jar for breakfast.

I’m so sick of cooking and the mess it makes, that I’ve happily embraced bagged and boxed foods. This is not doing my overall health any favors.

So here I am, a screaming, screen time-loving, snack-obsessed sasquatch of a person I don’t even recognize. But what’s a girl to do? This new way of life has shattered our old way of life.

In many ways that’s a good thing. I will never again take for granted meeting up with a friend for a playdate or sending the kiddies off to school for the day. And Lord knows, it was good for me to lighten up a bit. But, holy guacamole, I miss alone time and regular waxing appointments!

I think I can speak for parents on lockdown with small children everywhere: The cure for COVID cannot come fast enough.

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