13 April 2020 — The COVID Diaries: Staying Sane in a Time That’s Not

 

Dear Diary,

I spend most of every day worried about the Mommies of Littles.*

(*And probably the Daddies of Littles who are the primary caregivers, as well… it’s just that my experience is as a Mommy, so feel free to substitute gender as you see fit.)

I think about the Mommies constantly. It is, I’d say, the most consistent thought I have during this period of isolation.

We had a Problem of Connection before this pandemic. The fact that we primarily raise our children in nuclear families — and there with the vast majority of childcare falling to the Mommies to do on their own — is already troublesome. Even though it’s normal. Even though we assume based on our culture this is how it’s Supposed to Be. Even though we think it’s part of the American Dream to live this way, isolated from others and protecting our privacy and Independence. The Mommies, though — nearly all of them that I know now or have ever known before — barely survive it. It’s mentally taxing. Physically draining. Emotionally overwhelming. And I don’t know why we keep doing it. We’re communal creatures. Biologically predisposed to live in extended families, tight-knit villages, tribes and clans. Both the children and their Mommies benefit from a collective approach to child rearing. And yet we eschew it. We stick to our live-alone guns. We go through our days with stress that feels like an elephant is sitting on our chests and we can’t breathe. It’s breaking us. And it’s not OK. And I don’t know how to fix it because it’s so entrenched in the way we operate. It’s how *I* operate. It’s how everyone I know operates. 

These are the things I think when there’s not a pandemic.

Now that there is? And Mommies are shut-ins? With the usual unbearable pressures except increased by a thousand million hundred gazillion? I think about it non stop. Without ceasing. Like an itch I can’t reach.

I want to move in with All the Mommies. I want to share baby-walking shifts in the middle of the night and trade off for naps during the day. I want to do a load of their laundry which is ironic since I never want to do mine. I don’t want to raise my babies again — I did it already, and I did some things better than others, but I don’t wish for do-overs. Also, I’m not sure I’d survive it a second time. No, I don’t want to raise babies again, but I don’t want to see Mommies go it alone, either. Go it alone AND feel inadequate because they’re not “enjoying every minute,” blissed out on love endorphins. 

I feel like Mommies are the unsung heroes of the global pandemic. Healthcare workers, yes. And grocery store employees. And teachers. And everyone who’s upended their life to make #StayHomeSaveLives happen. But the Mommies, Diary — the Mommies work as hard as doctors and as relentlessly to keep their people alive and well — but there are no international campaigns to thank them. No applause in the cities at 7pm. Their work is unseen. 

I want there to be a solution. 

I want there to be a fix.

But like so many ways people are suffering right now, I don’t know of a way to help other than to say I SEE YOU. And I’M WAVING IN THE DARK. And maybe someone smarter than me knows how we can assist?

Still, today was sunny again, and in Oregon that’s always a win.

And even with thoughts of helplessness, it was a good day. 

Our neighbor’s daughter turned 11, and birthdays suck in quarantine. No parties. No friends. No waxy grocery store birthday cake with black frosting that turns your poop green. So our neighborhood rallied…

…and gathered small things we already had — candy, small bills, gifts bought for Christmases past but never given away — and crafted them into a scavenger hunt with clues and presents and very distanced well wishes along the way.

She enjoyed it, but I’m positive it made me even happier.

There’s something about getting out of our own heads for a bit to do a kindness for another that’s healing.

I should probably remember that more often than I do.

And I didn’t want to make dinner tonight so we played “Will It Waffle?” instead.

FYI, Diary, cheese sandwiches…

…and pumpkin bread…

…and scrambled eggs…

…and especially brownies…

…waffle very well. In fact, I’m pretty sure we’ll never make brownies another way. They were UNBELIEVABLY DELICIOUS. The exact right middle ground between chewy and soft and crispy. The first time EVER we’ve all agreed — both those of us who are edge-of-the-pan people AND those of us who are middle-of-the-pan people. A shocking all-around victory. 

On the other hand, pizza…

…and spaghetti and meatballs…

…and jelly beans?

Yeah, not so much.

It was a worthy experiment, though. I have no regrets. Although, I’m making Greg clean the waffle maker, so I’ll have to let you know later if he has any.

So, you know, Diary. It was a normal, sad, good day in quarantine. I felt helpless and helpful. Somber and ridiculous. Up and down. Happy and sad. Most of those at the same time, all day long.

It’s very Both/And around here these days, Diary.

And I suppose that’s fine.

With love,

ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
12 comments
  1. Thanks for the thoughts. Signed: introverted mother of an extroverted toddler, doing all the caregiving while Dad works overtime at a banking center.

  2. Thank you. I’m a mommy of a 20 month old and a 5 month old. Its hard on a normal basis but now, those days when I’m at my wits end, I can’t hop in the car and take them to grandma or meet up with a friend for some sanity-ensuring venting… Its hard. Yesterday was hard. And there definitely is guilt about not enjoying it all the time — instead many days I’m just trying to make it through to bedtime… I miss my village, dispersed as it was (I’ve craved that communal living / child-rearing you spoke of since my kiddos were born). Thank you for seeing us mommies.

    1. Waving in the dark to you, Jamie. I see you. ❤️

  3. I have seven year old twins who are very confused and angry about the situation and a nearly three year old who is thrilled the other two are home now and no longer naps. So thank you for the mommy shout-out. Just taking it one day at a time…

  4. Yes. I have four boys 11 and under. And I’m still working a shift or two a week at the hospital to help out. (To be honest, it’s actually a break.) It’s even worse than homeschooling because at least with that I can pick out the curriculum that works best for my kids. At this point I’m ready to say f-it (and I never swear) to all classwork and go back to what I was doing before the schools presented their distance learning plan. Not that I blame my teachers at all. They are amazing and wonderful people. Days before Oregon came out saying that distance learning was mandated, our school announced they would not be doing distance learning because of all the barriers. So they are still scrambling to meet those state requirements. It’s a mess for everyone. Ugh. My tension headaches are off the charts right now.

  5. And all the mommies have to be teachers now too. Which I am sure most did not sign up for originally. But we must find a little humor as we can, as in the worksheet that was sent home with a friend’s grandchild. The word of the day was THIS. Bottom of the page said “use it in a sentence.” “Can I eat___?” The letters were scrambled thus: SHTI. You can see where a little person could go way wrong on this one!

  6. What a delightful gift of your entire neighborhood!
    I’ve been craving brownies. I might need to make some. STUFFING (you know, the kind you have with turkey dinner) makes excellent waffles. You’re welcome.
    Yeah, the jelly beans probably weren’t the best choice… (insert an “eeek!” face here)
    Waving in the dark,
    Karen

  7. Beth, thank you for your daily words. I so look forward to them.

  8. Your pic made me cry… Your little girl looks so much like my own… wish I could show you the pic that showed up in my FB feed th is morning. It’s not so much the features as the tilt of the head and the expression, caught me off guard for a moment because they could honestly be sisters.

    But my little girl is 22 now and making her own way in a new life with her partner who is going through a huge life transforming transition and I’m praying every single day that it brings him the peace he’s searching for and the happiness they both want and that they can walk this path together and find the joy that eluded her for a while with depression hanging over her shoulder.

    I hate that we’re all so far away and t hankful that they’re both doing right and staying safe.

    Praying for all the Mamas at all the stages today. Thank you for the smiles, Beth. Smiling back, even in the dark.
    Mary

  9. This. I’m not a mommy but it is driving me nuts as the auntie to not be able to relieve the pressure for the mommies in my circle. What kind of crisis doesn’t allow for hugs and shared meals and “I’ll watch the kids while you shower/nap/get a moment” or simply come and interact with you as a grownup? It’s higher on my list of powerlessness in this pandemic than most things because I love through acts of service. And you can tell me ad naseum that isolation is my act of service, but it’s just not the same.

  10. Feeling seen is so important! While everyone is talking about how they’re going to learn Spanish or trombone, spring clean their homes or sew scrund for hospital workers, i’m fighting a war of attrition just to get through the day. My little ones are not even that little (2,6,9) but too young to be rational about new constraints or modify expectations or come quietly… its relentless. And all the careful scaffolding we put up to support us in normal times has been taken down, and we have to this more than full time mission, 24/7 without any babysitters, playdates, school, going to the forest to let off steam, swim classes, grandparents. And i count my privileges all the time, i have a garden, enough food and money, internet, children who have their challenges but are often delightful, and who sleep. How would it be with a newborn? As a single parent? In a small flat?
    I also don’t know how to turn that in to anything useful, especially when i feel i have so little spare energy or headspace. But i see you all too. This is not forever, one day at a time!

  11. Oh gosh. Thanks for seeing me. I’m a parent that has taken to silently screaming in the bathroom. My family is lovely, but I would like to not see their faces long enough to miss them. I will emerge from this situation with less sanity.

    Maybe that’s ok. Maybe I don’t need that much sanity.
    Maybe I can just let it go while I sing along to “Let It Go”. Again. And again…

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