It’ll be just like maternity leave, I told myself between tears as I watched Governor Lamont’s press conference ordering all non essential businesses to close until further notice. Luckily for us, restaurants could still conduct business on a take out basis, but it didn’t make me feel any less insecure. What was I supposed to do with all of this down time? Where would I find that temporary retreat from my responsibilities as a mother if I wasn’t going to work every day? How was I going to justify buying unnecessary items like matching shirts for the baby and the dog, when I wasn’t producing any income? We were suddenly in a position to save money and all I wanted to do was spend it to make myself feel better about the coarse realities unfolding in front of me.
I come from a line of working moms. The joke in our family is that you give birth and two weeks later you get back to work. I defied that tradition by taking three months off after I had my son. I didn’t want to deny myself of that special bonding time. I knew that I had my whole life to work, while those intimate moments with my fresh newborn were due to expire.
When the time came, it wasn’t easy for me to go back to work, but I was ready. I thrive off of a schedule and life with a newborn didn’t necessarily cater to that need. I was looking forward to reclaiming a little piece of the person I was before I had a baby. In a way, my job defined who I was and that part of me became even more important as motherhood threatened to dissolve my identity.
A year later and it seemed that I had finally established a sustainable balance of being a working mom. I was waking up each morning and finding the time to make my bed and prepare a breakfast for Beau that wasn’t entirely out of the freezer. I would come home from work with renewed excitement to read “The Pout Pout Fish” 27 times in a row and armed with the patience to watch my clean living room become inundated with trucks and toys that never shut up. I would even find time to do the dishes and cook dinner in between diaper changes and meltdowns. I was feeling a little bit like I had my shit together and then COVID 19 came along and nearly threw my life out of orbit.
So there I was staring at my phone holding on to each and every word the Governor said. The thought of losing my job with no idea as to when I could return was a crippling feeling. Sure, we could manage financially off of my husband’s income, but how was I supposed to occupy my days? What was there to do from 7 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon? How was I going to be the best mom I could be, when I never got a break? Who was I going to have adult conversations with? Conversations that ironically always ended up talking about my kid, but still. It felt like my little bit of my me time was being taken away. I was being robbed of the part of my day that allowed me to be more than just a mom.
The first couple of weeks of quarantine came and went and while everyone else was organizing their closets and taking up a new hobby, I sat on the couch watching All-American while stuffing my face with Pirate’s booty. I was grateful that I didn’t have to homeschool, but somehow Facebook served as a source of pressure to be productive with my kid. We tried the paint in the ziploc bag and all of the sensory bins. Turns out my kid would rather eat crayons and play in the Tupperware cabinet. It serves the same purpose, doesn’t it?
The laundry piled up and the living room really need to be vacuumed, it seemed that even the dog was feeling unproductive and couldn’t be bothered to eat all the puffs off the floor. I realized I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself and to start getting in a groove again. I would do little things each day to instill a sense of accomplishment. I would start by my making the bed or doing the dishes and that would help set the tone for my day. Eventually, I did get back to my old ways and although my days weren’t occupied with work, I found myself back on a schedule.
I learned to utilize Beau’s nap time efficiently. Instead of rushing to get the laundry done before he woke up, I would spend the duration of his nap curled up with a book or an adult tv show with swears in it. I decided to dedicate nap time to myself. That was how I would replace the “me” time that I wasn’t getting. “Me” time translated into being able to enjoy day after day with my son without feeling burnt out.
It’s gotten to the point where I prefer this new schedule. I enjoy being home with Beau all day. I’ve learned things about him that I wouldn’t get to experience other wise because I was at work. I got to witness Beau try to spell his name for the first time. He now counts to three and knows at least 5 different animals. He climbs on the couch with unnerving confidence and will stop whatever he is doing when “sweet child of mine” comes on Pandora. He says close to 200 words and one of them just so happens to be my favorite; mommy. I’m not sure how mama evolved to mommy, but it’s the title I hope sticks even throughout his teenage years. There’s something so special about being someone’s mommy.
I know that Beau and I have grown closer throughout this quarantine. I’ve also grown as a mother. I’ve learned how to take care of my son while still prioritizing my well being. I’ve become more self aware as to when I’m starting to feel burnt out or like I might explode if I stub my toe on one more Tonka truck. I’ve found my balance again.
Tomorrow I will start back at work full time and I’m sad. It feels like I’m coming back from my maternity leave all over again. I’m not emotionally prepared to emerge from the safety of my current reality. I just want to be able to stay in my pajamas with Beau and soak him in for a little longer. I’ve become attached to the extra time we’ve been able to spend together and I feel guilty for ever taking it for granted or wishing it away.
In the beginning of quarantine, many people had claimed that some good would come out of this. Initially, I had a really hard time seeing the bright side of the current predicament, but I think as we all begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is possible that our thought process has shifted. Quarantine was implemented to help save lives and I think it has done that in more ways than one.